How to Repair After Conflict
The goal in a thriving relationship isn’t to never experience conflict again or to be your best self every second of the day. Given you are human beings with unique perspectives, wants, and needs, this would be unrealistic! :)
Instead, it’s about how to repair after a challenging moment has occurred – whether you took your stress out on your beloved, got defensive, raised your voice, were being critical, gave the silent treatment, made a mistake, or simply weren’t being your best selves, individually or together.
Knowing how to repair after these moments can make the difference between bringing you closer together or building further resentment and disconnect. It can also prevent future conflict so that the need for repair becomes less and less!
Here are 7 tips for things we recommend including in every repair!
(1) Apologize — in the way your beloved can best hear it.
There are many ways to apologize – actually saying the words, “I’m sorry,” expressing regret, taking responsibility, offering empathy, saying how you want to make it up to them, and letting your beloved know how you want to do it differently. We all receive apologies differently, and it’s so very important to know how your beloved can best hear it from you. When you apologize, use the words that go right to your beloved’s heart.
(2) Take responsibility for your role in what happened.
In the midst of conflict, you may find yourself blaming your beloved. During repair, you want to, instead, take radical responsibility for your own role in it all. When you take responsibility for yourself and own your part in it, your beloved can relax and come closer to you. It frees them from having to be on guard or point these things out to you.
One of the great ironies in relationships is that your beloved will actually think much more highly of you when you admit your shortcomings and mistakes, not less of you. It’s a beautiful thing!
(3) Really hear each other and see how each other makes sense.
Do you ever resist doing this because you somehow think that validating someone else’s experiences makes them right and you wrong? Perhaps you’ve been so focused on insisting they hear and understand you that you’ve forgotten that they long for the same thing.
Seeing how someone else makes sense doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or that you can personally relate to them. It just means that you are listening closely enough and with an open heart and mind to try to understand.
Feeling heard and understood is healing medicine in relationships. Plus, once we turn down the volume of our own thoughts and drop into someone else’s world, a lot of tension just evaporates.
(4) Identify the needs underneath what you said or did and see how you can help each other get them met.
You may not have communicated in the best of ways, but underneath whatever you each said or did are valid needs you were looking to have met, like appreciation, connection, independence, peace, order, teamwork, joy, and so on.
What are you both, deep down, longing for more of – within yourself, your relationship, and your life? Be careful not to express your needs as demands, and definitely avoid blaming each other for your needs not being met. Instead, simply acknowledge what each of your needs are and see what you can do to support each other in getting these needs met.
(5) Name your more vulnerable feelings — without directing them at each other.
When we’re triggered by something our beloved said or did, it’s easy to get defensive, rather than vulnerable. Then, our defensiveness triggers the same in our beloved, and it becomes a downward spiral.
On the contrary, vulnerability opens our own hearts, allows our beloved to drop into theirs, and clears the pathway between us. The more vulnerable we can be about our emotions, the better.
So often, we might have one emotion on the surface but be feeling something else entirely underneath it. For example, we may appear (to ourselves and others) angry on the surface but, underneath the anger, we are just scared, ashamed, guilty, or sad. Take a moment to really drop into your humble, vulnerable heart to see what you are really feeling underneath the surface.
The other thing we mistakenly do is direct our feelings at our beloved. For example, “you made me really angry,” or “you hurt me when you…” or “I’m so mad at you for…” Try to drop whatever part of it is directed at your beloved and, instead, just acknowledge that you felt sad, scared, lonely, discouraged, etc. and focus on yourself and what’s going on in your inner world.
(6) Express appreciation.
There is nothing more reconnecting than shifting your attention towards appreciating each other. When in conflict, we humans tend to focus on LACK – what our beloved is lacking, what we’re lacking, what our relationship is lacking, what our life is lacking.
Appreciation returns us to all that is going well, all that is good, all that is here to support us, and all that we want to GROW. It is so, so important. Take some moments to go back and forth naming things you appreciate about each other. This is TRANSFORMATIVE!
(7) Acknowledge what you learned and how you want to grow.
Nothing is simply lost in life if we gain the lesson and wisdom available to us in it. There is a sharp learning curve in relationships. Learning how you uniquely fit with another human being can take a lot of trial and error, and we often learn what does work by first discovering what doesn’t.
Use this repair as a powerful opportunity to learn and grow, individually and as a couple. Next time, what would you love to do differently to get a different result? Make sure you each have at least one wisdom takeaway and new action item from this repair conversation!
After sitting with couples in thousands of sessions and experiencing our own relationship transformation, we are convinced that the very thing our relationship needs to grow is the very thing we each individually need to grow within us. There is no catalyst like our relationships to help us grow into the best version of ourselves, and taking time to repair can ensure that you don’t miss this invaluable invitation to experience all the love and peace available to you.
It is our absolute passion to help couples repair from whatever may have happened, allowing these painful moments to be repurposed into growth that takes them someplace better than ever before. If we can be of support to you in any way, know we are here for you with all our hearts. You can learn more about our healing, supportive, affirming, and inspiring couples counseling and coaching HERE and our renowned Thrive in Love couples retreat coming up Valentine’s weekend 2018 HERE.
We’re so grateful to be on this amazing human journey of learning and growth with you and are wishing you a beautiful rest of your November and start to the winter holiday season. May your moments together nourish a feeling of warmth, love, and grateful abundance from the inside out.
Infinite Love and Joy,