Maybe you’ve been here before:
The pressure builds up between you and your partner. Somebody says the wrong thing at the right time. And boom! All that bottled up pressure gets released. Words are spoken – or yelled – about resentments, disappointments, frustrations. Some of those words may be pretty unkind. And then it’s done.
You retreat back into your respective corners. Of course, you were right. And your partner was wrong. However, your partner may not agree.
Now what? Well, you can wait for your partner to apologize. Or you can apologize (even though of course you were right). You can cool down and then pretend like nothing ever happened, and leave the issue, if there is one, unresolved. Until the next time, that is. Or you can recharge and go back into battle.
It’s only human to get angry. It’s not uncommon for couples to let off steam when the pressure builds up. However, what you and your partner do to get beyond an argument can have a major impact – positive or negative – on your peace of mind as well as the health of your relationship. And if you’re living with the challenges of a chronic condition, maintaining the peace at home is especially important to your wellness.
Here are some ideas for what you and your partner can do to recover from a blowup:
First, cool down. In the heat of the moment, the best thing to do may be to retreat, one of you to the living room, one of you to the kitchen or the backyard. Take a few deep breaths and get back into control of yourself. Stay here until you’re able to dial back the anger to a manageable level. You’ve each made your point, so let it go.
Be willing to blink first. Don’t stay in retreat for too long. The longer you don’t talk, the easier it is to continue not talking. Instead, when you feel like you can face your partner without wanting to blow up again, make a move to reconnect. Just a simple “Hi” can break the ice.
Spend some time together. Take a walk, watch TV, go out for a snack. Choose something simple that you both enjoy. And then keep it simple. The goal is to be in each other’s company. No need to rehash the situation until you both feel ready. Showing kindness, by actions and in words, can sure help promote the healing process.
Remember. Think back to some early memories of good times that you and your partner have spent together, kind words you’ve said, promises you’ve made. What qualities in your partner made you want to bring him/her into your life?
When you’re ready, talk it out. You might be able to sit down soon after the blowup to talk things out. However, some time may have to pass before you’re both ready to revisit whatever it was that led to your argument. A few days, a week. During this time, get back into your normal routine, but also be extra kind to each other while the wounds heal on both sides. When you’re ready to talk, and especially to listen, then sit down and work together to understand what led to the blowup and what you can both do to prevent it from happening in the future. Is an apology in order? Again, be willing to blink first (that may mean admitting you were wrong).
Have a sense of humor. One of the best antidotes for anger is humor. You might start your conversation with a little humor, if can do this in a way that doesn’t sound sarcastic or patronizing and cause more pain. Injecting some humor into a tense situation can also be helpful in keeping the situation from reaching the boiling point the next time around.
Attend to any collateral damage. Like your kids if they had to watch their parents hollering at each other. That can be scary for kids. A few hugs may be in order, along with giving them an opportunity to talk about what it was like for them, followed by some reassurance. If friends or family members were within earshot (not to mention the neighbors), you may want to reach out to them as well.
Consider getting some help. If blowups are happening frequently, if it is increasingly difficult to reconnect afterwards, if you or your partner are becoming physically violent, if you have hit a wall on an issue that can’t be resolved… how about getting some help? It may be time for the two of you to sit down with a mental health professional. Counseling works!
You and your partner. A blowup can lead you into a deep freeze. But only if you allow it to. Be willing to do the work – and keep working – to get you and your partner back in the groove.