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Here's how to reconnect with your partner after a fight

Disagreements between partners can lead to feelings of guilt and resentment. However, there are ways to repair the relationship, process complex feelings and reconnect with one another

Rebuilding faith after arguments can be difficult if a partner feels constantly neglected or insecure. Photo: Unsplash

By Debarati Chakraborty

LAST PUBLISHED 20.06.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

It was after months of living apart that Shefali’s boyfriend tried to force her into an ‘open relationship’. Although she made an effort to adjust to this new lifestyle, she never felt comfortable. 

As arguments over trust and intimacy escalated, Shefali, a marketing consultant, decided to travel to the US from Mumbai and work things out with him. She believed that distance was playing spoilsport, and being together in one city would resolve their relationship issues. 

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However, physical proximity failed to rekindle their love as Shefali couldn’t trust her boyfriend anymore. As a result, they got into regular fights. 

Experts claim that rebuilding faith after arguments can be difficult if a partner feels constantly neglected or insecure. Aekta Brahmbhatt, a Mumbai-based consultant psychologist and therapist, points out that while repair work is possible after a conflict, it often depends on the reasons for the disagreement. 

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When unresolved, these disagreements can lead to resentment, and create permanent fissures in a relationship. We spoke to therapists to understand how couples can process complex feelings and reconnect after a fight. 

Communicate with each other 

Married for a decade now, Hyderabad-based Aisha says disagreements with her husband were a part of her life. “We have become more patient now that we are parents. But I remember fighting over seemingly silly issues before," says the HR professional. What helped Aisha and her husband was their ability to communicate clearly and apologise to each other.  

“If partners discuss the situation calmly, they may realise that they never intended to hurt each other. They may also understand why the other person is upset, and hence make necessary amends," says Divija Bhasin, a Delhi-based psychologist and the founder of The Friendly Couch, a mental health care company.

Couples deal with conflict, which is rooted in many factors like issues with family or friends, parenting style, financial spending habits, social obligations, religious or political views, food habits or addictions. “These can become deal breakers if partners fail to communicate amicably," says Brahmbhatt. 

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When unhappy couples come to her, she tries to recognise their individual traits, social skills, communication styles and interests, before formulating a road map for them.

“I advise individual or joint therapy based on a couple’s strengths and limitations," she adds.  

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Don’t indulge in blame games 

Fed up with her husband’s lack of social skills, Jyotika, a communications professional from Pune, decided she had had enough!  “Every social event was a nightmare as I had to either cajole, force or blackmail him into attending it. This had been going on for years and I lost my patience one day," she says. 

In such situations, experts suggest discussing ‘how you feel’ instead of resorting to passive-aggressive behaviour or blame games. “When we fail to let our partner know that their behaviour is affecting us, we store hurt and anger within us. This can lead to us lashing out, which further escalates the tension," says Bhasin.

She adds that almost every relationship thrives on a healthy balance of compromise and thoughtfulness.

According to Brahmbhatt, ‘repair work’ is possible only when both partners are open to exploring each other’s expectations, roles, needs and emotions, past traumas, value systems and extended relationship dynamics. 

This can help partners take accountability for their actions and be assertive without being judgemental. 

Give space but not the silent treatment 

Tired of the chaotic city life, when Avni, an IT professional from Delhi, proposed a beach destination for their holiday, her husband turned her idea down.

“He was hell-bent on visiting a historic site, and we had a huge fight over that. I remember feeling frustrated and not communicating with him for a while," she says.  

While cooling-off time after a disagreement makes sense, experts believe that a prolonged silence to avoid uncomfortable conversations can create bitterness in the relationship. “The silent treatment can be particularly distressing for a partner, who wishes to discuss an area of conflict," adds Brahmbhatt. 

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In Avni’s case, she decided to hear her husband out when she was less emotionally charged. “We realised we both had valid ideas and found common ground," she says. 

Although space can help a person mull over their discomfort and analyse what is causing them to feel a certain way, it should not be accompanied by guilt-tripping. Bhasin advises using statements like ‘I am walking out because I feel overwhelmed’, or ‘I will talk to you in a while when I feel better’.

“And remember that acts like banging the door before walking away is not a healthy sign of giving space," she adds. 

Don’t treat sex as a quick fix  

It took more than a year for Jabeen, from Bengaluru, to recognise that differences with her spouse were affecting their intimacy.

“To minimise conflicts, I let my emotions fester instead of speaking up. This made me emotionally and physically distant from my husband, and sex became an undesirable task for me," she says. 

Like Jabeen, many couples find themselves in a vicious cycle of disagreements that leads to unmet needs and suppressed desires. Brahmbhatt encourages them to seek professional help instead of ‘being okay’ with aloofness. 

She also wants couples who use makeup sex as a ‘quick fix’ to be aware of its repercussions. Having sex for any reason, other than the fact that you want to, can be detrimental to any relationship. If one partner feels they ‘should have sex’ to appease the other person, it may lead to resentment or apathy. 

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Although makeup sex may not be the ideal solution, Bhasin feels it can help couples take a step back and cool down. It can remind them of their connection, and help them put the argument in perspective. 

“Makeup sex, however, rarely works if it is used to shove things under the carpet," she says. 

Show empathy, when in a long-distance relationship 

When she moved cities, Noida-based Anna was prepared for her new job, but not for the challenges of a long-distance marriage.

“The first few months were terrible as we tried to navigate through miscommunication and feelings of abandonment. As introverts, we found it tough to connect over phone calls," says the 35-year-old event manager. 

Humans are sensory beings, explains Brahmbhatt, and not being able to physically touch, see or hear your partner can lead to feelings of insecurity, jealousy, anger and resentment. “Certain aspects of intimacy, such as a warm hug or a gentle gaze, cannot be replaced by audio or video calls," she says. 

For Anna and her husband, it took time and patience to see through the long-distance phase. And while there were moments when she felt lost or unwanted, she made it a point to let him know what was bothering her. “Thankfully, he reciprocated by being compassionate," she recalls. 

While resolving fights can be difficult, the success of a long-distance relationship depends on a couple’s ability to communicate and empathise. “A good place to start is to step back and look at the issue from your partner’s perspective," says Bhasin. 

She advises long-distance couples to be more empathetic and not invalidate each other during disagreements.  

Debarati Chakraborty is an independent journalist, who writes on mental health, relationships and sexuality