Today I’m talking about how to repair a relationship if you are fighting with your partner. And how to keep your relationship strong even when there’s been some disturbance in the force. Maybe one of you lost your temper and said something you regret. Maybe it was a quieter comment that stuck in your craw. Or maybe it was a disagreement between the two of your; or maybe it was a full-on fight.
These are all bound to happen. We are all different, we’re wired differently and come from different upbringings… of course we’re going to see things differently from time to time. Sometimes loudly.
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Here’s something that honestly I feel like it took me a long time to fully understand: You can have a dust-up and still love each other. You can fight and learn from it. You can fight and be stronger than before. There’s a key to making sure that your fights end positively, and it’s something I was never, ever taught and it has been a game changer for me. And that is to repair after a fighting with your partner.
If you’ve been in therapy, either individual or couples, perhaps you already know about the power of repair. If so, yay, AND, please share it with others! It feels like the whole world needs to know about repair right now because there is an awful lot of seeing things differently happening.
Repair is just what it sounds like—you come together and make amends. It mends up any rifts that opened during the fight.
There isn’t one specific formula for repair, but there are a couple components that you can experiment with and find the ones that work best for you.
The first is Relating your experience
Something I talked about on Monday, too, in the Relate Don’t Manipulate episode. That’s where you share your feelings, using “I” statements (“I felt” not “you did this” or “you made me feel this way”). “I got really upset when you said x.” “I was really tired, or hungry.” “I just felt like you weren’t listening.”
The second is Validating their experience
Relating your experience invites your partner to relate theirs. When they do, let them know that you hear it and are taking it in by validating them. We all long to be heard and understood. So many fights flare up because one or both parties aren’t feeling heard. So during your repair, make sure to show that you’re listening to the other person. Use phrases like “I understand you’re feeling…” or “That must have been heard,” or even, “I see.” (There’s an episode about this too! Its’ called Validate validate, validate and it’s episode 56 in your feed)
The third is to Own your role.
A quick and powerful way to defuse some of the tension when fighting with your partner is to admit how you contributed to the situation. For example, if your partner is irritated that you seemed distant, you can say, “I was trying to finish something up and not giving you my full attention, and I’m sorry for that.” This is not saying, “I’m sorry you got upset,” because that makes it seem like THEY made the mistake not you. Of course you played a role. Just admit it. It doesn’t mean you should take 100 percent responsibility for the whole situation. That would discount the other person’s role. But you can admit the part you played
And A crucial component, in my book, is an apology.
A sincere apology really goes such a long way. Eye contact, a hand hold, and arm squeeze all help. Ideally both partners apologize, because you are both co-creators of your relationship.
It’s also so helpful during your repair to Make a plan to move forward—Say something like, “Next time let’s talk about this after dinner so that neither one of us is hangry.” Or, my favorite, “We can do better. Let’s do better next time.”
Finally, A hug is also a nice way to repair. And hey, there’s make up sex, too. Just sayin’.
So that’s it—Repair 101.
If a fight pokes a little hole in your bond, repair mends it and brings you back together. Even if you don’t hit all these steps I’m outlining here, just remember that a fight’s not truly over without repair. You can get better at repair as you go, but you have to start someplace.
Of course, if fighting with your partner becomes physical is its own creature—get out of there and assume it won’t be a one-time thing and act accordingly. I.e. Don’t stay. Get support. Take it seriously. You are worthy of serious consideration. I don’t care how over-the-top apologetic they are; from someone who is abusive, that’s not repair, that’s manipulation.
If you have any concerns at all that your fights have veered into abuse call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. That’s 1-800-799-SAFE. You are worthy of support!
Speaking of you being worthy of support, be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’m talking about how to bring your best to your relationship. Talk to you then.