A couple of hours later
1. Emphasise ‘we’
A big mistake that many of us make is trying to get our point across the very second we feel calm again. The problem? Your partner might not be ready to listen, for several reasons: they’re still hyped up, they haven’t gathered their thoughts or they’re worried that talking will lead back to fighting. When they’re in a much more accepting mindset, they’ll better hear you out, so simply remind them that you’re on their side, says Parker. Tell them something more reassuring, like, “I know we had a hard time, but we’ll figure this out together.”
2. Plan an easy outing
“You can still be affectionate without ‘letting it go’,” Parker says. Dropping your grudge doesn’t mean sacrificing your emotions, but it can help you reconnect after you’ve cooled down. Throw out an offer to go get dinner or see a movie. Enjoying a joint activity takes your minds off the argument and can make any bad blood feel less serious.
The next morning
1. Ask the right questions
Make an effort to check in with your SO. Parker recommends something like, “I had a great time at dinner with you and I’d really like to make sure that we learn from what happened before that. How are you feeling about it?” After they respond, follow up with, “How could I have made you feel more heard or understood?” This phrasing lowers their defensiveness, so you should hear sincere feedback expressed in a gentler way. If they’re not ready to talk, try not to press. “Most of the time, they’ll come around to you much sooner when they feel you’re respecting their need for space from the issue,” says Parker.
2. Show the love
The day after a fight, they may be extra sensitive, and normal talk (even, “Did you remember to buy toilet paper?”) can sound a little critical. “It’s not enough to just stop the fighting – you need to speak the positive and make [each other] feel valued,” explains psychologist Harriet Lerner. “No one can survive in a relationship if they feel more judged than admired.” You don’t want to go OTT, but a sweet text during the workday can help you both recalibrate. You cutie, you.
A few days later
1. Offer – and accept – the olive branch
Ideally, some breathing room and the chance to talk constructively has allowed you to sort out your grievances. If not, it’s time to make amends anyway. Waiting too long to clear up a fight gives resentment a chance to build and can also set a standard of avoidance. “Making peace doesn’t mean you’re finished talking about a painful issue – it means you have the maturity to end the fight and, if necessary, reopen it later with goodwill,” says Lerner. Even if you don’t come to a plan of action (like, say, making a dishwashing schedule), it’s a resolution in itself to let your partner know (a) that you realise this is a hot-button topic, and (b) what you think you’ll need from them if it comes up again.
2. Set rules for the future
Prevent bigger tornadoes down the road by setting some guidelines, even in the heat of the moment, says Lerner. A few good ones: no name-calling, no threats and no bringing up past mistakes. If you or your partner can’t keep the fighting under control, seek professional help. “You should never act as if the intensity of your anger gives you the license to say or do anything,” she says, since, you’ll only be taking yourself further away from the end goal: a stronger relationship.