How do I approach my Partner after a Conflict?

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Written By:

Counselling Psychologist - M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.

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Reviewed By:

Clinical Psychologist - National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil

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Have you ever been in an ugly fight with your partner? Maybe both of you said some mean things while your spirits were high. And maybe you are anxious and want to work things out afterwards. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about starting a conversation with your partner right after a fight. 

Handling your partner’s emotions and your own after a fight can be a daunting task. But it is important to remember that the longer you postpone the conversation you need to have with your partner, the more you dwell in anger, and the more resentment will build.

These are some pointers you must keep in mind when you are approaching your partner after a conflict, 

  1. Reflect on the Problem
    The first thing you must do before approaching your partner is to take time to understand what the fight was about. You must allow yourself to understand and feel all the emotions you went through because of the fight and during the fight. This way you would have blown off some steam and will approach your partner with a clear mind. If you don’t practise reflection you will find yourself having random outbursts of emotions during your conversation with your partner. 
  2. Communicate Openly
    Once you have reflected on your own, it is important to communicate these to your partner. Your partner will be able to correct their mistakes only if they know how it made you feel. It is helpful to use “I” statements like, 

    "I felt ignored when you didn’t stand up for me in front of your family"

    instead of 
    "You are never there for me in front of your family"

    “I” statements will help your partner understand the mistake clearly. If you use words like “always”, and “never” you will be accusing your partner and this will only lead to more anger in them. Communicating openly also means giving your partner the time to revisit the conversation if they feel it is necessary. Such conversations are not open-and-shut cases, they might come up a few times over time and you must receive it openly.
  3. Practice Empathy
    After communicating openly, it is important to give your partner a hearing as well. You must ask questions in such a way that gets your partner to open up about how they felt because of the conflict. While they go through all their emotions and feelings, it is important that you are actively listening to them. It is also important for you to be empathetic during this conversation. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and see things from their perspective, not from your perspective. This will also help you to a great extent when you both decide on a solution for the fight. 
  4. Don’t Get Defensive
    A trait that is noticed very often when you are listening to your partner vent is defensiveness. It is very common for you to get defensive and feel the need to interrupt the conversation and correct your partner. Defensiveness also includes not making excuses for the mistakes you made. You must never make an excuse to justify your wrong behaviour that hurt your partner. Remember that it’s not about who is right or wrong. If your partner felt something, then you must honour and respect what they felt. 

  5. Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
    Building on the previous point, it is also important to take responsibility for your mistakes. You must apologise sincerely for your words and actions that caused your partner any hurt. This will help your partner build trust again in you. This way you give yourself better chances of resolving the conflict than otherwise.

  6. Remember it’s You and them vs. the Problem, not You vs. Them
    This is a very important aspect to consider when you are approaching your partner after a conflict. Many times we are so caught up in giving our version of things that it ends up becoming a you vs. your partner conversation. But healthy relationships don’t work like that. After hearing both sides out, you must decide on a middle-ground and work towards the problem that caused the conflict. Because it is not you vs. them, it is you vs. the problem. 

It’s completely normal to feel nervous when you are approaching your partner after a conflict. But remember that it is always best to nip it in the bud instead of letting the conflict grow into a tree of anger and resentment. 

Ways to Reduce Conflicts in a Relationship 

Conflicts are a healthy part of a relationship, but sometimes it is best to avoid some conflicts. Here are some of the ways in which you can reduce the number of conflicts you and your partner are having 

Don’t get Defensive with Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. And if your partner brings up a mistake of yours, one of the best ways to avoid it becoming a full-blown conflict, later on, is to not get defensive. You must not try to justify your actions. Listening to your partner and how they felt should be the first step. You can later on evaluate your actions. If you get defensive from the beginning your partner is going to feel like they aren’t being heard. 

It’s not about being “Right”

Whenever you are arguing with your partner you must remember that it is never about being “right”. There is no right or wrong in the conflict. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will be able to bounce back from the argument. 

Don’t act on your Triggers

Everyone has triggers that get ignited during a conflict. It is very important to exercise self-control and ensure that you don’t fully act on your triggers. When you get triggered in the middle of an argument, take a step back and discuss the trigger with your partner. This can prevent it from becoming a full-blown conflict. 

Respond Don’t React

The majority of people don’t understand the difference between responding and reacting. Let’s say your partner points out a problem with you.

There are two ways in which a person can reply:

“Ugh! You always have a problem with everything I do!” 
“Oh! I didn’t know that it was such a problem for you.” 

What would be the difference between the two statements?
The first one is a reaction filled with emotion and the second one is a more well-thought-out response. If you are someone who reacts a lot then conflicts are bound to arise even for the smallest of things. Responding with some thought is always the healthiest alternative. 

Don’t bottle Up

Another trait that can add to more conflicts is bottling up. If you frequently bottle up your emotions, thoughts and feelings, then you are bound to explode one day. That day it will be a hard conflict between you and your partner. That is why it is advisable to nip the issues in the bud and discuss it as and when they arise.

Ms. Priyanka Walia
Ms. Priyanka Walia M.A. Counselling Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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