After a difficult argument, especially if it began because one person felt hurt, the apology is a crucial step in repairing the damage done and restoring health and happiness into a relationship. Here are six important steps to ensure a strong and genuine apology to your partner:
Step 1: Admit
If you have done something (or failed to say or do something) which ultimately hurt your partner, it is important to take this humbling step and admit the wrongdoing.
“You asked me not to yell at you when I’m angry and last night when I was upset I yelled. I understand that was not the right thing to do.”
Step 2: 3 Levels of Understanding
This step sends the message to your partner that you understand how your behavior affected them. You are acknowledging their feelings and accepting responsibility for the action that has hurt them.
You want your partner to feel like you truly understand how your behavior made him/her feel on 3 levels: You want to cognitively understand what you did and how it affected your spouse.
“I know that by yelling at you it makes you feel like I don’t value our relationship or your feelings.
You want to be able to emotionally understand, meaning that you put yourself in their shoes and feel what they must have .
“And especially after you asked me not to yell and I did it anyway, I imagine it makes you feel like I don’t think what you ask for is important. You must have felt hurt and betrayed by my actions yesterday.”
Third, you want to show you understand by expressing yourself in your actions. This can be achieved by re-doing the conversation or action that hurt your partner but in a way that does not hurt them.
Step 2 may have to be repeated several times until your partner feels you understand them. Allow them the opportunity to correct you so that you can learn about how these actions affect them.
Step 3: Apologize
It is only after going through the first 2 steps carefully and without rushing that expressing remorse will be helpful in repairing your relationship. Often, couples rush through steps 1 and 2 and when they say sorry, their partner does not trust the apology. True healing cannot begin until Steps 1 and 2 are carefully adhered to and you feel genuine remorse for the action.
“I’m very sorry for hurting you and making you feel so upset. I feel terrible for putting you through this.”
Step 4: Assurance
While no partner is perfect and you both will continually make mistakes and upset each other, it is important that you convey to your partner your commitment to work even harder to not repeat your hurtful behavior. This will help your partner trust your feelings and sentiments from Steps 1-3 and help them recover from their hurt.
“I will do my best to not yell at you again when I am upset.”
Step 5: On the Mend
You can help repair your relationship by offering amends by doing something to make up for the hurtful behavior.
“Next time I am upset, I will walk away or take a few minutes to cool off to make sure I don’t do this again.” Or “I understand that I tend to yell when I’ve had a frustrating day at work. I will take some time to unwind after I get home from work so I don’t take out work frustrations on you.”
Step 6: Forgiveiness
Ask your partner for forgiveness. If you have conscientiously followed Steps 1-5, your partner will most likely be ready to forgive you in the moment. Depending on the nature of the argument, however, be prepared for your partner to take some time to recover from your hurtful behavior. Sometimes your partner will explicitly tell you they forgive you. Other times they might show their forgiveness by becoming more affectionate or showing you small, nice gestures (such as recording your favorite show).
Fighting is taxing on both partners both physically and mentally. However, recovering from the fight takes the same, if not more, amount of attention and work to ensure that there are no long lasting buildups from these negative interactions.
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