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Subscribe: RSSMarian and I were on our way home from a family event. We had a great time and were really excited because the next morning we were leaving for vacation. For some strange reason we got into a heated argument over something stupid. Because we were both exhausted we hit the pause button and went to sleep. In the morning before we packed our bags, we unpacked the problem. We’ve developed a strategy to manage conflicts that make it easier to recover from a major argument. Needless to say it came in handy. No way this petty fight was going to ruin our vacation. As I reflected on it, I decided to share our approach with you. So, here are 5 things you can do to recover from a major argument.
Start with a cease fireIf you are having a knock-down, drag-out fight, it’s not solving anything. It’s only doing more damage. So do this:
- Put your weapons down
- Take time to cool off
- Give each other some space–emotionally and physically
Assess the damageThis has three parts:
- Inventory the damage inflicted upon you – how did your spouse specifically hurt you?
- Inventory the damage you inflicted on your partner – where did you cross the line?
- Inventory the damage done in the family – did the kids overhear? Who was caught in the crossfire?
Repair the harm togetherStart by owning the damage you inflicted. Marian and I follow a 5-step plan. I use it with couples and families in my practice. If you would like it please request it on my contact page and I will send it to you. The key here is to be able to own what you did wrong and apologize for your actions. Equally important is being honest with your spouse about how you were hurt in the argument. By taking turns owning and repairing conflict, a fair exchange of apologies can aid the recovery process.
Allow time for the relationship to healMajor blowups may take a few hours or days to recover, depending on the offense and degree of harm. People who compartmentalize things tend to get over arguments quickly. However, others who process emotionally take more time. Here are two suggestions:
- Do not to push your spouse into getting over it.
- Do not drag your feet in recovery.
Revisit the issue to bring it to closureExchanging apologies is important but it doesn’t necessarily resolve the original problem. I recommend you revisit the issue by taking a different approach to guide conversation.
- Take turns talking about it.
- Agree to be open to listen to each other’s perspective.
- Give consideration to your partner’s point of view.
- Seek compromise if at all possible.
- If your spouse has a better perspective or idea, acknowledge it