3-Day Rule After Argument: Does It Work?

How long is normal to not talk after a fight?
on October 13, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

While no one likes to fight with their partner, it’s important to have a structure in place in order to work towards a healthy resolution. 

So when it comes to big blow-ups or heated exchanges, does the 3-day rule after arguments really work? 

Even in the heat of the moment, it can seem strange to take a step back from your relationship. However, there are a lot of benefits to the 3-day rule, with time apart often providing the clarity you need to resolve the root cause of your relationship problems. 

Is it normal for couples to not talk for days after a fight?

After a big fight, it’s normal to seek some space from your partner — especially if it is a more heated exchange. 

However, like everything else in a relationship, it’s all about balance. While it can be healthy for couples to take some space, there should still be boundaries in place to ensure the best outcome for both partners. 

For example, if you want to take extended time from your partner and have no desire to reconnect after an argument — this could indicate greater issues in your relationship. 

“Taking space to think clearly and prioritize your own inner work can be a healthy choice in a relationship. However, it's important to be honest with yourself about your intentions, says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“If you're simply trying to run away from your partner and avoid any further interaction, taking a few days of space won't magically fix the relationship. It's crucial to have open and upfront communication with yourself and your partner to truly address any issues and work towards a healthier relationship.”

What is the 3-day rule after a fight?

If you follow the three-day rule, you believe in taking some time apart after a heated argument in order to cool down and heal.

This prevents couples from saying something in the heat of the moment that they might regret later on. This focus on self-reflection can make it easier for couples to clearly communicate their perspectives, with the space preventing it from erupting into another argument without resolution. 

In order for this concept to work, both partners must agree on the no-contact rule — giving them time to formulate their own point of view, without simply agreeing to disagree to calm things down. 

Unlike the silent treatment, this time apart should be spent focusing on self-care activities and reflection rather than a choice based on negativity and toxicity. 

Ideally, when the couple comes back together after the 3-day break, they have processed their own feelings and are more willing to see their partner’s perspective. Then with the help of active listening and patience, the space will have enabled both partners to come to a healthy resolution and get things back on track. 

Is the 3-day rule a healthy approach? 

While some couples prefer not to go to sleep without resolving an argument, other couples feel the benefits of spending time apart. 

The 3-day rule after an argument is a guideline designed to help couples work through an argument in the healthiest way possible. By giving your partner time and space to breathe, it’s easier to resolve any underlying issues before they have the chance to blow up into something more. 

While some people enjoy this alone time, as it allows them to set clear expectations of what they want from conflict resolution — other couples feel that this silence resembles a relationship break. 

Depending on your attachment style, you may seek immediate attention and resolution rather than space. For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, the time apart could be filled with overthinking and could impact your mental health and well-being. 

“Additionally if either of you navigates symptoms of anxiety, attachment trauma, ADHD, especially with RSD taking a break can come with an added worry, fears of loss, or deeper rejection,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Making the reflective time apart one that causes more relationship distress or a new layer to the disconnection and conflict.” 

Therefore, in order to make this rule work, both partners need to be on board to ensure a healthy resolution. 

How to apply the 3-day rule after an argument in relationships

Mutual agreement: Before an argument ever arises, it’s good to discuss your conflict resolution approach. With this structure in place, after a big fight, it’s easier to know your approach. Both partners need to agree to this rule in order for it to work.
Time apart: The 3-day rule is completely flexible based on your own relationship needs. For example, if you feel that you need more time to get your thoughts in order, this is completely malleable! However, you should set boundaries on this time apart to ensure healthy communication still awaits you at the end of the break.
Self-care: When you’re spending time apart from your loved one, it’s important to take time to focus on yourself. Practice self-care throughout your alone time by resting, taking time off social media, and spending time with your friends outside of your relationship. Self-care goes beyond bubble baths and face masks. It involves sincerely considering what you need to restore and nurture yourself, making it the priority at that moment. The break might be a form of self-care in itself.
Self-reflection: It’s never easy to admit your own failings, but in order to foster a healthy relationship, it’s essential to recognize your mistakes! Take the time for self-reflection and focus on how your actions or words may have affected your significant other.
Identify any underlying issues: Why did you fight in the first place? Ask yourself all of these questions during your time apart, so you can unearth any underlying issues. Dealing with these problems head-on could prevent a breakup down the line.
Practice your response: If you struggle to get your thoughts in order when you see your partner, it could be helpful to write down your thoughts beforehand. Read back on your response beforehand to ensure you’re happy and have gotten everything off your chest.
Plan time for discussion: After the three days have passed, take the time to plan for conflict resolution. Giving space in a relationship after a fight isn’t always easy, so it’s important to choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable expressing your thoughts in a calm and composed manner.
Discuss how to move forward: With effective communication, it’s easier to work towards a makeup. Take into consideration how your partner feels and try and come to a resolution that you’re both happy with.

When should you not use the 3-day rule? 

While the 3-day rule can be effective, there are certain situations where it’s not recommended. 

1. Abusive relationships 

In abusive relationships, no 3-day rule will remedy such a toxic situation. 

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, it’s important to seek professional relationship advice in order to remove yourself from the situation in the safest way possible. 

2. Avoiding conflict 

If you find that you’re constantly utilizing the 3-day rule in order to avoid an argument, it’s a sign that there could be a bigger issue in your relationship. 

While the 3-day rule is helpful to avoid heated exchanges, it’s not a sustainable way forward if you’re constantly arguing with your partner.

3. No mutual agreement 

Three-day rules only work if both parties agree to no contact for an agreed period of time. 

If one partner implements this rule without the consent of the other, it can feel like an enforced silent treatment. This kind of attitude will likely negatively impact any conflict resolution from the outset. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long should you give someone space after an argument?

    Every relationship is different, and in turn, every argument is different! If things have escalated to an unhealthy level, it may be important to take some additional time apart in order to fully understand your own feelings and cool down after the exchange. In other cases, couples may only need a few hours apart in order to gain the perspective they need to get back on track.
  • How should start the conversation after the break is over?

    "To acknowledge the power dynamic in the relationship and establish a healthy boundary, it can be beneficial for the person who calls for a break or asks for space to be the one to initiate it,” says Seeger DeGeare. “This approach immediately builds trust in the relationship, as it shows that both partners are listening to and respecting each other's needs, even if they don't fully agree. Sometimes couples can agree on a specific time and place to reunite, while other times it may not be possible in the moment. Initiating the conversation again is often the best way to open up the dialogue.”
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