Sometimes you need to take a step back, but how many?
It's common for a big fight early in a relationship to leave one or both partners wondering if the relationship is going to make it.
If you've been there, you may have felt a degree of anger you didn’t know was in you, or maybe you saw an angry outburst from your partner that shocked and alarmed you. Now you wonder if your partner might leave because of the way you acted, or if you should leave because of what you observed.
Here are 7 ways to assess the damage and decide if this is the right relationship for you.
1. Take some time to calm down.
It may be hard to do, but take the time you need to calm down. It's often helpful to do something physical in order to work off some of the adrenaline, as well as the other chemicals the experience released throughout your body.
Listen to some music you enjoy. Read. Jot down some of your thoughts and feelings about the fight. Now is probably not the time to try to solve the problem; the fight might flare up again. Take your time and cool down.
2. Talk to a trusted friend.
If you have a close friend you know will simply listen to you and let you vent or talk about what happened, talk to that person.
You don’t need someone who is going to throw more fuel on the fire right now. You don’t need someone who is going to remember everything that happened and hold it against your partner for the duration of your relationship. You just need someone who will listen to you, acknowledge your feelings, and help you to come to terms with what happened.
3. Discover why you feel this way.
When you've had time to calm down, take some time to evaluate what happened.
Are you thinking things might be over because you never expected something like this to happen to the two of you? Are you thinking about leaving because this same thing has happened way too many times?
Determine if this is a short-term hurt and shock to the relationship or if this is simply another episode in a long-running series of dysfunctional interactions.
4. Try to talk it through.
Once you've had enough time to get a little perspective and understanding about the situation, begin to think through how you can talk about it. When you know that both of you are calm enough to talk, set aside some time when you won’t be disturbed to discuss what happened.
Based on your evaluation of why this fight hit you so hard and hurt you so badly, talk through the issues you are now aware of and invite your partner to do the same. Use caution not to reenter the argument. The goal is to understand why things got so out of control and how to avoid a similar situation in the future.
5. Let your partner know what you need.
Determine where you are right now. Do you need more time to sort it out? Do you need to temporarily change things between you until one or the other of you feels safe again? Are you ready to work on repairing the relationship and returning things to normal, or does more need to be done first?
As you determine the answers to these questions, be clear with your partner about where you are. This shouldn't be done with any hostility; however, depending on what you need, it may require firmness. If your goal is to repair and rebuild the relationship, but you need to pull away some to do so, be sure your partner understands your motives for setting any boundaries you need.
6. Give your partner a chance to work on it.
Once you have entered into a period of rebuilding your relationship, give your partner time to adjust to the changes you've made in the relationship.
If he or she doesn’t like the changes but is still able to accept them while the two of you work to rebuild, that's a good sign. If your partner won't accept your boundaries and pushes you to immediately go back to the way things were or else, that is NOT a good sign.
7. Set a time to review progress.
See if your partner is willing to accept your boundaries for a predetermined length of time. It could be several days to several weeks depending on the issues that need to be addressed and the changes that need to be made.
At the end of the time period review how things are going. If good progress is happening, it could be time to normalize the relationship again. If not enough progress has been made, it might be necessary to set another review date and continue to work on the relationship. If no progress is being made, it may be time to consider other options.
Dr. David McFadden is a couple’s counselor at Village Counseling Center. Receive your free copy of the Better Life Magazine filled with articles with topics from taking good care of yourself, resolving conflicts in your relationship and discovering how to have success in your life.