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Why Post-Conflict Conversations are the Secret Sauce to Repairing Your Relationship

Every conflict moves through pre conflict, during conflict, and then post conflict (learn more about the 3 stages of conflict here). Post-conflict is crucial to a healthy relationship because it’s where you and your partner repair any ruptures that happened during conflict. It's the actions that are taken and the words that are said after conflict that actually help repair that relationship and start to regain trust and rebuild that trust between two people again.

Think of the injury like a wound. Small conflicts = small injuries still need to be cared for and healed. Think of a cat scratch. You don’t necessarily need a doctor, but if you don’t clean it and maybe put a bandaid on it, it could get infected and cause more issues. If there are multiple unhealed small injuries that can lead to catastrophic major injury that would require third party intervention.

My best tip for turning conflict into connection

The secret sauce that turns conflict into a tool that brings you and your partner closer is a post-conflict conversation. I’ve seen an immense improvement in my own relationship as well as the relationship of my clients when using this tool. 

Think of the post-conflict conversation as the debrief session that gives you a holistic view of the fight. It helps you both understand each other better and figure out where you can work on your communication skills.

This is also a really good opportunity to bring up any residual resentments, feelings, thoughts, so that way they don't fester and continue to build, causing more fights in the future. 

How to initiate the post-conflict conversation

Before I initiate any post-conflict conversation with my partner, I like to ask myself some self-reflection questions:

  • What are some things that I did well in that conflict? 

  • What are some things that I could have done better?

  • What are some things that my partner did well in that conflict? 

  • What are some things that my partner could have done better?

  • How did that conflict make me feel?

  • How do I wish that conflict had made me feel?

These questions will help you self regulate and come to the conversation prepared.

Don’t forget that you need to INVITE your partner to the conversation. Be aware of the timing of when you’re inviting your partner to this conversation. It’s okay to give your partner a day or even a full week to cool off before inviting them to this conversation.

Once you’ve initiated the conversation, I like to start by putting a name to the fight. If you’re fighting about your partner being late for a date, name it the “Late Date Fight.” Naming your fights will help you identify any recurring issues within your relationship that need to be investigated further.

Now you can dive into the conclusions you came to from those self-discovery questions that you discovered earlier. Share with your partner the good, the bad, and the ugly of your fight. You can each share your side of the story of the fight and get to the core issue together.

Post-Conflict Conversation Prompts

You can use the following questions to start your post-conflict conversation.

  • Has anything new come up for you since the conversation that you would like to share? 

  • What do you feel like that fight was really about?

  • Did we follow the conflict protocols we put in place? Do we need to adjust them?

  • Are you still good with the repair plan we discussed?

  • What do you both need right now to move forward? What do you need to feel supported? What needs do you need to have met what changes need to be made?

  • Can I actually meet these? requests and demands, and if so, what does that look like? 

  • Is there anything else that you need to feel resolved?

  • How are you feeling since the conflict? 

Post-conflict actions speak louder than words

One of the most common issues I see with the couples that I work with is a lack of follow through on the changes they agreed to make during conflict. You can apologize a million times and swear that you’ll start making more of an effort, but without actual action to back those words up, your relationship will continue to rupture.

Now, we can't be perfect all of the time, so we have to have grace for ourselves and our partners. That’s why this post-conflict conversation is so important. This is the time where you can share any changes that need to be made to the repair plan.

For example, let’s say that you agreed to take on 50% more household chores. This week, you’re feeling really exhausted and can’t take on those additional chores. It is so important that you express that change in your commitment to your partner so they don’t assume you’ve given up on the commitment all together. 

Post-Conflict Reconnection

It’s easy to feel distant from your partner after a conflict is over, but one of you needs to break that barrier and initiate connection. If you aren’t sure if your partner is open to connecting, start small by asking for their opinion on something and sharing your appreciation for their opinion (encouraging them to feel valued). Give them gentle no-pressure platonic yet nurturing touches. If you feel like a bigger gesture is needed try buying flowers, planning dates, initiating a massage, or cooking them dinner. 

The key to true post-conflict reconnection is to give your partner your undivided attention. If they are talking to you, turn off the TV or put your phone down and make direct eye contact and engage with them in the conversation. If they reject your attempts to connect then allow them to come to you when they are ready. 

Never hesitate to ask what makes your partner feel connected so you know how to provide that for them. Don’t hesitate to ask your partner to connect with you either! Advocate for your needs and your relationship.

If you’re struggling with conflict in your relationship, please don’t hesitate to schedule a 30-minute call with me. It’s totally free and at the end of it you’ll receive a personalized plan on how my services will help you achieve the relationship of your dreams.

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