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After a Fight: 11 Phrases for Repairing a Relationship

How to get back on track after an argument with your partner.

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Even when successful couples argue, they're typically good at recovering and restoring emotional trust in each other shortly afterward.

It can be tricky to de-escalate your relationship tension without reigniting the argument or attempting to just dismissively sweep the problem under the rug.

To do this, you need to communicate that you care about your partner's thoughts, feelings, and perspective, especially if your behavior during the argument didn't indicate this.

Recovery Phrases You Can Try After an Argument

These are some specific phrases you can use to help rebuild emotional trust with your partner. The type of argument it was, and your knowledge of your partner, should help you choose which of these is the best fit. At the end of the article, I'll explain what makes these phrases special. I don't mean for you to use these phrases verbatim. You can make them your own and combine them etc.

1. How about we try to have a fresh start with _______ and be more thoughtful about each other's needs.

2. It's reasonable that you want _______ (e.g., time each week that's just the two of us).

3. You made a good/valid point about _______ (e.g., the fact that I'm irritable a lot, because I overwork).

4. I'm not sure what the solution to _______ is, but I understand that you're dissatisfied about it. We're a good team, we'll figure out a solution we can both live with.

5. I'm sorry I haven't taken your complaint about _______ as seriously as I should have. I understand it's something you're worried about.

6. You've been trying to talk to me about _______ for ages, and I've been brushing it off. I'm sorry I've done that. I should've paid attention sooner.

7. I didn't realize what your perspective was before. That's not how I've ever thought about it. I was seeing it completely differently, but now that I know how you see it, it's not a big deal for me to do it your way more often. I might need reminding. [See #3 in this article for a fleshed out example of this point.]

8. I wish I hadn't brought up _______. I know it embarrasses you. I felt attacked, and so I attacked back, but that doesn't get us anywhere.

9. I've taken to heart what you said about _______ (e.g., that I'm not looking after my health). I might've seemed defensive, but I was listening.

10. I don't like it when we argue or when you're unhappy. Should we _______ (e.g., go for a walk) to cool off?

11. I think we went down the rabbit hole of our destructive pattern again. I overreacted to a reasonable complaint you had, and then you brought up all the complaints you have about things from the past that you still feel hurt about. Is that what our pattern seems like to you? [You would adapt the phrasing of this statement to reflect whatever your pattern of arguing is. If you need help understanding your interaction patterns, I go into this in more detail in my book, The Healthy Mind Toolkit.]

Try: If you're brave, share this list with your partner, and ask them to pick which are comments that they'd like to hear, and copy and paste those into a cheatsheet. If this seems formulaic, it won't be in reality. These aren't the type of phrases you can say without vulnerability and emotion behind them. Also, you'll adapt the wordings so they're specific to your situation.

What These Phrases Communicate

  • Even if you don't agree with everything your partner said during the argument, it's important you pick out what you do agree with and acknowledge that. Acknowledge what needs, wants, thoughts, feelings, etc., they have expressed that are totally reasonable (or have an element of being reasonable). People don't always do this in the heat of an argument, so if you didn't do it during the argument, do it after the fact.
  • You'll also notice that the phrases show you care about what's important to your partner just because it's important to them. During heated arguments, people tend to either go on the attack (they feel hurt, so they push their partner's buttons as retaliation), or they put up a brick wall and are dismissive of whatever their partner is trying to talk to them about.
  • Good relationships are those in which the partners allow mutual influence. At least some of the time, you need to be willing to take on suggestions your partner makes or incorporate their way of seeing an issue into your own view.
  • You don't have to be smooth in how you communicate with your partner. If you stumble over your phrasing, but your intention is good, your tone and your body language will help communicate your true intention.

*Note—even though I've used the term "fight," I'm using it colloquially. These tips are intended for after verbal arguments.

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