What to Say After a Fight

Portrait of young couple hugging tight sitting on couch indoors


Use Words to Heal, Rather Than Harm

Anyone who has been in a romantic relationship knows how quickly a fight can go from a simmer to a full-on boil. One misspoken word or an unjust accusation can cause emotions to get out of control, which can send your argument, and possibly your relationship, into a downward spiral. Rather than turning to passive-aggressive jabs designed to insult your partner, bring a sense of calm to the situation as you look for ways to repair so that you can move on without any lingering hurt feelings. Breathing deep can help.

“Let’s Keep This Between Us”

Venting to your friends about a problem with your partner may seem like the logical thing to do since it gives you a sounding board, helps you to get the stress out and most often, your friend will take your side. That last reason is exactly why what happens between you and your partner should stay between just the two of you.

There are a couple of issues at hand in this situation. The first is a trust issue. Fighting within a romantic relationship is personal and emotional, and it can get ugly very quickly. You probably don’t want others to know about the things you say and do during a fight, and neither does your significant other.

The other issue is that your best friend, co-worker, mother, sister or whomever you are venting to, is forming an opinion of your spouse through the things you share about the fight. After recapping argument number three or four, she can develop quite a negative image of your significant other, and the impression may be tough to break. Making a pact with your spouse to keep the fight private can help prevent additional problems with friends down the road.

"Let's Take a Breather"

When emotions run high, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and continue to scream and throw accusations at your partner. This is exactly when you should both take a breather and cool down. This can be achieved with several minutes of actual deep breathing, where you slowly inhale through your nose and then exhale out through your mouth for the same amount of time. A study led by Kevin Yackle, et al, at Stanford University, and published in "Science," found that breathing influences the activity of the brain in mice. The slower breathing mice were calmer than the others.

When you operate from a place of calm, you are more patient and likely to think before you react. This can help to minimize insults and allow you and your significant other to get to the root of the issue. If deep breathing isn’t for you, consider going for a 10 to 20-minute walk around the neighborhood. The physical activity can help to relieve stress and allow both of you to reconvene and discuss the issues from a relaxed frame of mind.

"This is Why I'm Upset"

When you are each discussing the things that bother you, it is helpful to be mindful of the way you are talking and to use clear concepts, words and direct phrases to communicate. Expecting your partner to guess or know why you are angry or upset is unrealistic. Saying, “You should know why I’m mad,” rather than being straightforward and telling your spouse what the problem is, can increase frustration and cause him to respond in a similar passive-aggressive manner.

Just the same, you cannot think there will be a peaceful outcome if one or both of you is constantly hitting below the belt. Being in a relationship or marriage means that you know the vulnerabilities of the other person and it is unfair to use these against each other when anger erupts. Remember that when the fight is over, you still want to love and respect the other person.

"I'm Sorry"

Leave your ego at the door. Easier said than done during an argument, especially when emotions are running high, but the need to be right or to get the last word in can inflame the fight and possibly destroy your relationship. Sometimes being kind is more important than being right, especially if you value your relationship and want it to move forward in a positive direction.

Accept an apology if it's sincere. Everyone makes mistakes and a more productive path may be to discuss how the mistake can be avoided in the future. Make sure you are actually focusing on the problem that led to the mistake and not your anger over the fact that a mistake was made. For example, if your partner is late when picking you up from work because her boss called a last-minute meeting, rather than focus on the fact that you had to stand outside for a half hour, find a reasonable solution in case the situation happens again. Calling to let you know that he will be late is the first step. Then initiate the second step, which may be getting a ride from a friend or taking a cab or ride-share home.