What separates the happy couples from the not-so-happy ones is not only how they argue (more on that here) but what they do after the argument is over. Here’s what these couples do differently, according to therapists.
1. They own their part instead of pointing fingers.
After a fight, happy couples don’t waste time playing the blame game. They’re self-aware enough to recognize where they went wrong and mature enough to admit it to their partner.
“Happy couples own their part in an argument. Unhappy couples blame the other,” therapist Kurt Smith in Northern California, who specializes in counseling men, told HuffPost. “Want true resolution? Then look in the mirror and own your part. Did you raise your voice, swear, verbally attack your partner? Own it.”
2. They say sorry — and mean it.
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many couples rarely apologize to one another, Smith said. (And, for the record, “Sorry you feel that way” doesn’t count.)
“It’s so simple and yet so hard for so many people to do. However, the quickest fix to any argument is just to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” he said. “We all feel respected and cared about when someone says they’re sorry for how they treated us.”
3. They move forward, even when the argument isn’t perfectly resolved.
Many relationship issues are complicated and can’t just be hashed out in a single conversation. Happy couples are able to have a disagreement, put a pin in it and move on with the rest of their day.
“[They] know that fights happen and some may take multiple discussions to reach a final resolution — if that’s even possible,” therapist Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina, told HuffPost. “So they know it’s unrealistic and unhealthy to stay in their feelings for a prolonged period of time. They don’t let an argument hover over the rest of their day or week like a dark cloud.”
4. They try to learn something from their disagreements.
In healthy relationships, most arguments are the result of either miscommunication or misunderstanding, Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California, said. That means each disagreement is an opportunity to understand your partner better and figure out how to communicate with them more clearly.
“Once you’ve aired your grievances, clarified your points and tried to resolve the issue, take a minute to identify what you’ve learned from the interaction,” Howes, author of ″Mental Health Journal for Men,” said. ”[For example], ‘OK, sometimes when I say I don’t care what we have for dinner, I really do care, so I’ll work on speaking up more in the future.’”
5. They both make an effort to repair and reconnect.
Arguing is stressful and exhausting, so both parties often walk away feeling depleted when it’s over. Rather than staying bitter, happy couples try to treat each other with a little TLC post-spat. They’re a team, after all.
“A sincere apology, a long hug, thanking them for sticking with the rough conversation or a kind gesture, like making them a cup of tea or giving a foot rub, can do a lot to reassure your partner that you still love them and want the best for them, despite the stressful conversation,” Howes said.
Fights create small splinters, Saunders said. But with some intentional reconnection — she suggests something like taking a walk together, having sex or watching your favorite show — “those little cracks are easily repaired,” she said.
Caitlin Harrison, an associate marriage and family therapist at Kindman & Co. in Los Angeles, said laughing together can be particularly healing. Watch a funny TikTok, talk about an old inside joke or goof around with your pet.
“Laughter is one of the best ways for your body to know that you are safe,” Harrison told HuffPost.
“This isn’t to erase the fight that just happened, it’s to help your body know that you can move forward and trust this person again,” she said
6. They revisit the conversation once they’ve had time to reflect and cool off.
Strong emotions that arise during arguments can make effective communication feel impossible. Happy couples recognize this: They know there’s a benefit to tabling the discussion and coming back to it when cooler heads can prevail.
“Healthy couples also have stability, so the thought of revisiting aspects of a conflict isn’t so scary or threatening to the relationship,” Saunders said. “This is important because so many couples sweep things under the rug that are important because they are afraid of starting another fight.”
“As a result, they lose an opportunity to improve communication, understanding and connection by fully resolving conflict,” she added.
We repeat what we do not repair, said Harrison, so coming back to the conversation when you’re both in “regulated places” can prevent the same unresolved argument from rearing its head for years to come.
7. They don’t harbor negative feelings once the argument has been resolved.
When real closure is achieved, both partners are able to let things go, “meaning they don’t mope through the evening or make passive-aggressive comments,” Howes said.
“When those behaviors happen, it tells me there are still some feelings that need to be expressed and understood, or they’re not satisfied with the outcome,” he said. “A good, complete argument takes the time to express what needs to be said and tie up the loose ends — for both people.”