After an argument, I’ve found there are a few ways that couples tend to ‘move on’.
One common approach is for couples to ‘sweep it under the rug’ and act as if it never happened. At first, this seems to work because the couple doesn’t have to deal with it. But over time, this fails. The pile of dirt grows as arguments accumulate, and it becomes overwhelming. It grows into a huge pile that can’t be ignored. Eventually, it has to be dealt with. This becomes more difficult when there’s just so much to work out.
Another way couples try to ‘move on’ is to keep revisiting the fight over and over again. It will come up in little comments, other arguments, or when ‘joking around’ with one another. The issue never gets resolved and things feel unsettled. With this approach there will be a higher level of tension in the relationship and the couple will feel off even during the good times.
So how do we do it? Create a repair process.
A repair process is a skill we teach couples to help them reconnect after a fight. It is designed uniquely for each couple using an exercise like the one below.
First, we ask the couple to give one another some space to cool down (if needed), then come back together with a different mindset. Next, we ask each person to fulfill the needs of their partner in an effort to re-establish the bond between them. After the process is created, we recommend that it be used often (regardless of how large or small the argument) and fine-tuned as needed.
Individually, consider how you felt after your last fight with your significant other. What would have helped you feel more connected again? It might be a mutual apology for each person’s part, an ‘I love you’, a hug, compliment, or sharing a favorite activity together. It may be a combination of things. Write down what helps you regain the feelings of love, trust, and connection to your partner.
Together, take turns sharing with each other what you wrote in step one. When it’s your turn to share, be gentle but descriptive as you speak about your needs. Don’t shame your partner for not meeting these needs in the past, but focus on how much it would mean to you to have these needs fulfilled in the future. When it’s your turn to listen, be open and accepting as your parter shares their needs. Don’t criticize their needs or become defensive, but focus on how great it will feel to know how to reconnect and repair in the future.
Discuss how you can use these ‘needs’ to create a repair process to use after arguments. Include these steps as you build your repair process:
Plan to take time apart to calm down, if needed, and decide how long these ‘cool down’ periods will be
Plan to come back together after the pre-determined amount of time
Plan how to fulfill each other's needs, as discussed in step two
Plan for when/how to discuss the unresolved issue with less intensity & clearer minds (including a couples' therapist if needed)
Plan to spend fun or relaxing time together to bond and reconnect
If you have questions, or want help designing your repair process, feel free to contact us.
I’m here if you want to talk. Take care!