We know that one of the most destructive and upsetting things in a relationship can be arguments that just don’t get resolved. These can really interfere with the growth and mood of a relationship; we lurk around each other in the aftermath, both too stubborn to mend bridges, and both people likely feeling resentful and hurt about what has been said. If this sums up your experience to a tee, then we have some good news for you – relationship expert Dr Taibbi recommends an innovative new method for handling the ‘aftermath’ of an argument. In the interests of de-escalation and repair (which is what we generally want after an argument), he recommends:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes – that’s all the time you get!
- Go back to the original problem and summarize the issue, as well as what you’ve agreed on as a solution (eg. Okay, so we will split the cooking evenly during the week?).
- Find the core of the issue – see if you can uncover what the fight was ACTUALLY about – for example, it might not be about one partner feeling responsible for all the cooking, but rather that they are feeling taken for granted or unappreciated – a pattern that might be common in this relationship.
- Shift gears – Now you’ve done the heavy stuff, now is the time to laugh it off and start to ease the tension. Perhaps make a joke or suggest a feel-good activity to switch up your moods and help you to put this argument in the past, where it belongs.
- Get physical! Nothing says ‘change the mood’ like making physical contact with your partner – whether this is a hug, a spoon, or something more PG 13+ – the aim is to reconnect and use your connection to repair some of the distance that has been created between the two of you.
Dr Taibbi is spot on when he says that it is not the arguments themselves that are the problem, but rather how we resolve them. Every single couple has disagreements and tensions, and moments when they feel enraged and frustrated -that is just part of sharing your life with someone else! The key is how we resolve these disagreements, and how we can maintain mutual respect and closeness even though this. Unfortunately, if these conflicts aren’t resolved well, we can find ourselves growing apart and building up resentment and distance. Learning to repair after a disagreement means your relationship is more likely to last in the longer term – and can become harmonious, supportive – and fun.