How to Recover After a Bad Fight
“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is a quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
After a nasty fight, you may feel angry, upset, confused, frustrated, and/or betrayed. As a result, you may feel like it will be impossible to personally recover from the fight, and even more impossible to repair the damage to your relationship. But, guess what? Every couple has arguments from time-to-time. Why? Well, mainly because you aren’t clones of each other. You are, however, unique human beings, who have had individualized experiences, from childhood until now.
Understand that it may require extra effort to regain the homeostasis (balance) in your relationship and the romance and cuddle factors may go AWOL for a while, but you can definitely recover from the fight – if you want to save your relationship.
The key to recovering from a bad fight is to fight fairly and be respectful towards one another. If you’ve recently had a knock-down-drag-out-fight, and feel like you’ll never recover from it – keep reading because this article will give you some valuable pointers on how to “bounce back” from a big “blowout” with your partner.
Listed below are ways you can recover after a bad fight:
1. Give Each Other Space
It is common to want to “hash things out” during a bad fight, even if the other person needs some space. Don’t “pigeon-hold” your partner, because you want to resolve the issue. Why not? Because, it may cause irreparable damage to your relationship. In other words, your partner may view your attempt to “make things better” as being “pushy.” Take a minute and allow your partner to do the same.
You need time to process what happened – i.e. why you are arguing and how you can compromise or resolve the issue. In other words, you need time to “relax, relate, and release,” before you can calmly and rationally discuss the issue or issues-at-hand. In other words, you need time to recover and heal from the fight, before addressing what occurred with your partner. The worst thing you can do for yourself and your partner is force the issue, when you’re both angry and upset. This will only lead to a disaster.
What if my partner needs space, but I don’t? Give him or her space anyway. It can be upsetting when your partner tells you he or she needs space, especially when you don’t feel that way. But, being too clingy, pushy, or demanding can push your partner even farther away from you. And, although being in close proximity, during or after a fight may make you feel better, it could be more confusing and upsetting to your partner.
It could even cause him or her to look at you and your relationship differently. You and your partner need time to think things through and decide your next steps. You can’t do that if you cloistered (confined) together. So, take an adult time-out and process how you are feeling. Don’t take it personally and understand that your partner may need this “pause” to collect himself or herself, so he or she doesn’t say something he or she will later regret. Revisit the conversation at a later date and take this time to cool down.
2. Don’t Be Defensive
Another way to recover from a bad fight is to refrain from being defensive. In other words, don’t try to defend yourself, as a way to justify your own behaviors. Rather, listen to what your partner has to say – without interrupting him or her. If you continuously interrupt your partner to defend your actions, it will only keep the fight going, escalate it, and damage your relationship further.
What should you do? Acknowledge and accept your partner’s feelings and the role you played in the current situation. Don’t automatically assume your partner is trying to “attack” you, because they may not be the case. It’s hard to hear the truth sometimes – I get that, however, it is important that you *hear* what your partner is trying to tell you, because it’s important.
But, guess what? You can’t *hear* your partner’s message, if all of your energy is directed at defending yourself. So, as hard as it may be, don’t defend yourself – during or after a bad fight. Listen and make the necessary changes in your mindset, attitude, and behavior.
Note: If you feel like you need to explain why you did this or that – do it later. In other words, shed light on why you did what you did (or did not do) once cooler heads have prevailed.
3. Take Responsibility
As mentioned briefly above, a good way to recover from a bad fight is to take responsibility for your own actions. It’s hard to look at oneself and point out errors, mistakes, and “bad behavior,” but it is crucial to do just that, if you want to heal and recover from that nasty tiff with your partner. Questions like, “What role did you play in the fight?” “What led up to the fight?” and, “How can you work together to recover from the fight?” are important for “bouncing back” from an especially difficult argument and preserving your relationship.
So, how can you take responsibility for your own actions? By acknowledging and apologizing for something you said or did (or didn’t say or didn’t do) that was hurtful, disrespectful, rude, careless, and/or spiteful – especially if you went off on him or her without thinking before speaking, or you went off “half-cocked” (without all of the information). No one likes people who are always blaming someone or something else, even when they are at fault.
