It’s completely normal — and healthy — for couples to argue. You are two different people and sometimes you will have different opinions.
You may have heard of some of these classic techniques on how to argue or fight fairly, like using only statements that start with “I” or trying not to accuse, blame, or a curse.
But what you may not realize is that the way you act after a fight can be just as important to your relationship as what you say in the heat of the moment.
Here are 11 reactions to avoid, whether you’re totally over it or still working on the forgive-and-forget thing.
1. Don’t disregard your partner’s need for space.
“In a fight, when a partner is overwhelmed, maybe he can’t process his thoughts properly,” said Megan Flemming, a clinical psychologist, and board-certified therapist.
“That’s why it’s important to respect when someone says ‘I need a break’.” It can be natural to feel anxious if your partner needs some time to calm down and organize their thoughts – if that happens, take a few deep breaths and think about how you would like to be treated if the roles were reversed. “Understand it’s not personal,” says Dr. Flemming.
2. Don’t have an all-or-nothing mindset.
After a heated argument with your partner, try to keep an open mind. In the midst of a fight, it can be easy to get into black or white thinking.
Dr. Flemming says that using terms like “you always” or never “will never resolve an argument, so it’s important to take a step back when things get cold to consider the argument from your partner’s point of view.
3. Don’t keep his words in your arsenal.
You know the saying, “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas”? Anything your partner says during a fight should stay there in the fight.
“The ‘list makers,’ the ones who jot things down to throw in their faces later, never tell their partners what’s bothering them at the moment,” says Michelle Golland, a clinical psychologist at PsyD in Los Angeles.
So if he says something during the argument that bothers you, let him know that his words are hurting or frustrating you. If his words bother you the day after the fight, give him some time to breathe instead of approaching him again too soon.
Presenting a discussion too often can lead to circle conversations rather than resolution.
4. Don’t ignore him.
If you need some space after a fight, that’s fine as long as you tell him. “One of the biggest mistakes people make after an argument is refusing to answer questions and refusing to communicate,” says Rachel A. Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship specialist in New York City.
If you ignore your partner, he may think that you are punishing him, which may cause him not to tell you how he feels in the future.
Instead, say, “My emotions don’t fade as quickly as yours but give me 24 hours and I’m sure everything will be fine. If not, we can discuss further.”
5. Don’t just say “I’m sorry” if he’s still hurt.
It means, “I’m tired of this. Leave me alone. I want to do something else,” says Laurie Puhn, couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More. “What you should say is, ‘I’m sorry about …’ and explain what you’re talking about.
The second part of the apology is, ‘In the future, I will…’ and fill in with how you won’t make the mistake again. ”
6. Don’t walk away if he reevaluates the argument.
If it’s only been a few minutes since the fight, let him know that you’re open to any questions or hearing about lingering frustrations after he’s had time to think.
If he wants to review the problem after a few days, however, don’t turn your back on him. “Non-verbal communication is as loud as yelling,” says Dr. Golland. If you walk away, apologize, come back and listen.
“Reflect what he’s saying: ‘So you’re saying [fill in the blank]. Correct?’ Check carefully to ensure you are fully understanding.”
7. Don’t make excuses for why you fought.
There are a million things you can blame an argument for: a bad day at work, a headache, a restless night. In fact, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found that couples who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to fight.
Still, passing the blame isn’t fair to you or your partner. “ Fights are about information,” says Dr. Golland. “If you’re angry, sad, or hurt, this is the information your husband needs to know.”
The next time you have a bad day at work, send a warning message before you get home, suggests Dr. Golland. That way they know you might be angrier.
8. Don’t keep throwing ‘punches’.
Still, recovering from a fight? That doesn’t give you the right to mutter insults. “Never curse the person. It’s hard to recover from that,” says Sussman. So if you’ve fought over budget vacations, don’t say they’re cheap when you’re looking at pictures of a friend on a trip to Greece.
Swearing “gets him back swaying with insults,” says Sussman. Instead, ask him to talk about what’s still bothering you after he’s calmed down.
Say something like, “I know you’re worried we don’t have the money, but here’s a budget I made,” suggests Sussman.
9. Don’t say “I didn’t mean that.”
“Saying that is like trying to use an eraser on a permanent marker,” says Puhn.
“It inflames the situation because your husband says, ‘Yes, you did!’” Going back and forth from what you said or didn’t say, meant, or didn’t mean, keeps you focused on the past rather than working toward a goal. solution for the future, which is the goal of any disagreement.
If he says, “I didn’t mean it,” say, “You didn’t mean it, but the result was that I felt that way. So in the future, do XYZ.”
10. Don’t focus on what caused the fight.
Your energy is better spent on solutions to the problem. Puhn uses this example: Let’s say your spouse forgot to bring cash to a cardless event.
You had a little breakout from it, but then you went to an ATM and the problem was resolved. Enjoy the night instead of replaying your partner’s confusion in your head. “The difference between a bad fight and a good fight is whether or not you’ve reached a solution,” says Puhn.
On the other hand, if his forgetfulness is consistent, try saying, “I see you’re not carrying a lot of money these days. What’s up?” It’s a less critical way of approaching the question than “Ugh! Again!”
11. Don’t be surprised that you got into a fight.
Everyone wants a partner who is invested in a relationship – and fighting can be a sign that the two of you are still working on the relationship (a positive thing!).
Puhn says he knows a couple is doomed to fail when he says, “We used to fight a lot, but now we put up our hands and leave.”
It’s not that they don’t disagree with things. “That means they’re letting the relationship go, which happens before they pull out of the commitment or take a lover,” says Puhn.
So feel good that you still care enough to understand the issues.