In a relationship fight, once trust is lost, the details don’t matter because if you don’t trust the other person than nothing they say or do will be able to restore your trust. So it’s important to recognize when you’re in a fight where the real reason for the fight is that you lost trust in each other. Then stop focusing on the details of the fight and figure out how to regain trust.
In general, if your fight lasts longer than 30 minutes, take a break. Most things can be explained in 1-5 minutes, so if you both speak twice and ask follow questions, you should finish in under 20 minutes. The fact that your argument reached 30 minutes means you’re not hearing each other, so take a break and try again when you can hear each other.
When you do resume your fight after a break, it’s good to reset the conversation by describing the outcome you want and the good faith you are putting in. For example, you start by saying: the goal is to find a path forward we can both choose freely, independently, and willingly to happily take together. We do or do not trust each other to have good intentions. We do or do not trust each other period.
If the answer to trust is no, then don’t even start the argument. Work on the trust first.
To work on the trust (this advice also works for the argument itself) do the following:
- Reach an understanding of how the trust was lost. Tell the story of how the trust was lost. Start telling the story by describing what details were observed, and then describe what assumptions were made, and finally describe what conclusions were reached. The other person should listen only to understand, not to argue or disagree with the logic. Accept it as how the other person thinks and sees the world.
- Reach an agreement on what can be done to restore the trust. What actions or knowledge can be provided to restore trust.
- Work together to achieve what you agree on