Take responsibility for your behaviors by admitting that you’ve been taking your frustration, mental and physical fatigue, stress, and personal issues out on your partner. Explain that these “things” have been causing you to behave out of character and/or take him or her for granted. In other words, be accountable for your words and actions – without unfairly blaming your partner for things he or she probably didn’t say or do.
For example, you could something like this, “I know I’ve been working a lot of hours lately, and haven’t had much time to connect with you. I also realize that I’ve been crankier than normal due to this work stress, and you’ve received the brunt of my angst. I just want to say I’m sorry for my part in the argument. You aren’t to blame for the things I did. I’m tired and frustrated, but that doesn’t take away from how much I love you. I’ll try to do better from now on by taking warm baths to de-stress once I get home, so I can spend more quality time with you in the evening and on the weekends.”
4. Control Your Emotions & Actions
One of the most effective ways to recover from a nasty spat with your partner is to control your emotions and actions. In other words, don’t say (or do) anything during or after the argument that you’re likely to regret later. Think before you talk and act. And, be mindful of the power of your emotions, words, and behaviors. If you say or do something hurtful, there is chance you and your relationship won’t recover from your words and/or actions.
So, when you feel your emotions spinning out-of-control, stop. More specifically, remove yourself from the situation, practice deep breathing, and take a few minutes or days or weeks to collect yourself. Pause and think about the long-term ramifications of your actions. Do not, however, return to the conversation until you are fully in control of yourself. The last thing you want is to say or do something your partner will not forgive. So, think before you act – and get those emotions and actions under control.
5. Agree to Disagree
The best thing you can do to save your relationship and sanity after a knock-down-drag-out-fight with your partner is to agree to disagree – if you are unable to come to a compromise or resolution. The truth is there are times in a relationship when you simply don’t, won’t, or can’t see eye-to-eye. And, as shocking as this may sound, that’s actually normal.
As much as you love each other and as compatible as you may be, you are still two very different people, so there are going to be times when you disagree. If you can accept this fact without blaming, shaming, or judging your partner, you’ll be able to recover from your fight.
The key to using this method to recover from a bad fight is to agree to disagree, when you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
6. Ask for Help
This brings me to the next step – seeking help. If you are having a hard time coming to a resolution, compromising, and agreeing to disagree, it’s time to reach out to a relationship expert – i.e. counselor, therapist, clinical social worker, and/or psychologist. Rehashing past hurts and arguments will only push you further and further apart.
It’s important to ask for help if you simply can’t move past the argument. Don’t just sit on your feelings, because that may lead to destructive behaviors – destructive behaviors that can cause mistrust and irreparable damage to you and your relationship. So, reach out to someone, who can provide you with sage advice.
A mental health specialist will help you get more in-tune with your emotions, so you can better understand why you behave the way you do. He or she can also help you work through residual feelings from the argument, so they don’t prevent you from recovering from it. The truth is seeking therapy doesn’t make you weak, no, if anything it shows just how strong you are.
Lastly, before you can heal from the bad fight, you’ll need to forgive – yourself and your partner. Forgiveness is freedom from an internal prison. In other words, it can set you free, so you don’t have to carry the effects of the argument around with you. When you forgive, you let go of hurt feelings, hostility, and resentment towards your partner.
On the other hand, holding onto a grudge can lead to emotional and physical turmoil. So, as hard as this may be – forgive your partner for hurting you. Can’t let it go? Keep this in mind, forgiving someone does not mean you accept the behavior or you have forgotten what transpired. It simply means you are ready to let what happened go and move on with your life.
A bad fight doesn’t have to define your whole relationship. More specifically, it doesn’t have to destroy what you have built with your partner. You can recover from what happened. In other words, you can “bounce back,” if you want to. Keep in mind, however, that it will require patience, openness, honesty, forgiveness, respect, love, and commitment. You have the ability to heal from the hurt of the argument; you just have to give your partner space, refrain from being defensive, take responsibility for your own actions, get a check on your emotions and behaviors, agree to disagree, ask for help, if necessary, and forgive.
- Steeves, S. M. (2016). Balance in relationships, life, and everything in-between. com. Retrieved from https://www.marriage.com/advice/relationship/balance-in-relationships-life-and-everything-in-between/
- Kirkpatrick, N. (2019). Counseling (or counselling): 5 reasons why we need it. Better Help. Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/counseling/counselling-vs-counseling-is-there-a-difference/