Marian 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 fire
If 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 damage
This has three parts:
  1. Inventory the damage inflicted upon you – how did your spouse specifically hurt you?
  2. Inventory the damage you inflicted on your partner – where did you cross the line?
  3. Inventory the damage done in the family – did the kids overhear? Who was caught in the crossfire?
Repair the harm together
Start 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 heal
Major 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:
  1. Do not to push your spouse into getting over it.
  2. Do not drag your feet in recovery.
Feelings of rejection may surface when one is reaching out to connect and the other is not responding. If you need more time to recover you can say something like: “I appreciate you trying to connect. I’m working on recovering from our fight, but I’m not quite there yet.”
Revisit the issue to bring it to closure
Exchanging 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.
  1. Take turns talking about it.
  2. Agree to be open to listen to each other’s perspective.
  3. Give consideration to your partner’s point of view.
  4. Seek compromise if at all possible.
  5. If your spouse has a better perspective or idea, acknowledge it
Finally, two things Marian and I do that decrease the frequency, intensity and duration of major arguments. First, we talk about what we learned from the argument that we want to work on. For example, we talked about how we were feeling run down going into the vacation and not as tuned in to each other. One other thing we find helpful is identifying where we are improving in communication and getting through arguments better. By working hard at recovery together you can celebrate success turning a major argument into a major victory!

Now it’s your turn

What do you do that helps you recover from a major argument? Add to the list of 5 I offer so readers can have more ready-to-use ideas. Feel free to share your comments below.