How to Apologize Sincerely When You Hurt Your Partner and “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough

Michelle Joy at YourTango gives her expert opinion on relationships.

Everyone makes mistakes. Here's how to fix them.

You messed up and made a huge mistake. You really blew it, and now your partner is giving you heck about it, seething with disappointment, hurt, and pain. Now you need to apologize so it doesn't continually affect your relationship — but sometimes, knowing how to apologize in a way that your partner knows you mean it is the tough part.

Guilt washes over you as your conscience reminds you that you didn't keep your word or your end of a commitment.

Or quite adversely — a more flippant, "What's the big deal anyway? Get over it!" attitude.

If you sometimes feel like it's easier to put your head in the sand and go passive, defend yourself, or dismiss or deny your partner's perspective when you screw up, you are not alone.

What more does your partner want from you anyway? You said you were sorry and that should be enough and now we can move on, right? Nope.

Your partner wants you to really understand how your blunder affected them. If you understand, and can even offer some empathetic words, it opens up the possibility for them to feel soothed, calmer, and more connected to you.

It can also help your partner let go of the pain that your blunder caused them. Recognizing where your partner is coming from means asking them questions in a non-defensive manner so that you can better understand the situation. Only then can a true apology be born.

But of course, if it were that easy, resentments wouldn't exist, and all of those books on forgiveness wouldn't be flying off the shelves.

There are a few myths that get in the way of true apologies:

  • If I disagree with my partner's feelings, I'm entitled to defend myself. If your partner is hurt by something you did, they are right. It's how they experienced something, it already happened and you can't go back in time. Resist getting caught up in changing how they felt by saying things like, "Oh come on, it wasn't that bad," or, "Why are you making such a big deal out of this?" It may be legitimate that it wasn't your intention to cause that feeling in them, but you can't change how they felt.
  • If I apologize to my partner, that means I agree with what they are accusing me of. Apologizing is not about accepting blame for something. It's about acknowledging and responding to your partner's emotional pain, regardless of how guilty or innocent you deem yourself in the situation.
  • If I acknowledge my partner's pain, I am being a doormat. Quite adversely, it takes a lot of strength to stay steady, really listen to your partner, ask them curious questions, and put yourself in their shoes.
  • If I apologize, my side of the story will not be heard and I will forever be misunderstood. When your partner has been heard and is in a space to listen, you can share what was going on for you at the time. However there is a big difference between explaining yourself to justify the situation, make an excuse or give yourself a "get out of jail free" card – verses explaining your thought process and exploring where any misunderstanding may have occurred.
  • If I say I'm sorry, I did my part. If it's a relationship you care about, it will benefit you to take a few more steps. Usually your partner will feel apologized to when you understand the content of the blunder, the unpleasant feelings that it caused, and a collaborative plan to prevent it from happening again.

If you screw up with your partner, it takes both of you to help repair the situation.

Here are 5 important tips for how to apologize and heal the hurt in your relationship:

1. Stay with the discomfort from your partner's disappointment.

Pretend you are like a journalist gathering data. Ask questions so that you can understand your partner, like:

"How did you feel while it was happening?"

"How did you interpret my actions/behavior while it was happening?"

"What do you wish I had done differently?"

2. Reflect back what you hear your partner say.

Just as a journalist gathers data and reports Read More – Source