Fighting is exhausting and emotionally draining. Make your most recent fight a learning experience. This action plan guides you through the steps to recover from your fight and learn from it.

You’ve had a bad fight. You’re exhausted and upset and know that you don’t want to keep doing this. I understand. I’m very sorry that you had such a rough conversation; fighting is very stressful. You can quickly recover from this bad fight, but there are two things you need to do: (1) think about what happened and why, and (2) have a talk about your feelings and work towards not repeating the same “cycle” of combat.

To do this, I'd like for you and your spouse to each spend some time thinking about the questions below on your own. When you’re both ready, sit down together and calmly discuss your responses. By doing so, you’ll heal the wounds incurred during the fight and learn a lot about how to prevent the next fight.

Step 1. Summarize your thoughts and feelings about the fight. How are you feeling about what your spouse said? What didn’t your spouse understand? What important stuff got lost in the shuffle?

Step 2. What is your interpretation of the raw data or the facts about the fight? What was the reality or "the truth" for you? (Remember that everyone sees things differently; your truth and your spouse’s truth are not likely to be the same.)

Step 3. What did you hear your spouse say during the fight that made sense to you? Can you find something in your partner’s argument that is reasonable or that you can understand? When you sit down and discuss this, please tell your spouse about what you heard from him/her that was understandable.

Step 4. Think about your contribution to the fight. When you sit down and go over this, it is essential that each of you takes some responsibility for what happened. See if anything from the list below applies to your situation. Make a note next to anything that applies.

1. Have you been stressed or irritable lately? If so, why?
2. Have you been somewhat negative and critical recently?
3. Have you been grateful for what your spouse has been doing for you or have you been taking your partner for granted?
4. Have you been overly sensitive lately? If so, what’s upsetting you?
5. Have you been keeping to yourself lately and not sharing what’s on your mind?
6. Have you been busy with work/life and emotionally unavailable?
7. Have you been ignoring your spouse or overly focused on yourself?
8. Have you been feeling depressed or down lately?
9. Have you felt that you’ve had a short fuse recently? If so, why?
10. Have you been kind and complimentary to your spouse recently?
11. Have you been affectionate to your spouse recently?
12. When was the last time you went on a date night or asked to spend quality time together?
13. Have you done anything to make your spouse’s life better recently?
14. Have you been a good listener in recent days?
15. Have you been asking for what you need to feel better?
16. Have you been asking for help or are you feeling unappreciated?
17. Have you been shut down and wanted to be alone?
18. Have you not had any energy or desire to take care of anyone else?

Now, thinking about your answers to the questions above, what do you think YOUR contribution to the fight was? What can you take responsibility for?

To read the full action plan, including how to talk to your spouse about the answers above and how to smooth things over, please click here.

Tags: fighting