Having a major blow up can make you feel guilt, shame, and frustration and question your future together. In this Ask Men article, Mindpath Health’s Leanne Leonard, LMFT, offers tips to rebuild, find common ground, and move forward.
No matter how healthy or stable your relationship is, getting in a bad fight can throw you off balance.
Depending on what was said (or not said), you might be left struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, frustration, sadness, or anxiety. In some situations, you may even feel insecure about your bond, or question your long-term compatibility.But the couple’s therapists say it’s totally possible to bounce back from a fight even stronger than before. The key? Taking a few steps that will help you learn from the experience, repair trust and rebuild emotional intimacy.
According to Marc Zola, LMFT, we all seek emotional security in different ways after a fight. While some people need some space to process what happened and recenter themselves, others crave connection. So just keep in mind that what works for one couple, might not work for you — and furthermore, you and your partner may have different needs.
“You want to ask yourself: ‘How can I show my partner they still matter to me?’” says Stacey Sherrell, LMFT.
1. Check in with yourself. Before you do anything, Sherrell advises doing an internal check-in to see what you might need. Remember: there’s no right or wrong answer here. Taking the time to consider what will be most helpful to you in the aftermath of a fight will ensure that you can move on more quickly and effectively.
Find yourself needing some space? Shivers recommends taking a walk, hopping in the shower, working out, or doing another activity that will allow you to mentally disengage from whatever the argument was about.
2. Find common ground. After a disagreement, it can feel like you and your partner are worlds apart. Since these situations highlight your differences, it’s more important than ever to rediscover what opinions and perspectives you do share.
“Find something your partner said during the fight that you agree with and start there,” says Leanne Leonard, LMFT with Mindpath Health. “This strategy helps you to not only empathize with and validate your partner’s position, but it shows them that you’re listening.”
It could be something as small as, “It sounds like you were really hurt that I didn’t show up on time to that event, and I know I would feel the same way,” or “You mentioned that you’ve been feeling like I prioritize work over our relationship, and that’s something that would really frustrate me, too.”
3. Take ownership. While one person may have ‘started’ the fight, a lengthy one is often the product of both people’s misbehavior. Maybe you reacted to your partner by raising your voice, which escalated the conflict — or maybe you shut down and left the room, which made them even angrier.
“This strategy is effective in reducing finger-pointing and blaming,” adds Leonard. “Acknowledging your own shortcomings can help your partner feel like you are in this together.”
4. Try physical connection. Numerous studies have shown that physical contact with another person can trigger a flood of feel-good chemicals in your brain — specifically, oxytocin, which dampens stress and fear to help you to feel calmer, and is associated with empathy, trust, and bonding.
Of course, you’ll want to be mindful of your partner’s boundaries, so if they’re not open to making physical contact yet, you can simply ask them to let you know when they’re ready.
5. Lean into humor. To be clear, you probably don’t want to make jokes about your fight, or about your partner, while the wounds are still fresh. But if you see something your partner might think is funny, or you can turn the joke onto yourself, you might be able to ease the post-conflict tension.
Something to keep in mind: Even if you try some or all of these tactics, and things don’t feel back to normal just yet, that’s totally fine.
The point is that by just showing an effort to move forward after a fight, you’re sending a powerful message to your partner that you’re still invested in the relationship, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to repair and rebuild your bond.
Read the full Ask Men article with sources.
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