How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Recover from a Fight

As a relationship therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who come looking for answers for their communication woes. How many of us have experienced that gut-wrenching feeling after a fight with our partner? Maybe you don’t feel heard, perhaps you feel like what you have to say about the topic is being misconstrued, or maybe you don’t know how to get your feelings across properly. Many couples who decide to engage in couples counseling are often doing so because they are experiencing unproductive communication, or they are at a loss as to how to resolve the conflict.

What you should know is that there is a better way to communicate, and out of better communication will come resolution to the conflict. Using positive communication skills can also help you find a path forward, and make-up after a fight.

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

Turning conflict into connection can seem like a merely unattainable relationship goal. You might be thinking that it’s not worth the effort to try and even communicate about the conflict because it will just encourage another argument – but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to consciously practice (and I say practice because it can take time) a form of better communication. Not only will it help you recover after a fight, but also strengthen your relationship.

This week on The Love, Happiness and Success blog I am sharing what positive communication steps you can take to heal your relationship after a fight and turn your conflict into connection.

 

 

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How to Handle a “January Relationship Crisis”

How to Handle a “January Relationship Crisis”

Relationship on the Brink? Don’t Panic: It’s Just January.

Christmas shopping is over… and now you are shopping for a marriage counselor.

Welcome to the January Relationship Crisis

I’ve been a marriage counselor and couples therapist for a long time, and have observed that certain times of year are particularly difficult for couples. The period just after the holidays is one of them. Why? Holidays, despite being fun and fantastic in many ways, often put strains on a relationship. Stressful trips and time spent with extended family, financial strains, and sheer busyness can sap the energy out of a marriage.

But also, more insidiously, is that people who have had issues with their relationships and who have been considering making changes (as in, breaking up or asking for a divorce) often table those discussions until after the holidays. Then, with fresh energy to make sweeping changes around the time of the new year, they sometimes blindside their partner with all the things they’ve been keeping to themselves since October.

If this is happening to you right now, and you’re feeling scared and hurt, there is something I want you to know:

This is a good thing.

I’m sure that you would prefer to not be going through this. However, the fact that you two are talking about your relationship — or even fighting about — it is a positive sign. It means that you both care enough to try to fight for your relationship, and make it better.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been a marriage counselor for a long time. When relationships are really in trouble, one of the things that happens is that fighting stops. When someone stops fighting, it means that they no longer believe that change is possible. They’ve given up. They might not even care anymore. And that, my friend, is the drum-beat of a breakup or divorce looming on the horizon.

So if you’re fighting right now, take heart: It means that you’re both still in the ring. (Even if you’re currently verbally punching each other in the nose.)

Here are a few tips to help you use this opportunity as a turning point for positive change in your relationship:

What To Do When Your Relationship is in Crisis

  • Seek to understand your partner’s point of view, non-defensively.
  • Let your partner know you’re willing to work on it.
  • Communicate that you care that your partner is hurting.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship.

What NOT to Do When Your Relationship is in Crisis

  • Get defensive
  • Launch a counter-attack
  • Refuse to discuss issues
  • Minimize or reject your partner’s feelings
  • Become over-focused on problems at the expense of everything else

Of course, all these things are difficult to do when you are feeling angry or hurt. That is normal. Many couples require the support of a third person to help them have talk through emotionally loaded topics without it turning into a fight. In my opinion, couples who use this opportunity to get some help get a chance to increase their understanding of each other, make necessary changes to their relationship, and do important work that will make their relationship better, stronger, happier and more fulfilling than ever before.

So many couples who go through this together, and use it as an opportunity for constructive change, get to the other side and say: “We’re so glad this happened.” Because without that rocky patch, nothing would have changed.

Growth is scary. It is not always comfortable. It takes an enormous amount of courage, hope and love to stay in the ring with each other and work through tough stuff — especially when you’re hurting and angry. But saving your marriage is worth it.

So hang in there, and use this time to launch a positive new chapter in your relationship.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

 

How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

How Do I Communicate With a Husband Who Won’t Talk?

“He tells me whatever I want to hear so that we can stop talking about it as soon as possible,” Mary says, huffily, arranging the pillows of the Marriage Counseling Couch behind her. “I bring up anything, and he immediately gets defensive. It’s impossible to get him to talk about his feelings. It’s like talking to a wall.” She goes on. “If I really, really push it and go after him sometimes he’ll react and we’ll finally address something, but it’s like I have to totally freak out to get him to go there with me. It’s so frustrating. I don’t want to be that person, but I feel like it’s the only way to get him to listen.

Can you relate to what Mary is saying? If so, you’re not alone. It’s incredibly common to have one person in a relationship shutting down during conflict, which increases the frustration and loneliness (and often the volume) of the other. You might be tempted to think that this is a “man thing.” Not true: a significant portion of relationships have women who withdraw in tense moments, and male partners who pursue. This dynamic also happens in same sex relationships with both men and women.

Whether you’re trying to get through to your guy or your girl it can feel like the harder you try to communicate, the harder they try to avoid. Sometimes they defend themselves — invalidating what you’re saying in the process — and sometimes they simply refuse to participate in the conversation.

