Let’s face it. If you’re in a relationship, you’re going to have fights or at least disagreements. That’s because no two people feel identical about every single thing. So you’ll argue or have heated discussions. It happens to the best of us.
Your partner forgot to take out the garbage yet again. You were late to work doing what you had both agreed was his job. The incident escalated and you both said things that were hurtful and regrettable. The subject of the fight actually doesn’t much matter, and is often about something quite forgettable. It’s how you fight, and sometimes, even more importantly, how you make-up, that counts.
It’s important to know that, even if you’ve said something hurtful that you regret, you and your partner can learn from it. You need to understand how to process what took place during the fight. Sometimes that understanding can lead to an even stronger bond.
Are you ready to begin the healing process?
The fight is over. You’re both in your respective corners, licking your wounds. Are you feeling calm? Can you talk about the essence of the fight without starting to fight all over again? Is your mind open enough to consider how your partner feels about the incident? Can you honestly say you can be objective? Are you in a safe space that’s good for both of you? Are you free from distractions, with the time and privacy you need to address the situation?
Then maybe you’re ready to use the aftermath of your fight to create a closer bond with your partner.
- Share how you feel with each other. Do not accuse. Do not cast aspersions. Just say how you feel. For example, “I feel let down.” NOT “I feel let down because you’re a lying, irresponsible oaf who can’t manage to do a simple task like take out the garbage.” You might feel stressed, you might feel overwhelmed, or that your partner doesn’t care enough about you. Your partner may feel he’s being picked on, taken for granted or underappreciated.
- Exchange realities and tell your stories. One person goes first, and the other listens. The speaker talks about the event from his perspective. “I was annoyed because I had to do your chore and I didn’t have time. It was really important for me to get to that meeting on time.” Refrain from the urge to criticize your partner.
Your partner should then summarize what he heard, not what he thought you meant. You should both be on the same page before he tells his side of the story. You need to validate that you understand—although you may not necessarily agree—with the other person’s experience. The goal is to understand how each other feels.
- Look for the soft underbelly. The argument about taking out the garbage was probably not the real issue, even though the fight escalated into a big blowup. The real issue was the partner who had to take out the garbage felt her spouse took her for granted, knowing she’d do his chore. She felt a bit used and alone. She was the one who had to make the household and their relationship work without the help of her partner. He, on the other hand, felt he was picked on for a small incident. Yes, he forgot, but he was sorry. Why did she have to make such a big deal about it? But now that they’ve discussed it, he understands her point of view and knows what the root of the problem is.
- Plan to make the future smoother. You have both shared how you feel and you have a better understanding of your partner. Talk to each other about how you can make things better for each other going forward. Know that you each have vulnerabilities that you need to respect and honor. That’s a big step toward a closer, more intimate relationship.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact