Figuring out what to say to your partner after a big argument is never easy. Do you apologize? Keep talking about it? Assure each other everything will be OK? Since it really depends on the situation, what you do will be completely up to you. But if your goal is to smooth things over and reach a compromise, there are a few great ways to go about it.
"Arguments, even big ones, are a reality in even the best relationships," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. So you really can't expect to avoid them entirely, or even prevent future ones from happening. But you can use an argument as a time to discuss what's bothering you, in order to keep the relationship healthy.
In fact, "having arguments [...] can actually help you set boundaries and mature as a couple — but only when you learn something from them and apply those lessons to the future," Amica Graber, a relationship expert with TruthFinder, tells Bustle.
The last thing you'll want to do is engage in behaviors that will be harmful to the relationship, Bennett says, such as ignoring each other, placing blame, or not apologizing. "By acting in a mature and healthy way following an argument," he says, "you’re making sure it’s only a temporary setback." Read on for a few things you and your partner should say to each other, following an argument, in order to keep your relationship on track.
The best way to go about apologizing is by being specific and sincere, Graber says. You'll want to state what it is you're apologizing for, and really mean it.
This can help smooth things over, while showing your partner that you understand what lead to the arguments. As Graber says, "If you could do it again, what would you do differently? Did you say anything in the heat of the moment that you regret?"
Think about these questions, and then say you're sorry.
"I Forgive You"
Your partner should probably apologize too because, as Graber says, "a fight occurs when communication breaks down, and both parties are usually responsible for that."
Once they do, and if you're ready to forgive them, "it’s vital that you clearly vocalize that you accept the apology," Bennett says. "Delaying forgiveness or holding out to make your partner feel bad will only prolong the pain from the argument."
"I Love You"
If you're both feeling low after an argument, the best thing to do is offer a little assurance and love. "By letting your partner know that you love [them], it acknowledges that the fight is just a temporary setback in the relationship and you’re committed to moving forward," Bennett says.
"I Hear You"
Assuring your partner that you were listening, and that you understand what led to the argument, can be beneficial, too.
As Graber says, "It’s important that your partner knows that you heard what they have to say. If you’re still unclear, try and meditate on the fight again. What was the root cause? What was the underlying feeling that caused this rift?"
You can also ask them, if you aren't sure why the argument got out of hand, or if it isn't clear why they got so upset. This is much better than guessing, or sweeping it under the rug and hoping it doesn't come back to haunt you in the future.
"If you feel like you were the one who didn’t get a resolution from your argument, try rephrasing your problem by focusing on the effect and not the cause," Graber says. And that means talking about how it all made you feel.
Instead of using phrases like "you are" or "you do this," try to focus on statements that start with "I feel," Graber says. It's easier to have a discussion when the other person doesn't feel blamed or attacked. And it's also easier to talk about issues when they're coming from your own point of view.
"What's A Fair Compromise?'
Not all arguments can be neatly resolved, and there isn't always a clear course of action or a "right" answer. But that's where compromise can come in handy.
As Graber says, "In order to find a resolution and move on, you need your partner’s input. What’s their ideal resolution to this issue? What’s yours? Is there a compromise in the middle?"
Talk it over, agree to a new set of relationship rules, and find a way to stick to them. "Sometimes it’s helpful to implement structure when finding a resolution," she says. "For instance, write down the compromise somewhere visible (like a whiteboard on the fridge) so you can both see it."
"Can We Talk About This Tomorrow?"
If you're too upset to talk, compromise, or accept an apology, it's OK to put it off until you've had time to collect your thoughts. "Give yourself time to simmer down, and then re-approach your partner when you’re calm," Graber says. Sleep on it, go for a walk, or agree to pick the conversation back up the following day.
"Let's Put This Behind Us"
"Once everyone seems to be OK, don’t dwell on the argument," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. But instead, let it go.
This is something you can both choose to do once the argument has been discussed and resolved. If you've checked all those, it can be a huge relief to agree to move on.
"We Can Get Through This"
If you haven't reached a compromise, or have yet to figure out what to do, you may want to reassure each other that it'll be a work in progress — and that's OK.
"It is important to let your partner know that you are still all in, and you are still a team," psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, tells Bustle. "Let them know that all couples argue and this is not the end of the world."
You may not have figured out the answers just yet, but you can keep working on it and keep getting better.
"I'm Working On It"
Again, arguments are rarely ever one person's fault, but a combination of several factors. And all you can do is own your side of the street, Scott-Hudson says, and let your partner know that you're doing your part to make the relationship healthier.
"Own it and genuinely apologize," she says. "And then, let them know you are still madly in love with them, and tell them how you think you'll both get through this together."
Arguments are never fun. But, as Graber says, "the most important thing is how you bounce back from a fight." By saying these things, you can help resolve conflict and keep your relationship healthy.