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How to Make 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.

Here are 3 power moves to restore the peace and connection after a fight.

1. Own Your Part

Accountability in Relationships

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

How to apologize to your husband after a fight.

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

Authentic Communication in Relationships

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.

All 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.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

17 replies on “How to Make Up After a Fight”

How do you know when to quit/divorce?
I am 60 and my husband is 65. We have been married 10 years. He was married 26 years and divorced 3 before we married. My husband had been deceased for 13 years.
My husband had an affair 6 years ago. He has left and returned 3 times since. He hasn’t had a real job for 10 years – he hangs his shingle as a horse trainer/riding lessons, I work and cover all the bills – he brings about 8k a year to the household. when I can’t purchase or provide something he wants he reaches out to a single nurse practitioner that lives about 3 hours away that he previously gave lessons, has sold 2 horses and she usually supports him when we are separated. I think I am exhausted of riding this roller coaster of when it isn’t perfect for him (spoiled brat syndrome) he decides he wants a divorce and leaves. After about 4 weeks and he is totally broke he wants to come home and promises to never leave, work on communication, and stop this Nurse Practitioner from calling him 3-4 times a day while I am at work. This works for about 3 months and then the calls slowly start increasing. He decided to leave again 4 weeks ago. In the meantime I turned 60 last week and I decided that this cycle has to stop. This week he came to me with 2 options of returning(he was out of money and I had to loan him money for bills – which he did pay me back): Option 1 – He would come home, work and pay 1/2 the bills, BUT he could come and go as he pleased. Option 2 – He would come home, I would pay all the bills as before and he would stop the calls, not come and go as he pleased. I was calm and asked if there was room for negotiation and he didn’t see why there needed to be any so I said I would think on it. The next day he apologized and gave Option 3 – He would come home, be dedicated to our relationship and if doing clinics or other options opened up I could quit my job and go with him or stay here until I retire. I in turn asked him to give up the outside sources (i.e. Nurse practitioner) and he said as long as she was a source of income he could not. My friends and family say to let him move on and let someone else take care of him – I want to know if this is somewhere you would draw the line on trying to make it better and let it go.

Great timing, Laura. I have been furious at my husband because I said hurtful things to be about a situation which occurred some time ago and in which I honestly did not create. At the time I apologized over and over. I have been upset and angry because he brought it up and apparently still blames me. Being cold and feeling like a victim feels awful but just letting it go feels like giving up. So, your post helped. I am confident my side of the street “is clean”. I can be at peace with that. He has a complex and unhappy relationship with his adult son and I have observed that when he is around him he tends to sometimes be unpleasant things to me. I think it is because he is trying so hard to NOT be critical of his son that the bad stuff comes to me. Not fair … but it probably won’t change and, fortunately, we are not in that situation very often. Perhaps, if I can remember that my side of the street is clean it will help. And, of course, it is easy to feel empathy for his situation and how badly he must feel. But, I must take care of me.

When my husband and I have Argued about something, he is always blaming me for everything. He goes back way in the past and start blaming me for the past arguments. I am always the one who apologize and I can 99% of the time he says he can’t accept the apology or this apology is not sencier. How do I continue after that. He is still in a bad mood and still can’t let go. My kids are so affect by this craziness.

Dear Sophia,

It is really frustrating that only you are acting like a responsible adult and the other part is acting like a child and behaving like a stubborn baby and not playing his part.
But there is one thing you can do.. it will take time but i am cent percent sure it will work…

Dont fight, dont argue.. stay happy or at least try to pretend being happy infront of him.. when you wake up in the morning just tell yourself *i am happy and there is nothing greater than me being happy*.. Stay in a good mood and try to take everything on a lighter note.. do this and you will be happy, less stressed .. and no fights..
he will stop fighting too and instead you will have a great life

Thank you Sophie for your question I connect with this ! My husband never accepts my apologies and says they are in se sure .
I came on here to see what happens after you apologize because I did say something hurtful and I did respectfully apologize and usually I beg and apologize over and over and I came in here to find the answers and I’m so glad I did . Thank you for your response Sahar.
It doesn’t feel right being happy when your spouse is mad but I’m going to try my hardest this time bexause something has to change

Courtney, when you have the vulnerability and accountability to apologize but your apologies get rejected, that is so frustrating! Him being mad at you but you still trying to be happy sound really hard too. I love your clarity that something has to change.

I would love to get you the support to turn things around, just as we’ve helped thousands of women fix their relationships. When you’re ready, you can get all the details right here: https://lauradoyle.org/rhw-waitlist/

Dear Laura,

Thank you sooooooo much. This article really helped me.

Wish you health and happiness.

Hi Laura! I love the one and one only I did used to grovel too. I’m interested in how to know how to respond when when hisband is being overly critical and nit picking after a stressful day at work. It feels unfair but I know there’s no point arguing it sometimes. Silence? Help him process?

Thankyou so much Laura. This article was an eye opener. I will need to practise but, I think I can do it.

Have a wonderful day

we just cant get it together, fighting , i ind it hard to walk away, and not defend myself with his accusations and lies and blaming, yes, i should say i hear you and say im sorry you feel that way and walk away, but i hate what isnt true if it was true i could own it and apologise. this is why he wants a divorce, well i dont like it this way either, but he wont just talk quietly. we are both hurting.

Thanks for helpful information I wish I would have read it before I said sorry about a hundred times and he still went to sleep mad, but next time I Will know what to do

One important thing I have learnt from this is leave him till he decides he’s fine after the quarrel and not pestering him to accept apology or return to normal. To give him time and space after 1 apology.

Wow- I owe an apology for my part. I definitely escalate. I will apologize tonight.

This is such a helpful article! Thank you, Laura. I just a small fight with my husband and a couple of hours before stumbling on this. He was wrong for the most part but to make peace I said sorry first. I took my responsibility in causing the situation we were in by my choice of words and he in turn told me he was sorry too because his totally misunderstood me. He went out and just came back with chocolate for me????
Saying sorry and swallowing our pride does save marriages.

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