Dealing with Relationship Fights: 12 Things to Never Do After a Fight
Relationship fights may seem like the end of the world, but it's completely normal and healthy for couples to disagree. Here's how to make sure your arguments are productive, not destructive.
Don’t: Act like nothing happened
Ignoring what started a relationship fight or pretending it never happened isn’t a wise idea. “Sweeping it under the rug assumes your partner is satisfied with the outcome. But making a clear effort to reconnect is the key to a successful outcome. Sharing what you have learned after a fight can help repair the damage,” says Lesli M. W. Doares, a marriage consultant and coach with a private practice in Cary, North Carolina, and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work. “And, make no mistake, there is always damage.” If you don’t let your partner know that what you fought about bothers you, your resentment could bubble up in the future and you could just eventually explode. “Something triggered the fight that must be addressed,” says Laurel House, a dating and empowerment coach on E!’s Famously Single. Remember to pick your battles when assessing if something really warrants further discussion or decide if you can let it slide. “The important things you ignore are the things that manifest into larger issues,” says relationship expert Andrea Syrtash and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing).
Don’t: Share details of your fight on Facebook, all over cyberspace, and to anyone who will listen.
It’s normal to want validation for how you feel from friends, family, and anyone who will listen. But your fight isn’t for public consumption. “This can be really damaging to the trust your partner has for you,” says Marni Feuerman, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Boca Raton, Florida. And once you put something out in the public forum, you can’t take it back. And people will likely judge your relationship—not for the better. “Unlike you, all they have are the ‘facts’ that you presented, making it harder for them to forgive and forget,” says House. Instead, keep what you fight about to yourself. Do you really need to talk it out? House suggests speaking with a trusted confidant who can provide balanced and honest advice. Here are signs you can totally trust your partner.
Don’t: Let too much time pass before you resolve it
The longer the argument festers, the angrier you’ll feel. “Unresolved anger and hurt feelings can grow if they’re not worked out in a timely manner,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. And the harder it will be to overcome the dispute. “By letting time slip by, you’re going to lengthen the disagreement and continue to suffer from the stress associated with it,“ says Stacey Laura Lloyd, health and relationships writer and coauthor of Is Your Job Making You Fat? How to Lose the Office 15…and More! “In addition, with the passage of time, it’s more difficult to recall and agree upon the exact factors that caused the conflict in the first place, making it even tougher to resolve.” Once you’ve had some time to cool off, revisit the issue and work it out. For men, this timeout is especially beneficial. “When a man gets a break, he turns his brain off to the situation for a while,” says Mike Goldstein, founder and lead dating coach of EZ Dating Coach. “He can then come back to the situation in a more open and loving state of mind to more rationally access what is happening and how to find a solution with his partner.”
Don’t: Be stubborn and not accept his apology
Don’t hold onto the anger and not forgive him. If he’s offering a genuine, sincere, and heartfelt apology, accept it. “Otherwise, you’ll keep the negative sentiments around much longer than necessary,” says Feuerman. “Forgiveness is a good practice in a long-term relationship.” Realize that not everyone is perfect. And if you’re still mad or upset, stubbornly not accepting his apology will only worsen the situation. “By not accepting his apology, you’re continuing to punish him and communicating that no matter what he does or says, it’s not good enough,” says House. And it could be the signs of a deeper issue. “Relationships aren’t about having a winner and a loser. You’re on the same side,” says Syrtash. “If you can’t accept his apology, figure out if you need to seek counseling or do something else that will help you restore trust and connection.” It’s also important to take accountability for yourself, in both couple fights and friendships fights.
Don’t: Bring up the argument in the future
Let it go. “If couples consistently rehash every fight they ever had, there will be never-ending feuding and zero time for love and fun,” says Goldstein. Plus, if the argument has really been resolved, then why bring it up again, says Doares. “Holding something over your partner’s head is not loving behavior and will not result in a healthy, successful relationship,” she says. If something was said that bothers you, don’t keep getting in jabs, even after you’ve allegedly reached a resolution. You’ll only end up talking in circles and not resolving anything. “By bringing up old conflicts, all you’re really doing is restarting the battle while also showing your partner that prior resolutions and agreements mean nothing,” says Lloyd. “In fact, when you bring up an old conflict, you’re well on your way to starting a new one.” Discover how to stop an argument with just one word.
