The Best Way to Recover From a Lovers’ Quarrel, According to Science

A new study backs the theory that men and women fight (and kiss and makeup) differently.

Roman-Kosolapov/ShutterstockWhen you and your significant other argue, you bring a lifetime of different defense mechanisms and learned coping strategies into play. But when you make up, there are of course some things you should never do. But what you’re looking for in reconciliation may be more dependent on your gender than your relationship experience, according to a new study published in the journal for Evolutionary Psychological Science.

“Our study is the first to look deeper and examine reconciliation actions after romantic conflicts using an evolutionary theory perspective,” says Joel Wade, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Bucknell University. Wade and colleagues surveyed 38 women and 36 men between the ages of 18 and 54 and asked them to write down five acts or behaviors they’ve performed (or might perform) in an attempt to smooth things over with their partner after a fight. They then split the list up into categories and had a separate group of 164 men and women around the same age range rate the behaviors on how likely effective it might be in reconciling an argument between a romantic couple.

In the end, the answers held true to form: “Men in our study felt that it would be most effective for their partner to give sexual favors and do nice gestures to reconcile after a romantic conflict,” said Wade. On the other hand, the women in the study rated things like spending time together and apologizing as the most effective methods of solving a fight, suggesting that emotional bonding is of high importance to their ability to move forward in the relationship.

“Men are not always groomed in our society to have the emotional intelligence to express how they are feeling, and instead express themselves more physically,” explains Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, licensed marriage and family counselor in Malibu, California. “Women are generally raised to communicate and bond in intimate relationships, and are taught by society how to express their feelings verbally.”

So how can two lovers of the opposite sex come together and find a happy medium between makeup sex and talking it out? “If a man can make a woman feel emotionally safe and understood, and truly apologize for his piece of the conflict, then the woman can forgive and be more open to sexual favors.” Sounds relatively easy, right? Now whose turn is it to do the dishes?

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Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.