If you’ve been in a healthy relationship with your partner for more than five minutes, you have probably had a good fight or two. If you haven’t, it’s coming. Heated arguments in romantic relationships are commonplace, and if not handled correctly, they can leave lasting scars. Don’t let a miscommunication and the ensuing negative feelings destroy your relationship. Instead, take initiative to solve the problem, heal the wounds, and avoid this situation in the future. Here are our suggestions for the best things to do after a fight with your partner to get your relationship back on stable ground.
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Tips for Calming the Waters Effectively
After a big fight, many people just want to sweep it under the rug. They will ignore their hurt feelings and refuse to take the necessary confrontation to work on a permanent solution. This is a recipe for repeating the same conflict next week, month, or year. Others choose to give their partner the cold shoulder until they beg for forgiveness.
Still, others play the blame game and store this hurt away for next time, like a frozen grenade, ready to be launched at their partner at the next misstep. They never take credit for their part in the conflict and only consider their own perspective. If you are any of these offenders, then take note. Those behaviors do not lead to forgiveness and won’t result in the changes you wish to see in your relationships. Try these steps instead.
1. Take some time to breathe.
Nobody can make you hot like your spouse (in and out of the bedroom). They know what buttons to push to make you boil over. Sometimes, you need to take a break, momentarily, before it gets out of control.
While you do need to talk about the fight with your partner, directly after is probably not the time. Take a few hours, maybe even a day, to think. Get in a quiet place where you can meditate on what happened with a clear mind. Process through the anger and try to think about your partner’s point of view. Many choose to go for a walk, do some yoga, take a hot bath, or do some deep breathing exercises to clear their mind. The most important aspect of this tactic is that you and your partner agree upon a time to come back together and resolve the situation.
Pro Tip: If you are an explode-and-then-done kind of person, it’s likely that your partner isn’t. Just because you don’t need time to think or calm down doesn’t mean your significant other doesn’t either. Give them their space, and allow them to process.
2. Assess your part in the conflict.
Hard truth ahead… you probably aren’t completely innocent in this situation. There are certainly outliers, but most common household arguments are two-sided, and both parties can make improvements to remedy the situation. Be open-minded and truly assess your part. Did you resort to name-calling? Are you harboring old hurts that you really haven’t forgiven? Were you hormonal, stressed, or exhausted and took it out on the closest person to you? Did you even really care that much about the topic of the argument? Did you try to understand your partner’s perspective, or did you just throw a fit in an attempt to get what you wanted? We’ve all been there, and we’ve all been guilty. Take the higher road, and look deep within yourself to acknowledge your downfalls in the situation and explore why you really got so angry.
3. Write down your key conversation points.
Journaling or making lists is a stress-relieving activity that helps a lot of people sort their thoughts and process emotions. During your break time, consider writing down some key points that you want to discuss with your partner. Remember to phrase these points with “I statements” instead of “you always statements.” These bullet points should be a way of letting your partner know how you feel in a calm manner, not placing blame or insulting.
4. Initiate a healing conversation.
After you’ve both had a cooling down period, it’s time for reconnection. Come together in a comfortable environment and bring your lists. This conversation should include a few key tactics.
First of all, both partners need to participate in active listening. This means that you pay attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues in an attempt to really listen to your partner’s point of view. Position yourself facing them, with an open posture (no folded arms or legs). Lean towards them, not away. Keep good eye contact, and allow them to finish all statements before you interject. That means no interrupting. Ask open-ended questions and repeat important aspects to gain a deeper understanding. Just controlling your tone and body language can deescalate a situation almost instantly and lead to a healthy resolution.
Each partner should have ample time to express their thoughts without interjection. With practice, you will learn to do this without aid, but in the beginning, you may need to institute a talking stick or adhere to a timer to ensure that each person gets their time to speak.
A healthy conversation does not accuse or point fingers. If you can’t come together and talk without placing blame, you need a little more alone time. Instead of “You’re lazy and selfish. I do everything around here, and I’m sick of it,” try a simple rewording: “I feel like I’m pulling more than my share around here. I’m exhausted and stressed, and I need more help from you.”
Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
The best way to bust down the gate with this conversation is to start with an apology. Make sure it is sincere, but apologize for what you can honestly say you regret. That may just be “I’m sorry I lost my temper on you,” or “I’m sorry it came to that.” It’s a start. Don′t use backhanded apologies, like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” That’s demeaning and dismissive and will flair the flames.
5. Suggest make-up sex.
It may sound superficial and silly during the heat of the moment, or directly after, but reconnecting physically after a disagreement is vitally important to the overall health of your relationship. Honestly, many petty fights can be avoided in the first place if both partners are sexually connected to each other and free of sexual frustration.
Sex is a natural stress reliever, dumping loads of dopamine and oxytocin, which are your brain’s feel-good drugs. While it might be hard to initiate, a good sex session can help to calm the violent waters and relieve the stress in the situation. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone, and according to a study in the Cell Metabolism Journal, it’s responsible for aspects like “relaxation, trust, and psychological stability.”
Sex is also its own aphrodisiac. The more sexually active you are, the more you crave it. Crazy hormones. Okay, enough about that. The important part is that when life gets busy, which it does for us all, don’t neglect your love life.
6. Learn to fight fairly and productively.
After things calm down, take this post-disagreement period to work on your relationship and the way you handle conflict. It’s fresh on the mind, and the emotion connected to it is still strong, so both partners will likely be willing to put forth some effort to prevent repeating the same mistakes.
You might decide to read a few articles from relationship experts, grab a book on productive fighting to read together, or seek the advice of a couples counselor. For a few tips to get you started on your journey, take a look at our article on “Mitigating the Long-Term Effects of Stress in a Relationship.”
7. Institute a weekly date night.
Creating a space in your schedule for quality time with your partner can relieve a massive amount of stress on your relationship. Setting aside time to talk about the important aspects of your life, with no household or kiddos distractions, gives you the chance to tackle possible problems before they explode and discuss important aspects of finances, children’s discipline, and personal concerns in a calm environment.
For a few fun date ideas, check out our dating articles! We have date ideas for parents, teens, double dates, and long-distance relationships! There are ideas here for every kind of couple and every season of the year.
8. Make the most of your daily conversations.
When you do get a moment alone with your partner, make sure that your conversations count! Don’t just chat about your kids, your day, or your job. Instead, use conversation starters and prompts to have a proper discussion with your soul mate. Set aside at least five minutes a day to just look at each other and talk about something important. Take a walk around the block. Go outside to the patio and get alone. Find an environment with no distractions and strategically spend time together. Also, hugs are good, at least 20 seconds… that whole oxytocin thing again!
9. Control your stress level.
One of the best ways to acknowledge your role in the battle is to find the areas of life that cause you to stress and lose your cool. There are hundreds of ways that different folks address their personal stress. Some choose a morning prayer or meditation time. Some prioritize daily exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Many choose to keep a stream-of-consciousness journal, which is where you set aside an amount of time and just write whatever comes to mind, with no editing or stopping to think. Some throw on a happy tune and dance like an idiot in their bedroom. Others find their solace in a cold water swim.
The important aspect is not what you do to relieve stress. Choose something that fits your interests and your personality. The important part is that you find something that works for you and that you make it a priority in your life. That means your kids know not to bother you during this time. That means you set a reminder on your phone, get an accountability partner, or do whatever it takes to have that time daily. You might be really surprised what as little as five minutes of conscious, devoted self-care can do for your stress levels.
10. Focus on the positives.
The human tendency is to get all out of wack about the little things that grind on us, especially about our partners, and we often let those little icks override the mountain of amazing things about our significant other. The truth is most of us have a partner our friends would kill for.
Now, this is certainly not a call to overlook the things that drive you nuts, especially if they’re hurtful in any way; this is just a reminder to focus on the positive. Be grateful and dwell on all the ways that your partner is a good match for you and all the things they do to make your life better. You might have to sit down and think about it or make a list. Once you have meditated on your list, you will begin to notice these things more often. When you do, make a point to verbally thank your partner for the value they add to your life. An attitude of gratitude is a game changer, not just for your relationship but for your overall life outlook.
