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Summary: The Argument Hangover: Empowering Couples to Fight Smarter and Overcome Communication Pitfalls by Aaron Freeman and Jocelyn Freeman

The Argument Hangover (2021) is your guide to constructively fighting with a romantic partner so that you both learn from the conflict and emerge from it even stronger. Through clear communication, you’ll be surprised to find how disagreements can suddenly become opportunities for growth.

Introduction: Learn how conflict with a partner can strengthen your bond.

You’ve probably experienced it before – that horrible period of unease that seems to always follow a fight. Sometimes it almost feels worse than the actual fight itself, because it can stretch on for days at a time. You’re sad, your partner is sad, and you’re not quite sure how to get out of it. That right there is an “argument hangover.”

Every couple fights. And, understandably, most people think of conflict as a bad thing. But the truth is, conflict with your partner isn’t necessarily negative.

Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman realized long ago that they could learn from their conflicts, and emerge stronger and closer than ever. In this summary to The Argument Hangover, you’ll discover their secret.

We can’t promise that you’ll come out of this looking forward to your next fight with your partner – that would be kind of strange. But with luck, we’ll help you turn that fight into a force for good, preventing argument hangovers long into the future.

Book Summary: The Argument Hangover - Empowering Couples to Fight Smarter and Overcome Communication Pitfalls

After a fight, your argument hangover lingers until you and your partner reconnect emotionally.

Imagine you get home one evening and sit down on the couch with your partner. Immediately, they say, “Hey. I went through our credit card bills today. I was shocked at how much you’ve been spending!”

You bristle. “What?!” you reply. Maybe you’ve had to spend more recently for a reason your partner knows about – a faulty car, a few extra medical bills. Maybe you got a bonus recently and have had more money to spend. Maybe you’ve been telling your partner all this and feel they haven’t been listening. Maybe you simply don’t agree that you’ve been spending more.

“And besides,” you think (and end up actually saying) – “I earn more than you anyway, so I can spend it however I want.”

“Oh, that’s great,” your partner says. “Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, from your parents!”

Sound familiar? But here’s a question: How does it feel afterward, when the dust has settled? Do you apologize? When? And does your partner believe you when you do? How long is it before things are really back to normal?

That period – between a fight and its real, emotional resolution – is the argument hangover. And just like a hangover from alcohol or food, it feels terrible.

But unlike that sort of hangover, which is objectively bad, an argument hangover is an opportunity to strengthen your bond – and so is the original argument that caused it.

You’ll still want your argument hangover to be nice and short, though. In fact, you might be thinking it’d be better not to argue at all. Shouldn’t this summary really be about how to avoid conflict altogether?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “pick your battles” – it’s routinely offered to newlyweds as a way to keep relationships harmonious. But it’s actually a pretty terrible way to build a partnership. It basically means you don’t communicate to your partner when something annoys or angers you, causing resentment to build up over time.

That’s not healthy! And it means that problems never get resolved. Can you imagine walking on eggshells around your partner for the rest of your life? Is it really a good idea to spend literal decades avoiding the topic of how to stack the dishwasher because you’re afraid of conflict?

Conflict is a good and healthy thing, and the argument hangovers that follow can be brief and constructive, too – if they’re handled right.

If you’re able to work through an argument hangover quickly, conflict can actually be a good thing.

What is conflict, anyway? Because there are two sides to it, a lot of people can get kind of competitive in a fight – they think it’s something you either win or lose. That’s why you might try to have the last word or score that killer point that shuts your partner up.

But there’s a much more basic definition of conflict, which is better for both of you. Conflict is simply when you and your partner have different opinions. You think you can do one thing with your finances, for instance, and your partner thinks something else.

That’s not so bad, is it? You don’t actually expect to have exactly the same views as your partner on every single topic in the world, do you? That would be … weird. And kind of boring.

Conflicts tend to start off dealing with one of several areas – finances, for example, or issues with other family members, careers, your social life, your sex life, and so on. It’s often really useful to identify which of these categories you’re disagreeing about. Doing so can help make sure that a fight doesn’t escalate into something bigger and broader.

So here’s an alternative version for how that fight about the credit card bills might have gone.

“Hey,” your partner says. “I went through our credit card bills today. I was shocked at how much you’ve been spending!”

“Oh,” you reply. “It sounds like you’re upset about our finances.”

Your partner says yes.

“OK then,” you go on. “Let’s talk about why that’s important for the two of us.”

This gives your partner the chance to explain why they found the topic such a big deal that it could have started a fight.

After they’ve explained, you ask, “What should we do as an alternative?”

And then, all of a sudden, you’re talking constructively about how to take things forward rather than taking swipes at the in-laws.

If that sounds too good to be true, prepare yourself, because you’re about to learn how to make every fight you have just as constructive. On top of that, you’re going to see how to make every argument hangover as brief and pleasant as it can possibly be.

Before you fight, learn what triggers you – and come up with a game plan.

Conflict is all about the heat of the moment. So if you want to fight better, you need to make sure you’ve put in the work beforehand. This section is all about how you and your partner should prepare yourselves well in advance of fighting, so that you’re ready for an argument whenever one flares up.

