How To Even…Make Up After a Fight

By Michael Gushue & CL Bledsoe

People argue, even when they love each other. A lot more when they don’t. That’s what we’ve heard. Often, these arguments are over dumb things that he should just admit he’s wrong about, because sometimes, the feelings of the person you claim to love are more important than being right. Especially when he’s so, so wrong. My god, is he wrong.

Fights follow a predictable pattern, like government corruption or having to pee right after you’ve been zipped into your head-to-toe latex bondage suit (which, actually, might be part of the process). In fact, every fight with your significant other exactly mirrors the 44 rungs in Kahn’s Escalation Ladder, which traces modern warfare from peace through tension, from limited attacks all the way up to all out thermonuclear annihilation (Spasm or Insensate War). We can’t take you through all forty-four rungs because it’s getting close to Happy Hour, but let’s touch on the major steps so that we can better understand the best path to resolution, or utter destruction.

Rung 1: Ostensible Crisis

Fights don’t begin with the fight. They begin with something else, maybe a series of things. Maybe you had a bad day or a bad interaction with someone. Maybe he’s an idiot and has been pulling crap like this for weeks. Negative feelings can build up for days or even weeks before, for whatever reason, something triggers all of this pent-up annoyance and frustration. This is the first stage of the fight, the backstory, where it all begins.

Rung 4: Confrontation of Wills

Maybe you’re in the shower, or in your car, or an elevator. You’re going over things your partner has done and keeps doing. Instead of rinsing his plate off and putting it in the dishwasher, he leaves it in the sink until there’s a pile. Instead of putting his clothes in the hamper when he undresses, he leaves them in a pile on the floor and gathers them all up when it begins to mutter anti-Capitalist sentiments. You let the annoyances flare up inside you until the flames of your anger rise in your cheeks. In other words, you’re fuming. You let it wash down the drain with the shower water, but the seed is still there.

Rung 14: Declaration of Limited Conventional War

So, the annoyance been building, and at this point, you’re pretty worked up. Then, he does something. It might be pretty innocuous, like dragging his feet every time he takes a freaking step like some kind of zombie child. Or maybe slurping his drink like he’s forgotten how to freaking swallow. This would normally not even be something you notice, but now, there’s history. All that annoyance and frustration flood out of you, directly onto his face. The first volley might seem to come out of nowhere.

An alternative way this can begin is if one of you picks a fight. You’ve been carrying this baggage for a while and are looking for somewhere to unload. Lucky for him, his face is the place.

Rung 32: Declaration of “General War”

Things are said. More things are said. A list of grievances is shared. Perhaps they’re a tad over the line, but then he says something worse or stupid and now you must destroy him. This is the escalation stage. Maybe there was a totally valid point to explore when this whole thing started, but it’s quickly abandoned in the heat of argument.

Rung 33: Slow Motion Counter-Property War

“Oh, he left his cell phone in his pants that he expects me to wash like I‘m some kind of indentured charwoman. Obviously he wants me to wash his cell phone in hot water, detergent, and a half gallon of bleach.”

Rung 44: Breaking Point aka Spasm or Insensate Thermonuclear War

The crisis point occurs when things have escalated beyond a rational resolution. The reptile brain has taken over. Now, it’s all about hurting the other person. If things progress to the point of no return, well, you won’t need to read the rest of this article because you’ll be too busy packing either your or his things, and by packing his things we mean throwing them onto the lawn from the second story window after soaking them in kerosene and lighting them on fire. According to science (Look! Dials!), 87% of the time, people stop right before this point and separate to cool off.


Suddenly, you’re locked in the bathroom seriously considering peeing on his toothbrush. We’ve all been there. This is the denouement or big letdown portion of the argument.

Now that the fight is over, all of that anger and frustration has been replaced with rapidly fading self-righteousness. You’re still angry, but you’re also maybe regretting some of the things you said or did, even though you were totally right. And you’ll be damned if you’re going to apologize first.

This stage can last for hours or days, even. The longer it goes, the more you might remember particular things that were done that were maybe kind of sort of a little bit shitty. Your self-righteousness continues to fade as you question whether the other person even wants you to apologize or would rather you just set yourself on fire in the hallway.

Something people usually forget is that the other person feels the exact same way. They feel just as bad about what they said about YOUR mother as you do for pointing out that certain physical flaw. And, let’s be honest, your mom is a bit much sometimes. (But you’re totally right about the other thing.)

So now you’ve got to tread the gravelly road to forgiveness in your bare feet. It can be a long and poorly maintained road, overgrown with the shrubbery of emotional baggage and forced metaphor. You’ve got to tread carefully to keep from permanently damaging the toxic petals of his fragile masculinity that are strewn everywhere like the emotional underwear he leaves on the living room floor…you know what, enough of that. Also, it would be nice if he did something nice for you.

So, yeah. You’re like two pissed off ships sulking in the night. All you want is to get back to how things were, because this is fucking exhausting. But it can seem an insurmountable task, like crossing a creaky jungle canyon rope bridge while dodging the pirate zombies of past….sorry. Sorry. *Deep breath* What were trying to say is it can be hard to get past this, is the point. But it can be done.


There are a lot of downsides to a severe concussion or traumatic brain injury, but one result that has its good points is amnesia. Sure, there’s going to be the permanent loss of fine motor skills and the ability to add two-digit numbers, but what is that compared to the ease of making up after a fight neither of you can remember? Because, let us be clear, you BOTH need to forget what has happened. You said some things that…well, that’s not the kind of person you want to be. So.

Now, the proper way to use a sap is more art than science, so we suggest you practice beforehand so you can apply the correct amount of force on you and your significant other (not in that order). When both of you regain consciousness, there’s going to be a period of disorientation, known to medical science as What The Fuck Just Happened? So it’s a good idea to write yourself a note and pin it to your clothes for when you come back to the real world. Have it say something like “The person lying next to you is your significant other/spouse. When he wakes up, tell him you’re sorry and that you love him more than anything. Offer to watch one of those stupid movies he likes with him. He won’t know why you’re doing this, but that’s okay. Just go with it.”

Uninspired Display

Of course, maybe potential permanent brain damage is too extreme of a solution for you. (wuss.) A more conventional display of regret is the bearing of gifts. But sometimes, this can be too conventional. Let’s say he brought you flowers. Should you remind him that you’re allergic to flowers? That depends on whether you want to sleep alone tonight. But maybe you can pretend it’s a cold and guilt trip him into taking care of you.

The uninspired display of affection is really more depressing than offensive, to many of us. It demonstrates that the other person isn’t willing or able to put any real thought or effort into reconciling with you. Or maybe they just don’t know you very well, which is a whole other existential bailiwick. Unless you’re the one doing it. Then, you know, you were busy.

Big, Sloppy Display

In stark contrast to the uninspired display is the big, sloppy one. The easiest way to distinguish it is whether it would also qualify as a symptom of a mental disorder. If so, then Robert’s your father’s brother. This one certainly required more effort. It probably crosses over into being embarrassing, but hey, a little humiliation soothes the ego. Or something. Regardless, it’s a distraction from whatever the hell is going on in your clearly messed up psyche, so there you go.

Moving Forward

Whatever path you take to forgiveness, the important thing is that you enjoy the few scant moments of peace you’ll have before the next fight breaks out, which it will, because even though you’ve released the pent-up frustrations and what not, you haven’t dealt with the actual problem/s that caused them. A good step in that direction would be working on your communication skills. Or, you could get a puppy. Or possibly fake your own death. That seems a lot easier.

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