Prepare Your Patience
Apologies can fail for many reasons. I often see people who are confused that their partner is still upset about something that’s been talked about so many times before. If the apology wasn’t finished, or done correctly, it makes sense that your partner may still be upset.
(1) If you’re truly ready to give your partner a heartfelt apology, you have to be prepared to hear things you’ve already heard before. What you thought was done, might still be festering for your partner.
It’s like a wet rag…if we don’t air it out, it will keep growing yucky stuff.
(2) Be prepared to hear your partner out, and hear them out until the end. Often, times we hear only part of what our partner has to say and then we’re ready to move on. Be patient and let your partner express themselves until they’re finished.
(3) Be prepared to make this time ALL ABOUT YOUR PARTNER. This means you might have to wait until another time to express your own feelings or your own side of the story.
Listen To Your Partner’s Perspective
You have to listen to what your partner is angry about. It’s tempting to just jump in and start explaining yourself. After all, maybe your partner truly misunderstood. Maybe, if you could just explain what REALLY happened, or what you really meant, they wouldn’t be upset anymore.
You’ll need to listen to your partner’s perspective even if you don’t believe that you’re at fault. Once your partner is upset, it no longer matters what you meant. You must hear them out without defending yourself or justifying your actions. The most important thing is that your partner feels heard and understood, so explaining yourself isn’t necessary.
To show that you understand how they feel without taking any blame on yourself, I LOVE the phrase, “I can see why it bothers you.”
To get forgiveness, you must witness the pain
When it comes to saying you’re sorry, it’s important that you actually see what you did and feel some level of pain or remorse in regards to your partner. Without that first step of empathy, an apology is empty and has no meaning.
So, take a moment and look at how your actions have made your partner feel. Why are they so upset? Acknowledge their pain and try not to dismiss their emotions as silly or over-the-top. It’s easy to get defensive when someone is angry or upset at us, but really try and keep an open mind about why they may be upset—it could very well be legitimate.
If you can understand where they are coming from, then you’ll be better able to craft an apology that will make them feel better.
Remember who you’re doing this for
Relationships are hard and when you’re trying to apologize, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what you want to say. However, if you can remember that this apology is for your partner, not for you, it will be so much more authentic. You’ll figure out what needs to be said (and what doesn’t), and you won’t feel as though you have so much pressure on yourself to explain things perfectly.
When you’re trying to decide what you should say, try not to think of your apology as a presentation or speech. Think of it more like a conversation with someone who needs something from you…who wants to feel loved by being understood.
Acknowledge Your Part
The most important thing when you apologize is that you’re sincere and truly acknowledge what it is you did wrong. This can be tricky in relationships where apologies aren’t always forth coming. However, if you want your apology to work, then you need to show genuine understanding of what you did that hurt your relationship…even if it’s not what you meant. Your partner will trust your apology if they believe you understand.
Squeeze the Lemon
It might feel obvious, but make sure your partner has a chance to talk about ALL their feelings and thoughts. It’s tempting to try and cut them off or explain why you did what you did before they finish, but listen for long enough that they can say what they need to say.
Don’t ever assume that your partner is done. ASK: What else? What else is hurting you? What else do you want me to understand. THIS IS OFTEN THE HARDEST PART! Maybe you’ve done everything right and you’re ready to move on, but, you’ll want to make sure there’s nothing left. This will give you the best chance of reaching resolution.
One of the biggest complaints I get is, “She keeps bringing up the same thing over and over!” One of the reasons this happens is because your partner didn’t get it all out the first time. This step should not be missed!
Now, and only now, APOLOGIZE. When an apology is given too soon, it might feel dismissive and it cuts your partner off. Even if you truly are sorry and really do understand why your partner is upset, they need to be heard all the way through. They need to believe that you truly understand. When we apologize too quickly, we skip all the above steps that are SO, SO, SO necessary for an apology to work.
Revisit the Pain
What?!? Revisit the pain? Why would couples counselor recommend this? We just finished talking about it…why would we ever want to bring this up again?
When your partner was upset, they may have frozen and forgot all they wanted to say. Once the dust settles, small upsets may start to surface again. Checking back in with your partner (even though it’s the last thing you’ll want to do) prevents these small upsets from growing bigger and hurting your relationship.
When you check-in with your partner about how they’re feeling, you’ll build trust with them which lets them know how much you really do care. If there is something there, they’ll likely be able to get out it fast so it doesn’t turn into a whole other argument.
(1) Don’t Try To Be Cute: Avoid trying to tell a funny story or be witty in any way. That said, there’s nothing wrong with being apologetic. But humor often doesn’t land well in tense situations, so it can come off as putting yourself down, which will probably just aggravate your partner more.
(2) Don’t minimize their feelings by saying things like I was only kidding! Or It was just a joke! You know I love you! These phrases sound insincere and may suggest that you have no idea how much you hurt them. Even if it really was just a joke that got taken out of context, don’t say it.
(3) It’s also a good idea to try to make sure that you’ve apologized before moving forward with any other conversation. This will ensure that your apology isn’t immediately overshadowed by something else, which could cause it to lose its meaning. Instead of letting a conversation continue after an apology has been made, take a moment of silence or allow time for both people involved in the situation to reflect on what was just said so the apology doesn’t seem insincere and dishonest.
If you’ve tried to repair your relationship and it hasn’t worked, don’t give up and don’t let it fester. Marriage counseling can be a helpful way to work through your problems and strengthen your relationship. Our couples counselors are trained to listen, understand, and challenge you both to change behaviors that might be destructive. We want you to feel empowered by identifying a problem, understanding it better, and finding ways to solve it.
Call today for a free consultation.