It is inevitable to fight in a relationship, what’s most important is what happens next. In fact, fighting can actually help to strengthen a relationship. You can read more about it here, but fighting often leads us to having a conversation with our partner with a deeper meaning. This new conversation and repair after the fight results in feeling even closer to your partner and more secure in the relationship. The key here is the repair. So how do you repair after a fight to help keep your relationship strong?
Say “I’m sorry”… and mean it. It sounds simple, but a meaningful apology is the first step to repair. Be specific about why you’re sorry, and have open body language. Let the other person take it in before you respond. An empty apology might make things worse, so don’t say you’re sorry in a flippant or insincere way. Honesty is key to repairing the damage. This honesty goes both ways, don’t say you are not upset about something when you are; or that you are upset when you’re not. With the help of a therapist you can take this a step deeper and learn to identify some of the deeper meaning of some of your argument triggers.
Give hugs and kisses. After you both apologize, physical closeness can help you repair the relationship and build emotional closeness. Give tender hugs and kisses; pull your partner close, hold hands. Let your partner tell you when he or she is ready to get close — after a fight they might need some space to cool down before they’re ready for physical closeness. Physical touch from people we care about releases oxytocin, our feel good hormone. Oxytocin also helps keep our stress levels down. Not only is this physical touch good for your relationship, it’s good for you both individually.
(Want to read more about the benefits of physical touch? Check out this post!)
Discuss how to avoid the same fight. Don’t let history repeat itself. Sit down and talk about what triggered the argument so you know how to avoid the same issue in the future. Often arguments are compounded events, talk about what steps you can make at each stage to prevent further escalation. Think about how you know within yourself that you are getting upset; as well as what signs your partner can look out for to signal that you’re getting upset. This step is the trickiest and is best done with the help of a couples’ therapist.
A marriage and family therapist or other relationship professional may be able to help mediate your discussions if you find that you hit a road block or can’t seem to get out of the cycle. Emotionally Focused Therapy will help you rewire the way you talk to each other and receive information.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653