What were we arguing about, again? (Making the most out of reconciliation)

When you and your partner or spouse have been fighting, there is no greater relief than that moment when the chill thaws, doors stop slamming and you can go back to talking about your plans for the weekend rather than whatever it was that started the argument.

But tempting as it is to treat reconciliation as something as easy as flipping a switch, there is a difference between “high quality” reconciliation and the cheaper brand of just sweeping your anger under the rug, offering a conciliatory hug and moving on.

The best way to achieve a healthy, effective reconciliation is to prepare for it. When you’re both so angry you can barely speak (and probably shouldn’t, lest one of you says something you’ll later regret)—it can feel like you’re going to stay angry forever. But experience has probably taught you that most arguments do come to an end, and it’s smart to think ahead of time about what you hope reconciliation will look like—and more importantly, achieve—when the moment comes.

It can be tempting to say whatever it takes in order to make peace. But if that means offering an insincere apology, or saying you were wrong to be angry about something that in truth still troubles you, nothing has really been resolved at all. And the problem will rear its ugly head all over again before you know it.

Instead, before you attempt reconciliation, use this cooling-off period—even if you’re still seething—to find some quiet time to consider what you need to feel better about what has happened. What do you wish he or she had done differently—and might do differently in the future? If a particular issue is a frequent sticking point between you—such as the amount one of you spends on toys for the kids, or the other spends on lunches with friends, or whatever it might be—ask yourself if there’s a certain amount you would be more comfortable with. Or does the issue go deeper than that? Be honest with yourself. Maybe what really bothers you about his lunches out is not the expense but the time­—if he didn’t take long lunches, maybe he’d make it home earlier from work at night. Or maybe when he complains about expensive toys you buy, he’s actually concerned that you give in too often to the children’s whims.

Now is the time to get these issues out into the open, and having thought about them ahead of time will prepare you for a more rational discussion when the time comes. Without talking the issue to death, a proper reconciliation does need to include both parties feeling that they’ve been heard, that misunderstandings have been cleared, compromises made and hurt feelings soothed.

You still might have to take it slow—especially if the argument was a big one. Light physical contact, which can naturally reduce stress and help you feel connected, is a good start. Humor helps, too. And then there are the small kindnesses that are so important even when there hasn’t been a fight, like complimenting the other’s new outfit, picking up flowers on the way home or just listening closely to how your partner or spouse’s day went.

Remember, when done well, post-fight intimacy will feel, and be, real. You can trust it. It can even bring you closer together. Before long, it might not only make reconciliation easier the next time but avoid the next argument before it starts.

Need help in making your relationships work? Our Orange County relationship counseling services can definitely help you. We look forward to connecting with you.