We’ve all been there. A slip of the tongue, a forgotten anniversary or birthday, or a miscommunication. The dog house isn’t a location you want to spend a lot of time. So what do you do to get out of that sticky situation? I recently appeared on The TODAY Show to discuss just that. Want a cheat sheet? Here you go:
1. Don’t Make Up Just to Move On: Don’t pretend to be apologetic for the sake of moving on, or pretend that nothing happened altogether. The issues that lead to your fight will resurface repeatedly if they are not addressed. Giving your partner a false sense that you understand what the problem is when you don’t will make the next stay in the doghouse even longer. Sincerity is key in the makeup, so if you don’t feel it, don’t say it.
2. Do Admit To Being Wrong: Acknowledge the “wrong”. Even if you don’t believe that it was a wrong that deserved the dog house, acknowledge that your partner believed it was. Validation is incredibly powerful when it comes to moving forward from a situation where someone was hurt. Let them know that you know what you did was wrong, and you understand why they felt _______. (fill in the blank – hurt, angry, frustrated, etc).
3. Don’t Apologize – Or Fight – in Public: Apologies aren’t a public matter, but a private one. Gestures of flowers to their work, or worse, showing up at their office to talk things out is a terrible idea – both open the door for nosey office mates to opine on your issues, and once you let people in, it is hard to kick them out. Likewise, discussing any issue that landed you in the dog house in any public setting is a bad idea. Give your partner the freedom to discuss the matter openly, in private. The last thing you need is shouting or crying at your favorite restaurant.
4. Do Perform Random Acts of Kindness: Give from the heart. This is not to say run to Tiffany’s and pick up some diamonds (unless it comes with #1 and #3!), but give in a way that shows you love them and are truly upset that the fight occurred. Personalize a heartfelt message, perform random acts of kindness around the house: walk the dog, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, etc. This does not replace communication, but it demonstrates your desire to make them happy and move forward, together.
5. Don’t Turn Your Back on Your Partner: They might be giving you the silent treatment, but you need to be ready to listen when they are ready – even if the silence irked you. Communication is the key to getting back in the house, and your ears and heart should be ready to actively listen, validate, and move forward. So when they are ready to talk, you welcome the conversation with open arms (and talk about how you don’t enjoy the silent treatment after a resolution).
6. Do Put Effort Into Your Relationship: The biggest damage in a relationship comes from complacency. Understand that getting out of the proverbial doghouse isn’t easy, so be prepared to work a little harder to regain trust and let emotions settle. Be willing to listen, make necessary changes, and prevent a replay of the same problems. Do an activity that they love, spend a night connecting without electronics, and show a willingness to work towards a combined future.