Don’t: Make up excuses for the fight
Stress, feeling under the weather, commuter traffic. You can blame an argument on just about anything. But don’t pass the blame on why you fought. “An apology is not an apology when you say, ‘I’m sorry but…’” says Goldstein. If you’re upset about something, your partner needs to know that—and not think it’s because you had a bad day at the office. “Excuses give you a chance to seem like you’re weaseling out of any responsibility,” says Jim Walkup, Doctorate of Ministry, a licensed marriage counselor who practices in New York City and White Plains, New York. Be honest about why you’re fighting. “Directly discussing the problem is more likely to resolve it than making up flimsy excuses for why it happened,” says Feuerman. These are ways you secretly sabotage your apology.
Don’t: Say you didn’t mean it
“Whether you meant it or not, you said it, you did it and you can’t take it back,” says House. “You can’t make it go away, so saying that you didn’t mean it is not only pointless, but can be infuriating and shows that you fight dirty and mean, which aren’t healthy or productive ways to ‘fight.’” If you say that you didn’t mean it, you won’t work to a resolution for the future. And that’s the goal of a fight in the first place. “Start by understanding that your words may have hurt your significant other,” says Walkup. “Acknowledge that you hurled the grenades in anger and defensiveness.” This is amplified if your disagreement was made public, say, on social media. Learn the scientific reasons why you shouldn’t argue on Facebook.
Don’t: Have makeup sex if you don’t want to
It’s great that you’re done fighting. But if shifting gears to doing the deed is the last thing on your mind, it’s fine to say you’re not in the mood. “Sex is about love, intimacy and caring, about warmth and connection,” say Charles Schmitz and Elizabeth Schmitz (aka Doctors Schmitz), love and marriage experts and award-winning authors. “The time and your emotions have to be right for sex to be enjoyable and intimate.” He just may want a roll in the hay to feel close to you again and reconnect. “Makeup sex can be healing, but only if you both are feeling into it,” says Walkup. Explain why you’re not up for nookie to avoid hurting his feelings. “If you’re having sex because you think you ‘should,’ you’re actually making the situation worse, adding on a layer of resentment and possibly even making yourself feel used,” says House. Perhaps a hug is all you’re ready for initially, says Hall. “Having sex for any reason when you don’t want to is a bad idea,” says Doares. “You’ll equate what is supposed to be a form of intimacy with intimidation or manipulation.” This is the best way to recover from a lover’s quarrel, according to science.
Don’t: Focus on the cause of the fight
Did your husband forget to get diapers at the store though you asked him to do so as he walked out the door at 8 a.m.? Instead of replaying the incident in your head, spend your energy on finding a solution for the problem. “Identifying the issues that are underlying can bring relief but only if done with a sense of ‘let’s understand and grow here,’” says Walkup. If he seems to be forgetful lately, sit down with your partner on a different occasion and bring up the issue, says Lisa Hochberger, M.ED., a sexologist, sexuality educator and relationship expert. In this case you might say, “I notice that when I ask you to pick things up after work, you forget to do it,” says Hochberger. “What can I do to remind you of errands we need done for the house so you don’t forget?” Try and support your partner, not be judgmental, she adds.
Don’t: Give him the silent treatment
It’s fine if you need some space after a fight. “Ignoring your partner will only amplify the hurt and anger,” says Hall. Just don’t give him the cold shoulder without telling him. He may feel like he’s being punished if you ignore him, brush him off or shut him out. “Giving someone the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. It’s disrespectful, demeaning and manipulative,” says Doares. “Yes, you can take some time to yourself to calm down and engage in self-care but you can be civil to your partner at the same time.” Explain that you need a few hours to cool off and that you do want to reconnect. Feuerman says, “It’s ok to say, ‘I need some time to calm down so we can discuss this rationally.’” Otherwise, next time, he may bottle up how he feels.
Don’t: Be hard on yourself that you fought
Don’t beat yourself up over an argument. All you’re doing is undercutting your self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence, says Lloyd. “Of course two people aren’t always going to be on the same page,” says Syrtash. “The important piece is that you each got a little closer to discovering what’s important to each other.” Getting stuck in self-recrimination is unhealthy and unproductive. “Beating yourself up is rarely an effective use of your time,” says Doares. Fighting can be a good thing; it shows that you’re invested and working at the relationship. You care enough to get to the bottom of your issues. “In fact, not fighting at all is a sign, too,” says Feuerman. “Some arguments, if they’re able to be resolved, should actually bring you both closer together.” Find yourself revisiting the most common fight couples have? Here’s how to stop fighting about money.
Don’t: Use hurtful words to describe your partner
After you’re done disagreeing, don’t resort to name-calling and hurtful words, says Goldstein. He suggests using simple, easy-to-understand sentences or even one word to help your partner understand how you feel. For example, you might say, “When you ignore me when I get home from work, I feel alone in our relationship.” These are the 14 things to never say to your spouse.