All you want to do is for them to listen to you. Hear you. Respond to you. But whenever you try to communicate, they clamp down like a clam under assault. You try harder: Raising the volume, raising the intensity, and getting more passionate. But the harder you try to connect, the harder they work to block you.

If this communication style turns into a pattern, you might stop believing that you’ll ever get though. You might eventually give up on trying to connect. And that is a very serious problem. Because relationships fail when people stop believing that their partner can be who they want or need them to be.

 

Here are some new ideas to consider if you want to get your withdrawn partner to open up:

1) Stop Being Scary

I say this a bit humorously, but seriously: It’s often the case that “pursuing” partners can get… intense. (I know I certainly can when I’m not able to get my point across). And it’s totally understandable — when you’re feeling frustrated, shut out, unheard, and uncared for it hurts. It’s the most natural thing in the world to get more intense and “passionate” in efforts to make yourself be heard. But consider how you may appear when you get that way.

It may be difficult for others to come towards you, and maintain soft, caring feelings about you, or fully appreciate your needs when you’re yelling at them. Interacting with obviously angry people feels threatening. The louder you get, the less people can hear you. Take a breath, tone it down, and you’ll get better results.

The louder you get, the less people can hear you

2) Practice Vulnerability

Help your partner move towards you by allowing them to see your pain. Dig under the anger and connect with the hurt or fear that is fueling it. When you can express to your partner that you are feeling lonely and miss them, that you are feeling overwhelmed and need their help, or that you’re feeling frightened and need to know that they care — they will see you as softer and more approachable. It mobilizes their love for you, rather than their survival instinct.

3) Be Diplomatic

People like to be praised. Focus on the positive exceptions, and encourage more of what you want. If you must address something you don’t like, sandwich it in at least two positive comments and make sure it’s a “request” and not a “criticism.” Does this skill feel challenging when you’re angry? Consider your options when you’re feeling annoyed that your partner is checking out and not following through with household tasks (for example):

  • Option A: “I need to tell you want an inconsiderate a**hole you are, and I want you to sit here and agree with me.”  [Not going to end well.]
  • Option B: “I really appreciate everything you do around here, and I especially liked the way you took out the trash this morning. Would you mind helping me with dinner tonight to? That way we’ll have more time to hang out tonight. I like it when we can just enjoy each other and relax in the evenings.”

Which option would go over better with you?

4) Focus on Solutions

Grinding away at complaints about things you don’t like makes people feel overwhelmed, and defensive. When you get clear about what you DO want before coming into a conversation, and ask for that in a positive way your partner will be much better able to hear you. Furthermore, when they know what you want, they can give it to you.

5) Get Support

Sometimes, no matter how kind and gentle you are with your partner, they will still shut down, avoid and defend. This is especially true if a negative cycle has overtaken your relationship. Even if you are changing, they still expect you to be the same (and react to you accordingly).

It may also be the case that they are engaging in old, entrenched ways of relating that existed long before you came along. If you suspect that either of these things are happening, it may be wise to get both of you in front of a good marriage counselor or relationship coach who can help you untangle the impact of past relationship patterns, and focus on how to relate in a healthy way going forward.

I hope these ideas help you reconnect, if you’re in a relationship with someone who avoids conflict, and shuts down. For more detailed, in-depth advice on how to communicate with a withdrawn partner and get things back on track, check out my communication podcasts:

• Improve The Communication in Your Relationship

• How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner (Without Pushing Them Further Away)

How to Communicate With a Partner Who is Upset (This one can really help your withdrawn partner understand YOU, and what happens to you emotionally when they refuse to talk or engage with you).

Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth together…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: One fantastic, low-key, low-anxiety way to begin opening up lines of communication is to do it without actually talking. (Really!) Take our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and send it to your partner to take too. (It’s set up so you can send them an email invitation from within the quiz). Then you can share your results with each other.

Just be prepared to learn new things about how your partner has been feeling about your relationship! Pro tip: Even if you learn that there are aspects of your relationship that don’t feel good for them right now, it’s a positive thing because they are giving you the chance to learn and grow together.

If you respond to their disclosures with empathy, curiosity, and responsiveness it might start to restore emotional safety and begin turning things around. Here’s the link to get access to the quiz. xoxo, LMB

Expert Relationship Advice: Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed psychologist, and board certified coach. Dr. Bobby is the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Real Help For Your Relationship

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, whether at my office in Denver or with online marriage counseling clients I see all over the world through online video, I often meet with couples who love each other but who want to make their relationship better. They want to release frustration and resentment. They want better communication. They want things to feel easier, and happier between them. They want to enjoy each other again.

Sometimes, the couples we see for marriage counseling here at Growing Self are surprised to learn that the two  “magic ingredients” that can help them create the joyful, effortless partnership they crave are already right under their nose. In fact, there are really just two simple strategies that anyone can do, anytime, to change their relationship for the better. While these things seem small and simple, in practice they can mean the difference between a thriving, happy relationship, or a marriage that ends tragically.

Because I so passionately believe that YOU deserve to be happy and fulfilled in your relationship, I’m sharing the “two big secrets” with you, in hopes that it helps you make positive changes to your relationship — today.

With love and respect,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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