Wait until you feel calm before you speak again
If you try to talk to the other person while you are still angry, you will struggle to really listen to what they are saying. You will still be focused on your feelings of upset or anger, so you are more likely to become angry. Instead, wait until both of you have calmed down so that you can openly discuss your opinions.
You want to cool off in order to get your rational brain back online. If you try to talk too soon, you're likely to trigger each other again. That said, couples usually differ in how much time they need to calm down (and men often take longer). If you're not ready yet to come back and make up, simply say, in one sentence, "I’m still upset; I'm not trying to ignore you, I just need more time to cool off."
Give each other some space
Give them space, but also take some space yourself. After things get ugly, you might need some time alone to reflect, recover, or heal. You might need to not be around your partner while the bulk of your negative feelings pass, and that's okay.
However, if your partner needs space and you don't, it can be disconcerting. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Avoid clinging: Sometimes one partner want space after a fight, whereas the other feels clingy. It might feel satisfying to have your partner nearby, but the time they take to reflect can strengthen the relationship in the long-term. Clinging can also make things worse when that person needs to take a time out.
- Reflect: Take the time to focus on your own thoughts and feelings, too.
- Don't punish them: If your partner says he or she needs some time alone, respect that. Don't take it personally and later withhold yourself as punishment.
You don't want to have a discussion while the other person is still hot. I can't tell you how many people will think it's better to say right away: 'I'm sorry. I was a jerk.' And the other person says, 'Yes, you were.' And then the argument escalates again.
Of course, if you need space, at least reassure your partner that you love them and things will be okay. A little emotional support can go a long way, even if you need to go cool off.
Deal with your anger
Fights often lead to anger and upset. If you are angry, recognize that you are in control and that your partner does not “make” you angry. Take steps to help calm your anger, such as deep breathing. Think about what causes your anger and try and see the big picture.
Journal your feelings to help you explore them and understand them better. For example, if you’re upset that your partner didn’t call you, write about your experience and how it made you feel. You might discover that your anger is really about feeling neglected or wanting more attention.
Sometimes you might have a fight with someone because you both want different things. Maybe it’s that you two can’t decide on what movie to watch, or you both want the last Snickers bar. Or the more serious argument, where you are upset over how your boyfriend always sees his friends before spending quality time with you. In all of these situations, you two will have to negotiate. This means you both coming together to make a decision that feels right for the both of you. It’s a give and take. Although our country leaders have stated we should “not negotiate with terrorists,” we should for sure negotiate with our friends, lovers and family.
Adopt a special "stop" signal for both of you
When a disagreement with your partner approaches its tipping point, it’s very important to stop all the fighting using a secret signal you both agreed on. It can be a gesture or a funny word, for example. It’s like you’re sending your partner a message that you’re very close to passing the threshold of your patience.
Don't drag it out
When the dust has settled after a fight, your emotions might still be running high. You may be tempted to throw in some last minute passive-aggressive jabs. Maybe you want to make your point. Maybe you just want to get back at the other person. Either way, these jabs, as small as they may be, only prolong the nastiness.
It's easy to disguise these remarks as jokes, too. This isn't to say you shouldn't have a sense of humor about things, but you're probably both a little sensitive after an argument. Your partner might take a joke the wrong way.
Humor can only help you overcome relationship problems when both partners are in on the joke. It's important to be sensitive to the other person. If your partner or friend isn't likely to appreciate the joke, don't say or do it, even if it's "all in good fun." When the joking is one-sided rather than mutual, it undermines trust and goodwill and can damage the relationship.
It might feel like you're walking on eggshells until things go back to normal, but that's better than prolonging the fight.
Be the mature one
During a fight, when both sides are attacking, the situation will surely get out of control. Within every couple, one partner has to always be more mature than the other, specially if you want to stop fighting. Next time your partner is attacking, deal with it in a mature way; stop arguing, understand that he/she’s angry and that once the fight is over, they’re going to realize it. Your partner may continue to shoot comments at you - don’t fan the flames and don’t participate. Don’t let your partner’s lack of maturity bring your relation down; instead, let your maturity help to halt the fight.
Go back and solve the problem that started the argument
The dishes left on the counter, the money spent on shoes or video games, the time the kids need to get to bed. This is where it is easy to fall down. Jason and Kate say they’re sorry, but don’t return to the topic. Why? Because they are afraid it will only turn into another fight. The challenge is to go back and talk about it and solve the problem, rather than sweeping it under the rug.
Your job at this point is to stay sane — pretend you’re at work and act as you would if a coworker did something that bothered you. Resist the urge to plow back into the argument, the you said, no I didn’t, if you hadn’t said, etc. Move forward — figure out a plan for dealing with the dishes, the expenses, the bedtime. If it gets hot again, stop, cool off, try again, or write down your solution to the problem, then circle back and talk again.
Ask yourself: Why did it turn into an argument at all?
Was there something that the other person did that pushed your buttons? Talk about that. Was it because you were both tired and cranky already, or that it was late at night and you both had had a couple of drinks? Talk about that, and how to do it differently going forward. Was it because you were holding things in for a long time and finally blew up? If so, talk about what you need to feel safe to bring things up sooner. Was it because you both had been feeling disconnected from each other, and somehow had subconsciously developed this pattern of picking a fight so you could then have make-up sex or cuddly make-up and get recalibrated? Talk about how to catch the disconnection sooner and develop better ways of bringing you both closer.
It's rarely productive to force things, but there's something to be said for "fake it til you make it." When you find yourself in a rut after a fight, sometimes it helps to simply be kind and affectionate to each other.
Show a little love and caring by sharing sweet words and actions. Relationships often experience hostility and resentment when one or both parties feel unappreciated or unloved... Whether it is engaging in small acts of affection (such as giving your boyfriend a pat on the back as you walk out the house in the morning) or sending him a "just because I care" text message when he's at work, the little things can go a long way.
This may not work as well if you're still really steamed. But it's a good start if you're feeling stuck. A little kindness could serve as a reminder that you care about each other, and you care about the relationship. You don't have to pretend like nothing happened; it's just a little nudge in the right direction.
Recovering from a fight can take time. Even if you've both agreed that the fight is over, it can be hard to move past that situation and get back to where you were. Communication, understanding, and respect will do well to get your relationship back on track. The goals here are clear: Solve the problem and learn from the experience so you don’t keep repeating it. The challenge is having the courage to do so, to step up (or step down), and approach your anxiety rather than avoiding it.