Recovering From A Fight

Self, Heartbreak

All of us face challenges in relationships.  No matter how beautiful the relationship, disagreement is an unavoidable part of loving another human.  As a therapist I see clients every day who have lost family members and lovers to conflict.  So many of us can’t figure out how to move past a fight.

One of the best books on forgiveness and reconciliation is Laura Davis’s “I Thought We’d Never Speak Again”  I’ve read it and recommended it to clients and readers in difficult places more times than I can count.   Although the book focuses on the experience of abuse survivors and their families, there are really amazing lessons on compassion for all of us regardless of our survived traumas. It has helped my clients with break-ups, moves, family relationships, and bad bosses.

I am not suggesting reconciliation is always the answer (neither does the author), only that it’s important to move from pain toward compassion for our well-being.  More and more scientific research is showing that carrying pain and resentment has real effects on our health and well-being.  Compassion and healing are critical to our ability to create healthy partnerships, friendships, and long lasting relationships.

How to Get Over A Fight With Someone You Love
So how do you move toward compassion when you’re in a place of hurt?  Here are a few tips based on my work as a marriage counselor for the last seven years. 

Pause and reflect on these six steps in a conflict in your own life and then move with warmth and openness (I can’t emphasize this part enough)  in each step when you are ready:

1.  Speak out.
Shame often comes to visit either or both party after a disagreement and can work to isolate us further. The greatest antidote to shame is to reach out to another for support, or to offer a genuine apology. It can be helpful to acknowledge how hard it is to reach out, and share that you still really want the connection even though its hard. The more transparent and consistent you can be the better. Even if time and shame have kept you apart, reaching out (with warmth and openness) directly can help to repair broken bonds.

2. Humanize.
Remember that everyone carries some hurt and often conflict comes out of misunderstood pain. Listen authentically to the story of the other party (with warmth and openness).  Demonstrate your listening by offering to paraphrase back what you hear to be sure you are really getting it and don’t rush. Some hurts can take a bit to surface clearly so be patient. Remember the sweetness, good humor, and shared values that brought you together in the first place.

3. Consider the ways you have demonstrated behavior similar to your “enemy.”
It’s not easy to do, but we must remember that in certain circumstances we all have the capacity to do the wrong thing.  We have all made mistakes in friendships and relationships.  Remembering this and forgiving ourselves for past similar wrong doing  helps us move forward.

4. Connect with sadness.
You cannot bandage a wound without looking at it and you cannot repair a relationship without looking at the sadness that happens when someone is hurt.  It is important for both parties to acknowledge and really connect with their sadness (no matter how small it may seem) in order to move forward with confidence.

5. Honor your memories.
Honor the greatness that you have in the past with care.  Some couples do this informally over conversation, some partners have shared memory books, one set of roommates I worked with painted memories on the walls of their co-op before moving on to a new place after much strife.  Whether formal or informal, honor your shared history before moving on to your next chapter.

6. Commit to future acts of service and/or creation.
Planning to make something beautiful or invest in others together can be a great way to heal together and individually.  These can be acts of service and creation within the relationship (planting a garden together, planning a trip) and acts directed towards your external community (hosting a dinner party, volunteering for a cause you care about .  Setting future positive plans together will change the nature of your time together fundamentally.

These steps can be taken whether you are single or in relationship.  Even if you never decide to connect with the other person, building compassion all on your own will be healing.  Sharing your story with an empathetic ear, humanizing your “enemy,” honoring your grief and meaningful memories, and taking part in service or creative acts will help your heart heal  and will start to free you from the weight of heartbreak.

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This article was originally published at Amplify Happiness Now. Reprinted with permission from the author.