Let’s begin with a question that might sound strange at first: What comes out when you squeeze an orange?

Ummm, orange juice, right? The stuff that’s … inside the orange.

Yep. Easy question? You bet.

So why ask? Because it’s the same with people when they’re put under the pressure of a conflict. The stuff that they find themselves saying and feeling under pressure is exactly the same stuff that’s been inside them all along.

Just like an orange, you probably don’t contain that many bizarre surprises. If you sit back and think, you can work out exactly what issues tend to come pouring out of you when you’re emotionally squeezed.

Maybe, for instance, you tend to snap at your partner when you see them message someone else on their phone. You might noisily ask who they’re talking to, or what they’re talking about. Maybe you also check up on their behavior when you spend time apart. In other words, maybe you feel jealousy.

You might feel like that because of particular, painful memories from your past – maybe, for instance, a teenage sweetheart cheated on you. Those wounds run surprisingly deep! This really is an emotion that people end up carrying with them all through their lives, only revealing it when they’re put through the emotional juicing machine of a fight with a loved one.

What’s the solution, you ask? Simply acknowledging this about yourself. Jocelyn Freeman used to be just like that all the time – angry and resentful whenever her husband Aaron so much as looked at another woman.

But she took a step back and considered the pattern she was falling into – and she identified the cause. She remembered her first boyfriend cheating on her, as well as other instances of cheating in her close family. Suddenly, everything made sense. She realized that the jealousy she was feeling toward Aaron wasn’t about anything he was doing after all.

So what you need to do is this. First, identify your triggers. What sets you off? It might be when your partner talks to other people, or it might be when they spend more than you expect – or even when they forget to do the dishes. Consider why it matters to you in particular; find the root cause. This is almost never the same as the superficial thing you’re fighting about. People don’t genuinely fall out over dirty dishes – it’s what the dirty dishes, or whatever else, represent.

And then think about what you do when a fight like this happens – what behavior gets triggered in you? Do you snap, or do you shut yourself off? Do you make passive-aggressive comments, or do you insult your partner’s family?

The key step toward coping with conflict better is understanding what it brings out in you. As we’ll see in the next section, that’s because it’s all too easy to be caught off guard in the heat of a fight.

During a fight, speak clearly and show understanding.

So how should you act during a fight? Just because you now understand what triggers you doesn’t mean you’ll manage to avoid conflict altogether – that’s unrealistic. The next thing you need to do is work out how to cope when you and your partner do end up on the verge of conflict.

Here’s a real example from Jocelyn and Aaron. They were entertaining a friend one evening, who asked the inevitable question: “When are you going to have kids?”

Aaron wasted no time in responding that he didn’t want kids, and the conversation moved on.

But Jocelyn was blindsided. She held it together during the evening but felt furious with Aaron for days after – she would quickly get angry with him and avoided him as much as she could. Aaron, meanwhile, had no idea what she was thinking or why she was acting like that.

Eventually, she told him the truth: he’d hurt her feelings. When he’d said he didn’t want kids – although she knew that about him – it had made her feel like he’d leave her if she ever became pregnant.

How would you respond in a situation like that? It would be easy to get defensive – to say she was misinterpreting you – or to get angry and snap that she was being ridiculous. You could just say you didn’t see what the problem was, because you’d talked about kids before and knew where each other stood.

But what Aaron did was display understanding. He said that he could see why she felt hurt – and asked her to go into more detail.

Everyone is emotionally complex – and everyone is full of their own particular flavor of emotional orange juice. Most of the time, all your partner really wants is to feel heard and understood. Regardless of how you feel about how you’ve acted, consider how it’s made them feel.

In a nutshell, if you’re heading for a possible conflict, listen. Properly hearing why your partner is upset will avoid an escalation. It also offers both of you the opportunity to learn more about each other and grow as a couple.

Then, once you’ve talked about your partner’s feelings, you can share your own. Be as clear as possible about what’s upsetting you. It’s vital that your conversation is a two-way street – that you both feel listened to.

After a fight, aim for a short and constructive argument hangover by working through the five Rs.

OK, so now we come to it. You’ve been trying your best to follow all this advice, but it’s happened – you’ve had a fight. And now you’re feeling the aftereffects, as if you were knocking back shots all last night. In other words, you’re feeling one heck of an argument hangover.

So you say one simple word: “Sorry.”

Job done?

Well, it’s possible – but pretty unlikely. If that’s all you’ve done to make up, you’ll probably find that the two of you are still somewhat avoiding each other. Or you keep making passive-aggressive comments. Or you find yourself keeping a little mental log of everything they’re doing wrong. You might even end up having the same fight, over and over again.

The argument hangover, in other words, might keep raging on.

Just because you’ve said “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean you’ve understood or changed. So what do you do? Well, here are five steps. And they all begin with R.

First, reflect. Think about why you fought, what the real cause was, and how you reacted when you were triggered. What do you actually want to change?

