Mending Fences – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to say that two people are working out their differences? They are "mending fences" and reconciling their relationship differences. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression "mending fences" means that you're trying to repair problems in your relationship with other people. The other party is usually a family member or friend or someone you value in your life. Mending fences means that you're working out the issues hoping that you can become friends or stay together as a couple.

If you're mending fences, both parties are trying to come to amends over their grievances with each other. They are doing their best to keep things civil, but there is no guarantee that the situation will work out as they expect.

Mending fences means that you have good intentions to repair your relationship's problems. It can refer to issues that are decades old or fresh.

Example Usage

“It looks like the brothers are mending fences in their relationship. It’s good to see them together again. That last fallout they had was horrific.”

“My boyfriend and I were mending fences in our relationship all night. We worked through a lot of stuff, and I think it was for the better.”

“We have plenty of problems in our lives, and it seems like we’re always mending fences in our relationship. Do you think it's worth carrying on at this point?”

“Mending fences is an important part of any relationship. Going to bed angry only drives the wedge deeper between you both.”

“Let’s sit down and start mending fences. We need to get on the same page as each other if we want this relationship to work.”

“Why are we always mending fences? I think we’re just not right for each other. Let’s break up.”


The expression "mending a fence" originates from the proverbial saying, "Good fences make good neighbors." It's listed in the "Oxford Dictionary of Quotations" as a mid-17th century proverb.

Robert Frost popularized the expression in English in 1914 with his poem, "Mending Walls," where it appears as follows.

"He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'"

In 1879, American Senator John Sherman gave a speech in his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, after returning to serve the community.

"I have come home to look after my fences."

The saying went on to develop several variations over the years. It's also responsible for the expression "looking after your interests" when referring to political or financial interests.

Phrases Similar to Mending Fences

  • Bury the hatchet.
  • Put it behind us.
  • Water under the bridge.
  • Move on with our lives.

Phrases Opposite to Mending Fences

  • Locked in a feud.
  • An elephant never forgets.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Mending a fence.
  • Mend a fence.
  • Mending fences.

Ways People May Say Mending Fences Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with repairing or maintaining fences. In this idiom, the fence is the relationship between parties, and the mending is the action of apologizing and forgiveness. The parties could be mad at each other for a range of reasons, but a broken fence usually isn’t one of them.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Mending Fences

You can use “mending a fence” when you’re trying to describe how you’re apologizing to someone in the hope that you can repair your relationship. Usually, people will mend a fence after they have a small altercation where they feel sheepish for their actions towards others.

The person could mend fences right after the altercation or come back decades later to mend the fence. The phrase suits social and professional use.

Use it at the office to describe how a manager and the boss mend fences after falling out. Use it at home to describe two brothers forgiving each other after not seeing each other for years.

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