When you’re in a relationship, you want to neutralize conflict. You work to calm emotional flare-ups and try to meet eye-to-eye. And you likely have the best of intentions: You just want to quell fights before they do real damage to the relationship. Unfortunately, one of the ways in which you’re probably attempting to reduce conflict is likely backfiring.
What’s the one way you try to pacify your partner that’s actually infuriating them?
Telling them to “get over it” and “move on.”
People often use these phrases—either together or separately—to try to bring a prolonged, difficult fight to a close. Partners can sense when they are getting nowhere in a fight and often feel the need to somehow calm the tension that’s accumulated. In these moments, it’s common to pull out such phrases, in an attempt to lower the heat and turn the page. You may have a major problem on your hands but decide, “We’ll just have to get over it.” Or you you’ve hit gridlock with a debate, but all you can think to say is, “It’s time to just move on.”
Here’s why you shouldn’t resort to these copout phrases, even when they feel like the only option you have left:
1. They’re dismissive.
Depending on the tone with which you say them, these phrases can potentially soothe a tense situation. But more often than not, they come across as dismissive. They’re essentially a polite way of saying, “I just can’t talk to you about this anymore.” And when you use “get over it” and “move on” out of frustration and dismissiveness, they will infuriate your partner more than they’ll soothe him or her.
Instead of resorting to these phrases, try asking your partner for a break to calm your nerves and gather your thoughts. This is a much more productive way to reduce frustration in a fight. You may find that after 20 minutes of calm, you can return to the discussion with renewed energy and a fresh perspective.
2. They’re avoidant.
If a fight is distressing enough that you feel the need to pull out these phrases, it’s probably a fight about something pretty important. Nobody feels the need to “move on” from a dispute over what TV show to watch. In other words, if these phrases are popping into your mind, it’s a sign that the fight really matters.
Do your best to see these types of conflicts—as uncomfortable as they may be—as opportunities to understand something really important about your relationship. Instead of avoiding the underlying issue by declaring you both should just “get over it and move on,” ask your partner, “What do you think this fight is really about?”
It’s only when you get to the core of the conflict that you have any chance of authentically getting over it and moving on.
3. They’re terribly vague.
When I hear people say, “We should just get over it and move on,” my first thought is, “Okay, but how are we going to move on?” “What exactly will be different going forward?”
These questions come to my mind because “get over it” and “move on” are inherently vague conclusions to a fight—if they’re even conclusions at all. When a couple has mutually agreed on nothing except to “get over it,” how can they be sure they won’t just have the same fight tomorrow?
One trick I’ve developed for creating better conclusions to fights is to ask yourself: “What would I need to let this go?”
Clearly define both the “what” and the “this.” In doing so, you’ll end up naming the problem (the “this”) and the solution (the “what”). Let’s say a husband and wife are fighting about money. She asks herself, “What would I need to let this go?” Her response: “I need my husband to inform me when he makes big purchases.” With this one simple statement she’s put a nail in both the problem (big purchases) and the solution (being informed).
It’s time to let go of the crutch of “moving on.” It’s not helping your relationship and it’s preventing you from evolving as a partner. Worse, it’s antagonizing the person you love most when you’re only trying to help.