What happens in your relationship after you have a fight or any kind of upset? I don’t mean how you got into the fight. I mean, what happens afterwards? Spoiler alert: there’s a very simple and powerful lesson to be gained in this post!
Tale of two couples
Just this week, I worked with two different couples who each had a breakdown. With the first couple, Dennis and Angie, he got upset when Angie talked about his work in a way he felt was diminishing. He got even more upset because the week prior, she had accused him of doing the exact same thing about her work. They got really mad and hurt.
For Linda and Xavier, it was about house chores. Linda got upset when she thought she was carrying too much of the house chores and Xavier wasn’t doing his bit. Xavier, on the other hand, felt hurt that she didn’t recognize the many chores he was already responsible for. They too got quite mad and hurt.
Their reactions after the fact made a world of difference.
When I talked to Xavier and Linda, they both described how afterwards, they’d gone on with their day, continuously replaying the interaction in their mind. They thought about what retorts they could have delivered that would have convinced the other person. They stewed on the injustice of their partner’s accusations and how it wasn’t fair, and how it was never recognized how hard they worked for the family. Not surprisingly, by the time they reconnected at the end of the work day, they were still mad. They avoided each other as much as possible the next few days.
Angie and Dennis, on the other hand, had a different reaction. After the fight, they too had to go on with their work days. As they went about their business, they both had similar thoughts when they reflected on the fight. They both shared having thoughts like, “That was dumb fighting like that”, “I was kinda nasty”, “I don’t even know why that was so important”. The first action they took towards each other was to send a text. Dennis texted, “I’m sorry about this morning; I shouldn’t have called you names. I hate it when we fight”. To which Angie replied, “I’m sorry too. I was nasty to you, you didn’t deserve that … talk more later?”
There are ten different communication strategies that would be relevant to talk about here. But I want to point out just one simple “moral of the story”: Angie and Dennis had the impulse to come back together, apologize, and reconnect. In stark contrast to Linda and Xavier, by the time they got back home after work, they were already in process of reconnecting. When they met each other in the kitchen, their first conversation was to say, “I’m sorry about this morning … I shouldn’t have … I’m sorry I said … ”. They shared a hug and talked some more.
This is a very powerful impulse in a relationship. It contains several essential relationship repair methods:
- Coming back towards each other after a rift.
- Taking responsibility for what was said.
- Apologizing for any hurt caused by those words/actions.
- Declaring remorse for hurtful words
- Stating openness to further conversation
- Plus, crucially, no blame or accusations (notice they used no You-statements at all).
If you don’t already do this naturally (far from everyone does), try it out next time you have an upset with your mate. You don’t even need to know exactly what to say. Just reach out towards each other, say some version of “I’m sorry, I hate it when we fight, I love you, let’s talk more”.
This one simple impulse will save you hours, days, weeks, and months of disconnect and agony. It’s the direct path back to love and connection.
♥️ Sonika & Christian
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