What does post-conflict resolution look like for you?
August 15, 2018 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I've had a few minor conflicts in the past couple of months with my bf of 2 years -- "minor" meaning someone said something that hurt the other's feelings or did something that unintentionally hurt the other person. Conversations were had; apologies were made. But whether I'm on the doing or receiving end of the conflict, I've been having lingering feelings of unsettledness afterward. What do you do after a conflict with a loved one to feel like it's truly "over"?
posted by orangesky4 to Human Relations (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Back rubs?
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:34 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

My partner says "high five, team" after we sort something out.
Later, I do a lot of self reflection and self care (ie. Meditation or exercise or whatever helps me feel happy and open-hearted) to make sure I remove any residue of hurt or distrust - assuming this is appropriate after having received amends.
I make sure to bring a clean slate to my interactions with my partner, and he does the same, and in this way we truly move on. We demonstrate to each other our joy and care without making an announcement about it. I personally think this is more effective than excessive discussion or revisiting of the issue. Anything that lingers to be mentioned after this positive exchange is probably worth revisiting, but I find this usually dissolves what I might be struggling with.
posted by elke_wood at 10:41 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

It depends. Did the altercation reflect something deeper that didn't actually get resolved? Your unsettled feelings might be telling you that although you've solved the momentary disagreement, something is still not quite finished.

On the other hand, it's also normal to have lingering feelings from any kind of situation where you've been riled up. If it's just that you can't quite put the adrenaline back in the box immediately, just being together in a loving way, as people suggest above, helps soothe that back into place.
posted by nantucket at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

"We good?"
"Yeah we're good"

is sort of our "OK this is done" line and also a cue for the other person if we are NOT good, to bring it up now otherwise the other person is going to move back to "business as usual" (except with better knowledge about whatever happened and how to work on it differently in the future etc.) and presume there's no crisis mode anymore.

Most important thing with us is to clear the air and go back to doing things we like. it's easy to sort of sit with the bad feelings that linger and think that means you need to DO something, but sometimes (often) you just need to be like "Well that was suboptimal. That said, I chose you. This is part of you. We are okay" and then start with the things that remind you why you like the relationship in the first place.
posted by jessamyn at 11:49 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

My wife and I are big fans of The Wire, so we sometimes do a fist-bump and say 'us motherfucker,' a la Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

I think it is completely normal to have those feelings for a while afterwards. When my husband and I have an argument I feel a bit sad for a couple of days afterwards sometimes, even after we've made up. Some of us just can't bounce straight back from conflict. Honestly, I would just accept that this happens sometimes and do your best to cheer yourself up, understanding that with some time those feelings will go away.
posted by thereader at 12:06 PM on August 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

If this is a bad-feelings hangover, I agree it's normal and you should do whatever you need to feel better. The term make-up sex springs to mind. I don't agree that's necessarily always a solution, but some physical activity (together or apart), some way to reconnect and express your continuing love for one another, or just a big fun distraction all seem appropriate.

Alternatively: have your conflicts been increasing because of real relationship issues? Are you having unsettled feelings because you don't feel the real issue was fully resolved?
posted by kapers at 12:12 PM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

We tend to give each other some space, maybe one of us walks the dog or does a chore or has a shower and then we resume things as normal. I find doing something different helpful for switching, and a bit of distance is good for appreciating the other person and being able to see them fresh, like hitting the reset button.
posted by lafemma at 1:05 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in research from the Gottman Institute on relationship conflict:
When thinking about conflict in a relationship, it is important to ascertain whether a problem is solvable or perpetual. Our research has shown that 69% of relationship conflict is about perpetual problems. All couples have them — these problems are grounded in the fundamental differences that any two people face. They are either 1) fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict, or 2) fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs. In our research, we concluded that instead of solving their perpetual problems, what seems to be important is whether or not a couple can establish a dialogue about them.
In other work I've read by them, they emphasize the point that even happy couples in long-term relationships have a large collection of unresolvable conflicts. They explore some of the ways that happy couples deal with that fact.
posted by clawsoon at 1:26 PM on August 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

yess it's so meh. like a moral hangover like someone ahead said. but i suppose its also good in a way, because it means you're ashamed or hurt, sort of mulling it over, perhaps figuring a way to avoid/tackle a similar issue in the future?

with us, it varies. one of us will need more space and go workout or take the dog for a walk (and maybe bring home fresh bagels or something), or then we stick around and offer to make a cup of joe or squeeze out a long hug. some days little jokes help. we haven't really landed on a set ritual to defunk the atmosphere..dunno, maybe one day we'll have one
posted by speakeasy at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Makeup sex. If the conflict is truly over, this will re-establish closeness.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:24 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Frequently we know a fight (plus its hangover) is really over when we are able to joke about it. For us, the time it takes for a disagreement to become funny is in some ways a measure of how big the problem was (though it can be conflated with the general health status of the relationship, too). It's usually measured in hours, maybe a day or two. But it's never funny right away. I don't think there's anything wrong with you that it takes some time to scrub out the ooky feelings.
posted by eirias at 6:38 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

It may or may not apply to you, but something my SO and I identified a while back is that sometimes when we're feeling like this, it's because we aren't trusting the other person to be honest about their real feelings, post-conflict.

So, for example, say that we fall out, then we make up. But I'm sitting there thinking, I think he's still a bit mad/upset with me. But he doesn't want to say so. and stewing on it.

The problem there is that I'm creating this narrative in my mind where he's being dishonest with me, and I'm believing it, whereas in actuality I do trust him and he's generally a very good communicator.

So when I catch myself feeling that way, I have to give myself a little shake and look at him and remember that trust. And it's hard, cause a previous partner years ago was actually the opposite of this, so I got into the habit of not trusting my person to be honest and open with their feelings. But doing the work on my brain of changing this has been super worth it.
posted by greenish at 1:25 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

What I've noticed in friendship and roommate relationships is that after conflict I feel unsettled until we have a few positive interactions that show things are back to normal and we still like each other.
posted by bunderful at 4:18 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's simple, but one of us ends up saying 'Are we ok?'. The other agrees, and this 'closes' the argument.
posted by hydra77 at 9:34 AM on August 16, 2018

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