11. Set some new goals.
Any aspect of your life that isn’t actively growing and improving is either stagnant or decaying. That’s physics folks. Your relationship is not an exception. If you aren’t actively working to improve it, don’t be surprised if it is stale… or worse.
Sit down with your partner and set some goals for your relationship. Don’t go crazy and make a book. Choose two or three things that you can actively work on. Goals should be measurable, practical, and something that you both agree on. They could be about managing finances, dating, having sex, raising kids, etc. The purpose of this exercise is that you are planning and executing the important aspects of your life in unison, doing it together, start to finish!
12. Make a plan.
Goals are useless without a plan to achieve them. After you have your tailored list of goals, write out a task list and goal dates. Each goal may have four or five steps, or it may have ten. Either way, set a date for when you want to have the task accomplished. Whether you accomplish it or not, check in with each other on that date and see how things are going. Post your goals and tasks in a public place so that you both see them often. Your bathroom mirror or vision board in the kitchen are both good options. Having a way to track your progress is productive, and it just feels good to know that you tackled problem after problem together, strengthening your relationship, one task at a time!
13. Get some professional help.
While these tips and tricks are effective for generally healthy relationships, if you find that you and your partner are at each other’s throats regularly, you might need more professional help than internet blogs can offer. While tips and research are great, nothing beats the one-on-one evaluation of a professional counselor. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can fix it yourself or that only weak people seek professional help. It just isn’t true. Smart people get the help they need. Smart people seek solutions instead of repeating their failures. Even healthy relationships can benefit from an outsider’s take every now and then.
A counselor can help point out problem areas in your relationship you are blinded to, and they often have easy solutions that you wouldn’t think of on your own. When keeping everything under wraps and never admitting there is a problem, most people tend to continue the same destructive patterns, over and over, even when the desire to change is present. Speaking with a professional who has experience with other couples in the same situations may just fix the recurrent cycle of disaster.
14. End it.
If you are married or have children together, this is much easier said than done, and your relationship should be given every possible chance to succeed. Seek couples counseling, do the personal work, and fight for your future together. However, if you don’t have those bonds and you find yourself constantly fighting, it might be time to cut the cord. If a breakup is what you need to preserve your physical, spiritual, or mental health, then make that move. It’s better to have a few months of pain while moving on than to continue in a relationship that is harmful to your health.
No Shame in the Game
Arguments in romantic relationships are definitely stressful, but they don’t have to be a deal breaker. While some fights are a symbol of deep-seated issues and should be addressed by professional therapy, others can be chalked up to stress, a lack of gratitude, or sexual frustration. If you find that you’re having silly fights with your partner, start incorporating some of these tricks into your daily routine and watch for improvement.
If you don’t notice improvement after a few months, remember there is no harm or shame in seeking help. If you need it, go get it! There’s also no shame in dropping a relationship that doesn’t bring joy and value to your life. If you’re dating someone who brings you more grief than its worth, cut the ties. Take some time to focus on your life and learn from your mistakes. Figure out what you’re looking for in a partner and what you’re willing to compromise on. Then, give dating another shot when you’re ready. Being single for a while is much better than being harnessed to someone who makes you miserable!
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some things to do after a fight with your partner. Don’t give up! Make those tweaks, and if you’ve had success in this area, don’t keep us in the shade. Drop your expert advice in the comments!
Need some help with those relationship goals? Check out “18 Relationship-Building New Year’s Resolutions for Couples.”
If the cold months have you stumped on dating ideas, take a look at “Exhilarating Winter Adventures for Couples.”
Neumann, I. D. (2007, April 3). Oxytocin: The neuropeptide of love reveals some of its Secrets. Cell Metabolism. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413107000691
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve had a knockdown blowout with your partner, take some time alone to process. Write down your concerns and your faults. Talk them through once you’ve both calmed down.
The best way to calm the waters after a fight is a genuine apology. Take some time to assess your part in the disagreement and reassure your partner that you want to find a solution.
Every relationship has its down periods; if you’ve been fighting more, then set aside one night a week as a designated date night. Adventures From Scratch has tons of great date ideas!
After taking some time for yourself, focus on having a healing conversation. That starts with active listening, taking turns talking, avoiding accusations, and sincerely apologizing.