Second is responsibility. This is arguably the hardest one of all. We all tend to assume that we’re right and our partner is wrong, so it’s especially tricky to be brave enough to take responsibility yourself. It doesn’t actually matter which of you started the conflict. If it escalated, you were both at fault – and the best thing to do is accept that and properly apologize for your role in it.

Third? Remind. Talk to your partner about what your shared goals are. Gently remind each other that you’re a team that should be working together.

Fourth is to reconnect. You might still not feel like you want to be close to your partner, but try pushing through that. Break that barrier with a gentle touch or a hug to release some hormones and recall how much you love each other. You could even try being physically intimate – it’s a great way to reunite.

Fifth, and finally, reconcile. That means bringing up the reason for the fight once again, and coming up with a win-win solution that lets you work together.

Easier said than done? Not really. Say you’ve been fighting about getting a babysitter for your child. Draw up a list of possible solutions. Let that list range from the sensible (ask friends for referrals, or hire your neighbor’s kid) to the ridiculous (send your kid to boarding school, emigrate to the South Pacific). Somewhere among all those options, you’ll find one that you can agree on – that works for both of you.

Ultimately, love is hard work! It’s make-believe to think that a happy relationship means being in a constant state of bliss. It requires both of you to work hard and improve the strength of the bond you share.

So, simply put, what’s the best way to the briefest and most constructive argument hangover? Talk to each other. Listen. And remember why you love each other.


The argument hangover is the period between a fight and your emotional reconciliation as a couple. But it doesn’t always have to be negative. By acknowledging that conflict is simply a difference of opinion – and by listening to what your partner is going through – you can use both the fight and the hangover that follows as a way to strengthen your bond.

So here’s a piece of actionable advice you can try out right after this summary: give your partner your full attention.

How do you properly show your partner you’re paying attention? Here’s one way, and it only takes a minute. Get up off the couch, and position yourself directly facing your partner. Don’t talk or make any weird expressions. Just look directly into your partner’s eyes – for one minute. It’s a wonderful way to see your partner anew and remember what it is you love about each other.



“The Argument Hangover: Empowering Couples to Fight Smarter and Overcome Communication Pitfalls” is a insightful and informative book that offers a unique approach to understanding and resolving conflicts in relationships. Written by Aaron Freeman and Jocelyn Freeman, the book provides practical strategies and techniques for couples to improve their communication and overcome common pitfalls that can lead to relationship gridlock. In this review, we will delve into the key concepts, strengths, and weaknesses of the book, as well as its overall impact on the reader.

Key Concepts and Strategies

  • The Argument Hangover: The authors introduce the concept of “The Argument Hangover,” which refers to the emotional and psychological residue that remains after a heated argument. They argue that this hangover can be a significant obstacle to resolving conflicts and improving communication in relationships.
  • The Four Pillars of Communication: The Freemans identify four key pillars of communication that are essential for effective communication in relationships: Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, Nonviolent Communication, and Active Listening. They provide practical strategies for improving each of these pillars.
  • The Cycle of Conflict: The authors depict a common cycle of conflict that can occur in relationships, where one or both partners may engage in defensive behaviors, such as stonewalling or blaming, which can escalate the conflict and create a hangover. They offer strategies for recognizing and breaking this cycle.
  • The Power of Empathy: The Freemans emphasize the importance of empathy in conflict resolution and communication. They provide tips for practicing empathy, such as active listening, reflective listening, and validating one’s partner’s emotions.
  • Dealing with Emotional Triggers: The authors recognize that emotional triggers can play a significant role in conflicts, and they offer strategies for identifying and managing these triggers.


  • Practical Strategies: The book provides a wealth of practical strategies and techniques for improving communication and resolving conflicts in relationships.
  • Interactive Exercises: The Freemans include interactive exercises throughout the book, which can help couples apply the concepts and strategies to their own relationships.
  • Accessible Language: The authors use an approachable and non-academic tone, making the book accessible to a wide range of readers.
  • Real-Life Examples: The Freemans provide real-life examples and case studies to illustrate the concepts and strategies, making the book more relatable and engaging.


  • Lack of Depth in Some Areas: While the book covers a range of important topics, some areas may be underdeveloped or glossed over, which could be frustrating for readers who are looking for more in-depth insights.
  • Focus on Conflict Resolution: While the book is primarily focused on conflict resolution, it may not address other aspects of communication in relationships, such as building intimacy and connection.

Impact on the Reader

The book has the potential to be transformative for couples who are looking to improve their communication and conflict resolution skills. By providing practical strategies and techniques, the book can help couples break the cycle of conflict and improve their overall relationship dynamic. The book can also be a valuable resource for individuals who are interested in improving their communication skills in any context, as the strategies and techniques are applicable to a range of relationships and interactions.


“The Argument Hangover: Empowering Couples to Fight Smarter and Overcome Communication Pitfalls” is a valuable resource for couples looking to improve their communication and conflict resolution skills. The book provides practical strategies and techniques, as well as a unique framework for understanding and resolving conflicts. While some areas may be underdeveloped, the book has the potential to be transformative for couples who are willing to put in the effort to apply the concepts and strategies. Overall, we highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their communication and relationship dynamics.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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