After any conflict with your partner, giving them a hug might be the last thing you feel like doing – especially if you’re prone to stropping or sulking and need time to lick your wounds after having a row. Very often couples come into counselling wishing the other person would make things better after they’ve rowed, but in practice it’s better for the wellbeing of your relationship to make the first move and offer a hug to your partner.
And this is backed by science: apparently giving your partner a hug after you’ve had a falling out can help reduce the impact on mood and minimise the stress caused by the conflict in the first place.
Research carried out by Carnegie Mellon University and published in the PLOS ONE journal has found that receiving a hug after an argument acts like “a buffer against deleterious changes in emotions associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict”. A post-argument hug can protect psychological health and can lead to better relationships over time, say the researchers.
They carried out the study by interviewing more than 400 adults for 14 consecutive days about their conflicts, receiving hugs, and the positive and negative emotions associated with the conflicts and the hugs. They found that receiving a hug on the day of conflict was linked to a smaller decrease in positive emotions and a smaller increase in negative emotions. The impact of a hug can have a longer-lasting effect too, with study participants reporting that a positive impact on their mood on the day following the conflict.
The researchers concluded that a hug after an argument helps manage stress by showing you still care: “Interpersonal touch behaviours such as hugs may buffer against stressors such as conflict because they increase perceptions of social support availability by tangibly conveying care and empathy without communicating to receivers that the receivers are ineffective.”
So, for the benefit of you, your partner and your relationship: after a row, aim to hug and make up.