We’ve all been there. You know you’ve said or done the wrong thing by your loved one. Yep, this time it actually is your fault. You know it’s up to you to make the first move to repair the damage so things can get back to normal.
But…saying what you know needs to be said, just feels heavy, awkward…ick.
Maybe some time has passed since your transgression, and it keeps getting harder to do. Perhaps you’re not sure how your loved one will react, since this time you just might have gone too far when you told him how you really feel about his mum…
If you’ve done the damage, it’s important to own it and repair the rupture, so you can move on without any lingering resentment.
So how do you say ‘sorry’ in a way that deeply repairs, and feels good for both of you?
This is the first, but often the hardest step. For some couples this is a really hard place to get to. If you or your partner have been feeling angry and resentful for a long time, you’ll be less likely to regret any hurt you’ve caused, and more likely to miss how your actions or words have hurt the other person. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can be hard to break. If it’s got to this point with your partner, working through it with a relationship therapist will help to break the gridlock so you can start to resolve the issues.
Explain what went wrong
If you’re able to express genuine regret, the next step is to have a conversation with your partner and really listen to how you’ve impacted on them. Work towards understanding one another. Note: this doesn’t mean you have to agree with each other – you just need to understand what the other is saying.
Take responsibility for your part
Recognise that you are responsible for what you say and do, and own your part of the conflict. This reduces the risk of criticism and blame. Even if you feel that your partner is 99% at fault, there’s still that 1% that you have contributed to the conflict, and acknowledging that is crucial.
Commit to change
Once personal responsibility is acknowledged, making a commitment to change your behaviour is paramount (in most cases). If your actions hurt your loved one, it’s important that you find ways to stop the behaviour continuing in the future.
Offer to repair
Often in relationships the emotional connection has been damaged and trust has taken a hit. Both partners can start to feel a little less safe being vulnerable around each other. Offering to repair the damage could be as simple as saying ‘sorry’ and letting them know how you plan to resolve the situation between you. Or it could be as comprehensive as seeking individual or couples counselling with a trained therapist.
Ask for forgiveness
Once all the steps are completed it should be a natural transition into forgiveness, and both people will feel a shift in attitude towards each other.
Although these steps create a perfect apology, they are nothing without sincerity.
A good repair allows for the intimacy and bond between you to remain strong and leaves you feeling emotionally connected.
A poor repair attempt, on the other hand, will ensure one or both of you still harbour the hurt and resentment from the argument, which can often fuel the next one.
Distressed couples can get to the point where they don’t even argue any more, they have completely disconnected emotionally from one another. Don’t let it get to this stage.
It’s not always easy to say ‘sorry’, especially when there’s a lot of built up resentment. It can take several conversations to work through the steps. But if it’s something you both want, and can work on together, then you need to keep going, because getting beyond the hurt and feeling happy again in your relationship, is absolutely worth it.