You knew it was too good to be true. You’ve been with your man for a few solid months of bliss when BAM! he says or does something out-of-the-blue that SETS-YOU-OFF. You rarely have an emotional meltdown of this magnitude, but somehow he said (or did) the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time and now your cave woman is out — front and center — with the biggest stick she can carry.
And the worst part isn’t even the fight, it’s the aftermath. Because as you were experiencing a big emotional disappointment, he was experiencing a disappointment of another kind. Where did the sweet, sexy, soulful, thoughtful woman he was dating go? He’s probably thinking, “Is this who she really is?” “Did I just get duped?” And whether he can verbalize it or not, he’ll go straight into his caveman which will see him immediately withdraw to lick his wounds and reassess the situation.
When you feel your man pulling back and becoming emotionally distant your instinct will be to try to patch things up and bring him closer to you. YOU MUST RESIST THIS IMPULSE. Why?
If you try to patch things up while you’re feeling scared about losing the relationship, you probably will lose the relationship.
Desperation and fear never magnetized any man and it’s not going to start now. Before you get right with him, you need to get right with you. So take a step back and give yourself a minute to regroup. Take a hot shower, write in your journal, or go for a jog. Do anything but call, text, chase, pursue, and pressure him into talking about what just happened. If you feel you need a sounding board, call a good friend, but put a timer on it. Literally, set an alarm on your phone and tell your friend in advance, “I need to vent about something in confidence, but I’m only going to chew on your ear for 15 minutes. Then you have permission to interrupt me and tell me my time is up.”
Once you’ve gotten a little space between yourself and “the incident” you need to figure out why you got so heated in the first place. Sure, he said or did something that was super insensitive, but the extreme level of your reaction probably had little to do with what he did and everything to do with what you think it means about your relationship. So what meaning did you make of his actions? Did you make it mean he doesn’t care about you? That you can’t rely on him? That he doesn’t respect you?
Researchers have found that the first big fight in most relationships is usually about commitment. And this makes so much sense. When relationships are new, both people are legitimately trying to figure out where they stand with the other person and if they are equally committed to deepening the connection. Even if your blowup was not about commitment, the problem with uncontrolled emotional outbursts is when you freak out on him, you force him to respond to your emotional outburst, not to your real need, whatever that may be.
Listen, every single one of us has lost her sh*t when the wrong person did the wrong thing at the wrong time. It’s not right, but it is human.
So what do you do after the first big fight? Here are 5 steps that will help you get yourself, and your man, back on track.
#1 FORGIVE YOURSELF
I’m not advocating that you give yourself license to have temper tantrums whenever you feel scared or feel your relationship is threatened. In fact, I’m urging you to let this first blowup teach you how to address future conflicts (and yes, there are more to come… sorry!) in a more constructive way. That said, cut yourself a little slack and realize that you are, after all a human being.
#2 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Once you are feeling contained and clear about what really set you off, you are ready to make things right with your man. Call him and immediately apologize for your part in the breakdown. Ask him for a face-to face-meeting. It’s always ideal to have these kinds of talks in person. But if the conversation needs to happen over the phone then have it over the phone. Under no circumstances are you to have this conversation by text or email (or Facebook!)
During your talk, mention NOTHING about the wrong stuff he did (yes, I’m sure he did bad stuff too). Instead, keep your attention on yourself, and your part in the breakdown. Be honest and cop to the real reason you went off on him. Tell him what meaning you made of his actions and that you realize it may not even be true. Tell him you felt scared and vulnerable and instead of just talking to him about it, you kind of lost it. Whatever is true for you, speak it calmly, but speak it now.
There is nothing more magnetic than a grounded woman who can communicate her needs.
When he starts to give “his side” of the story, bite your lip if you feel a “yeah but” coming on. Be a good listener. Pay attention to your own inner emotional experience as the conversation unfolds. When it feels natural, share your feelings and point of view. Resist the urge to debate but don’t gloss over what’s bothering you. You do need to say (in a self-responsible way) what your concerns are. Try to avoid making generalities (i.e., you always do this). And instead of lodging complaints, make requests. Ask for what you need and then take a breath so he can respond back…
If you can come to a mutual understanding and forgive one another, breathe a sigh of relief. You just survived your first big relationship hurdle! If he says he needs some time to think things over, then give him space. Yes, it will be hard, but at this stage the ball is in his court. He’s asked for time so give it to him. It’s okay to check in with him if some time goes by and you haven’t heard anything. But don’t hound him. We all process things differently so allow some space for that.
#4 NOTICE HIS RESPONSE
If a man is truly interested in deepening the connection with you, he will listen to what you have to say and respond thoughtfully and lovingly. He might be mad, but he will make moves toward closing the rift and deepening the connection between you. If he’s not really interested in creating a deeper bond with you, his words and actions will let you know. He’ll keep his focus on the fight, or he’ll be resistant to respond to your emotional needs in a way that satisfies you. And although this scenario will bring you tears, it will also spare you years of investing in the wrong man.
#5 GET PHYSICAL
Many times we rush to make up, but if you bypass having the “hard talk” before getting to the fun stuff, you will destabilize and compromise your relationship. Don’t do it.
Establishing physical connection is the final (and most fun!) part of the process. If before the fight you were having a fully fledged sexual relationship, now’s the time to re-establish that bond. If you hadn’t yet taken things to this level before the breakdown, I actually urge you not to do the deed simply as an expression of your relief that you are back together. Enjoy physical intimacy in whatever way felt natural and comfortable before the breakdown.
The occasional conflict and disappointment is part and parcel of every relationship, even the healthiest ones. The goal is not to avoid conflict, it’s to communicate with each other in a way that deepens the intimacy and connection after a dustup.