Do you know how to make up after a fight?
Unfortunately, most of us weren't taught this essential relationship skill.
But it's definitely worth learning. If those painful disconnects go unresolved, you can find yourselves in real trouble.
That's happening even more intensely these days, with the pressures from the coronavirus pandemic. In China, the divorce rate shot up when quarantines were relaxed, and we’re hearing the same in this country.
However, it’s not from spending too much time together. It’s because we’re not good at recovering from conflicts or maintaining true closeness when we’re frightened.
From decades of helping people experience happier, more fulfilling relationships, we offer these three steps for how to make up after a fight — even in highly stressful times.
Step #1: De-escalate yourself — BEFORE you attempt to de-escalate the argument
It’s natural to want to de-escalate the friction between you right away. But we recommend focusing on de-escalating yourself first.
This is not just taking a few breaths or counting to ten, although that can be useful.
It’s a deliberate shift in your internal self-talk, one that dissolves your distress enough that your caring heart and your clear mind come back to the forefront.
It starts with noticing what’s going on inside you and then naming it for what it is.
For instance, as soon as you recognize that you’re upset, you might say to yourself:
Yikes. My stomach is in knots. I’m raising my voice. I’m reacting as if the person in front of me is an enemy, not my beloved. I obviously got triggered and might be over-reacting… Hmmm…
When you do that, your neurobiological self starts calming your inner fear-fest and restoring your ability to think clearly and connect warmly—which puts you in the right place to approach your partner again
One way to know you’re ready to reconnect is that your desire to get back to love will be louder than your impulse to be defensive and right.
Your anger and frustration might have softened into sadness.
Step #2: Restore the loving connection between you — BEFORE you get into a conversation
It’s so tempting to launch into discussing whatever went awry so you can fix it quickly. But don’t!
The pain of an argument comes from the disconnect between the two of you—not from the issue that triggered it.
Below is our favorite way to restore our connection before we talk. It's high up on our list of mini-tips for how to make up after a fight.
Whoever’s ready first (that was usually Paige early on) approaches the other gently and says:
Paige: I’m sorry for my part.
Don: I’m sorry for my part, too.
And as you might imagine, the distance would melt, and within seconds we were in the full embrace of love again.
Of course, this only works when it’s 100% genuine. And don't be surprised if it takes some trial and error to discover what works for the two of you. It's worth the effort, though. When you find — or co-create — your best way to reconnect, the subsequent conversations will go much better.
Step #3: Listen and speak to create deeper understanding — BEFORE discussing what to do next time
We got this step very wrong in our early years.
As soon as we were back in sync, we’d start talking about what to do differently — thinking that’s how we’d avoid reigniting the problem.
Logical, yes. But it usually backfired.
We’d start arguing again.
Or if we managed to agree on a solution, it wouldn’t stick.
In time, we found that a real resolution only emerged from a full conversation. That meant having a compassionate, level-headed exchange where the goal of our listening and our speaking was to understand each other better.
Speaking and listening to get the love you want
- Listening with a genuine curiosity about your partner’s experience of whatever went awry and why it was so upsetting. When practiced with patience, this kind of listening makes it safe for your beloved to speak openly and honestly.
- Speaking honestly yet compassionately about what upset you. That means and choosing language and tonality that are easy for your beloved to hear without getting triggered again. That means describing your feelings and perspective without blame.
How to avoid a flare-up — pitfall alert
During this mindful make-up conversation—especially in these ultra-stressful times—it’s easy to slip back into criticizing your partner, defending yourself, or shutting down again. If that’s what happens (which we know it can) just go back to Step #1. De-escalating yourself again, and then… You get the idea.
How to make up after a fight — tips that fit on a sticky
All in all, these three steps provide a framework for creating patterns of communication that yield an ever-deepening bond of love.
- De-escalate yourself first
- Restore your loving connection
- Listen and speak for deeper understanding
We know the quest can be messy, especially in highly stressful times. Still, the potential for experiencing new dimensions of extraordinary love is well worth it.
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