How to Approach Spouse & Make Amends After a Big Fight 6 creative ways to extend the olive branch. BY ROBERT J. NACHSHIN
Getting your message to your spouse creatively can be the first step toward amends.
“ Buy a plant or flower arrangement and bury a toy hatchet in it.”
Any couple that has been in a committed relationship knows that disagreements are bound to happen. Sometimes, small disagreements escalate into big fights. When both parties reach an impasse or exhaust themselves with holding on to their position, a cold war can ensue. Generally, at some point, one party or the other would like to attempt an effort to make amends, but approaching an angry or wounded mate is hard to do.
Over the years I have spoken to dozens of couples who have confided to me that though they felt awkward, uncomfortable and downright uncertain as to how to get the, "I want to make up with you" ball rolling, they were eager to find appropriate ways to do so. Some offered creative ways to approach their significant other—methods I found not only amusing and clever but also successful.
Based on what these couples shared with me and what I consider to be the most helpful suggestions—especially for those who are embarrassed or uneasy at just saying, "Can we talk? I want to work this out,"—I have put together six solid ways, which others shared with me, that will open the door to peace talks.
1. Make contact. Send an e-mail, leave a voicemail or write a note—but do it in a clever way. Prepare a formal invitation that you can read over the phone (use a very business-like tone while leaving the message), or send an Evite to his or her e-mail address. If you prefer, you can hand-address a printed invitation instead and send it certified mail to your beloved. The first few words contained in any of these invitation choices should start with the following, "You are cordially invited to attend…" followed by details like "… attend the John and Jane (substitute your names, of course) International Summit on ________ (fill in your dispute issue) and any other pertinent information you think will pique their interest).
2. Get your hands dirty. Buy a plant or flower arrangement and bury a toy hatchet in it. Leave it prominently displayed in a place familiar to your spouse so they will easily find it. When I questioned the person who gave me this suggestion, I asked him if he included a note of any kind. He replied that he did not; she got the message with the mere visual. She was so touched, he said, it was she who uttered the first words suggesting they convene for a powwow.
3. Spell it out. Use those scrabble squares for another purpose. Though you and a spouse may not be engaged in a game of words, you might be if you took some pebbles—just enough to write, "Want to talk?" My one client left them on her husband’s pillow? She said the antic proved worthy as he opened up with an enthusiastic "yes."
4. Show your colors. Post a white flag at the entrance of your bedroom. Doing so does not mean you have to surrender your position in favor of your mate’s, it simply means you are willing to come to the table to give compromise a chance.
5. Confide in man's best friend. Tie a note around your favorite pet’s neck and have it help you out. When your spouse takes comfort in the family pet by summoning him or her, the first thing your spouse will notice is a note round its neck. Use whatever message you want to start a dialogue between you and your significant other. The one my client gave me was, "You two should talk this out." It is hard to resist such a request from an innocent bystander. If you two can’t come to the table, let your pet act as mediator.
6. Make 21st century contact. Text your request to communicate. With so much of today’s communication being sent and received through technology it's easy to get things rolling without having to look your spouse in the face! Even if you’re sitting across the room from them you can begin a meaningful exchange that will get the dialogue off and running. Send a cryptic message or two, like a question mark, and you might get a quick reply.
It’s hard to resist an honest attempt at making amends. If you are ready to communicate, don’t let too much time pass because the icy atmosphere can compound the situation. It’s always best to talk things out even if you don’t come to an agreement. The mere fact that you are involved in a discourse of sorts means you can reach a reasonable peace treaty. To remain silent could set a disturbing pattern and negative habits can bring down any relationship over time.
If none of the above strikes your fancy, come up with six alternatives and try them out. There is always an awkward silence after a major rift and the sooner you can communicate the faster your can get back to relationship-as-normal.
My last admonishment to you is to keep your sense of humor. It’s nearly impossible for your spouse to remain sullen and distant when you make him or her laugh. A lighter touch goes a long way, especially when you find it impossible to agree.
Robert J. Nachshin is co-author of the book "I Do, You Do...But Just Sign Here: A Quick and Easy Guide to Cohabitation, Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements." He represents many celebrities in film, television, music and sports. He is best known for the precedent-setting win in the Barry Bonds prenuptial case that was ultimately decided by the California Supreme Court, where he prevailed on Bonds' behalf. For more information, visit www.nldivorce.com.