Making Up after a Fight
Making Up after a Fight
3 Power Moves to Restore Peace after a Breakdown
If you’re anything like I was, when you fight with your partner you both say nasty things.
It can be shocking to see how low this thing you live with will go.
And while I’ve said some regrettable things during a fight, the biggest thing on my mind when it’s over is that he owes me an apology. Big time!
And it’d better be a good one, to convince me that he’s really sorry and he’ll never do it again.
Until then, I will show that I am waiting for said apology by being distant and having an irritated look on my face.
That ought to motivate him.
But it didn’t. Mostly that approach got me a cold war and wall-to-wall hostility.
It’s stressful. It’s hurtful. Fortunately, I have a better post-fight game plan now.
1. Own Your Part
I wish somebody had told me sooner how much peace and power there is in apologizing for my part in a scuffle.
Maybe they tried, but I didn’t get the message. So I spent many years waiting to be apologized to, which just made me a victim.
Victims don’t have that much fun, it turns out, and they don’t have such great relationships either–take it from me.
Also, I wish I’d known the anatomy of an accountable apology sooner because that’s where the real magic is.
Now, a breakdown is my signal to check if I have something to clean up.
I absolutely love knowing that I can bring peace to my relationship and to my soul by taking responsibility for whatever I said or did that was less than what I aspire to be.
Sometimes I have to think a long time before I can identify my part of the mess because I just don’t want to admit that I jumped to conclusions, interrupted, controlled or criticized.
Even after all these years of being in the habit of apologizing, it’s still uncomfortable to look for my faults.
It’s also a relief.
I can give up the exhausting dance of trying to defend myself and embrace the liberation of saying, “Some terrible things were said…and I’m the one who said them.”
What about his apology, you might wonder. When is he ever going to learn this secret?
When you find the courage to burst the tension bubble yourself with an apology, you often get one back. But even if you don’t, you get something I’ve come to value even more: a clean side of the street.
I no longer have to defend the indefensible. Phew!
That often restores the peace immediately, but whether my apology is accepted or not, I’ve done what’s in my power to set things right. Holy cow, that feels good!
2. Issue Just One Apology
I remember having serious fights in the past where I just wanted my husband to get over it so we could go back to normal.
So I would say I was sorry again and again. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Because more is more.
That did not have the desired effect. He would just get more irritated.
That’s because it wasn’t so much about me being accountable or remorseful. It was more about trying to get him to snap out of being upset so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable and fearful about our lack of connection.
These days I prefer to take a one-and-done approach.
Unless he didn’t hear me or there’s a new offense I want to clean up, one apology is enough. No need to repeat myself like a trained parrot, even if he’s still upset and going on about how awful I was being.
That singular, solemn apology has more gravity than repeated groveling, in my experience, and leaves me feeling more dignified, even if I just had an ugly meltdown all over my husband because the the new dryer door opens the wrong direction.
Not a proud moment, but at least I’m not doubling down on my bad behavior by defending it or trying to wish it away with repeated sorry’s.
Even if I don’t get immediate forgiveness in that moment, once again I know I’m clean.
3. Do Nothing
99% of the time when I’m in a conflict with someone, even if I feel my actions were completely justified given the situation, there’s something I would like to have done better.
Since I love the feeling of empowerment I get, I usually find something to apologize for, like that I didn’t communicate very well or that I wasn’t more patient.
But on rare occasions, I can’t think of anything I’ve done that was regrettable at all. I’m already clean. Apologizing would be betraying myself because it wouldn’t be authentic.
So I don’t.
Of course, that can be stressful.
Recently, I recommended a paint color to a friend, and she gave that color to the painter but then didn’t like the color once it was up on the high ceiling.
My friend was unhappy and wanted me to take responsibility for making a bad recommendation.
In the face of this breakdown, I was tempted to apologize to make nice. But when I looked for my part in this conflict, I found I had no part in causing her unhappiness.
My side of the street felt clean already, so there was no pull to use my super powerful restore-the-peace secret weapon. I had shown up the way I wanted to in this instance.
Al I could do was empathize about how disappointing it is to spend money on a painter and not like the result.
The conversation was still going along uncomfortably, but then a funny thing happened: My friend sighed and said, “I know it’s not your fault I don’t like the paint color. I’m just bummed about it. I’m sorry for trying to blame you.”
The tension was gone, and all I had done was stay true to myself and listen to my friend process her disappointment.
The same can happen with my husband.
He could be a grouch on the couch throwing out blame I don’t think I deserve or invitations to an argument.
If I can RSVP “not attending” and mind my own side of the street, I save myself from owing an apology later.
If you have a conflict with someone in your life right now, a great experiment to try is to ask yourself which of these 3 moves would contribute to greater peace. Do you owe an apology? Will you issue one and only one? Or is your side of the street completely clean already?
I’d love to hear in the comments section below.
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