You spent hours arguing about who was right, placing blame, and standing your ground. You probably said some things you didn't mean. No matter what stage of a relationship you're in, inevitably serious disagreements will happen. What you fought about isn't nearly as important as how you recover from those disagreements. That's what determines whether or not you grow as individuals and as a couple—or not.
With that in mind, here are seven constructive actions you can take to heal the rift in your relationship:
1. Reflect on how and when things went sideways.
Take a moment to get quiet and reflect on the exchange. In all likelihood, you didn't plan for things to get messy. You got emotional, things escalated, and the conversation went in a direction that neither of you intended. Think about what happened on your end, but also try to understand your partner's perspective. What were you trying to convey? At what point did the message get convoluted? Think about how you can more clearly, rationally communicate your feelings.
2. Don't focus on what your partner did wrong.
Focusing on the other person's missteps is not remotely helpful. Your partner won't be receptive to your opinion about what they should or should not have done at this point. That'll just lead to more fighting. Be an expert in your behavior, not theirs.
3. Clean up your side of the road.
When emotions run high, one of the hardest things to do is apologize for your behavior. That said, know that, "I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t do that first" isn't an apology. The goal is to start a constructive dialogue by taking responsibility for your role in the conflict. This is the most important step toward repair.
4. Don't demand an apology.
Apologies don't always come from both sides at the same time. You have to be willing to put yours out there and not expect anything in return. Focus on repairing the damage you did rather than getting the reparations you think you deserve.
5. Accept an apology.
If your partner approaches you first, accept their apology—even if it isn't as comprehensive as you might like it to be. Don't point out the ways this apology could be better. Honor the humility it took to admit wrongdoing. Then try to reciprocate. With each of you owning how you contributed to the situation, you'll both feel heard, and you're more likely to find a way to healing. If you aren't yet ready to offer your own apology, thank your partner for theirs and let them know that you will re-engage when you're ready.
6. Remember that compromise is a good thing.
When working through your differences, compromise is key. You have to make room for your partner's needs. You have to be OK with letting your partner get what they want every once in a while. Meeting your partner's needs makes it easier for them to meet yours.
7. Don't dig up the past.
It's easy to make the mistake of bringing up old fights or hurts once feelings get raw. "You always do this," or "This is just like the time that you _____." Focus on the here and now. "Piling on" makes both parties feel more defensive and almost inevitably exacerbates arguments. It never helps you reach a resolution in the present.
It is normal for couples to fight. Actually, it's healthy. How partners make up is one of the factors that determines the success of their relationship. There's no one-size-fits-all formula, but learning successful communication skills is crucial to giving your relationship a fighting chance.