I often tell couples that an apology costs us nothing, and can bring us the world.
Giving an apology is a gift we offer to our partner, to recognize we have hurt them, and that their pain matters to us, big or small. But how its expressed makes all the difference.
How do we apologize in a way that truly heals our partner?
The first step is to put your own story aside and only see the experience through your partner's eyes. This means taking ownership of your part without equivocation or defensiveness.
Here are some suggestions to help:
Acknowledge you've hurt your partner and share the understanding of how they could've felt hurt from what you said or did.
Ensuring your tone of voice is sincere and heartfelt.
Express your apology with empathy.
There are no buts in an apology.
There are no explanations in an apology.
- When you apologize, you sit with and visit your partner's country - their world, not your world.
Action Plan after the Apology.
It's helpful to talk about the next steps with your partner after you've apologized. For example, if you've had a misunderstanding about something you thought you communicated, you might say, "I really want to work on being a better communicator with you and will commit to practicing." Also, try the following when you share your thoughts:
Ask your partner to forgive you.
Choose your words carefully. They matter a lot in these moments.
Sometimes, even after a sincere apology, your partner might need some space to process. If this happens, this is not a moment to demand a connection with your partner simply because you apologized. An apology needs to be for them. It's NOT a quid pro quo.
What’s an Apology and what’s NOT:
A time to make excuses.
A time to place blame on others.
A time to deny what happened.
A time to dismiss your partner's feelings.
A time to say you're sorry in an insincere way.
What makes it difficult for us to sincerely apologize?
Most times, hurting our partner is genuinely unintentional. We might even be surprised we said or did something that hurt our partner. As with so many things in life, there isn't always a clear right or wrong. There can simply be different ways of seeing and doing things in life.
Most partners are so desperate to maintain innocence in their partner's eyes. So, it may not be uncommon to revert to defending why we said something hurtful.
There are situations where one has grown up with a lot of criticism, and perhaps already struggling with not feeling quite good enough.
Lastly, it might even be the case where we feel slighted and that our partner has unjustly accused us. So, the need to be right and win the battle might take over vs. being vulnerable and deeply connected in our relationship.
Regardless, a big part of becoming a mature partner is an inside job. We have to forgive ourselves if we've acted in a way that isn't loving and nurturing to our partner.
It's an ever-repeating awareness that ...
Our ability to be grounded in our own ok-ness allows us to have healthy shame.
We can feel bad and still know we are loveable.
We are open to HEAR our partner and express an empathic apology.
A sincere and empathic apology is part of the currency in a wonderfully healthy and connected relationship. Remembering that the more we act from a place of wanting to be valuable to our partner, instead of wanting to be right vs. wrong - it will bring us the world.
If you are struggling with apologizing and healing your relationship, we are here to help with Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!
This blog post was written by Evie Shafner, LMFT.