“Whenever we fight, she brings up all the things I did wrong in the past, and blows it WAY out of proportion! That’s not fair! We already resolved those things!!”
Bill was exasperated as he said this, while his girlfriend Judy was glaring at me with a look that said, “We did NOT resolve those things, or I wouldn’t be bringing them back up.”
Often one partner thinks an old hurt is forgiven, and the other person still feels resentful. Do you know what that feels like?
Right now, think back to a time when someone apologized to you and it was easy to forgive them.
Now, remember a time when someone else’s apology to you fell flat.
What was the difference between those 2 times?
There were certain things the apologizer did when it worked that made the apology easy to accept and wipe the slate clean.
In this article, I’m going show you exactly how to recreate that mind blowing apology that melts all the icy-ness, and draws you closer than you’ve ever been before. (and not to mention, have great makeup sex!)
When you master these skills, you can feel that:
- A weight is lifted off of you.
- You’re no longer walking on eggshells.
- You don’t have to wonder:
- Are they going to bring up that issue?
- Will I press a hot button?
- Will I do something and all of a sudden the seething anger will come out and I don’t know when its coming!”
- Or even worse, it just brews there under the surface and you don’t know anything about it. Until one day, you wake up to them packing their bags.
Instead, now you can feel that you’re coming home again; you can gaze into their eyes and feel understood, validated, and back in-love.
Before we get to the steps, here’s why saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.
I see it a lot where one partner says, “I said I’m sorry, so now it’s your turn to forgive me.”
This doesn’t work because the apology didn’t go deep enough. When one partner is hurt, it’s not just about the surface issue.
Maybe you didn’t do anything “wrong;” maybe it was just a misunderstanding. But they can’t let it go until you restore the emotional connection.
When any kind of trust is betrayed (it doesn’t have to be an affair; it can be any event where one person is hurt and the other isn’t there to support and comfort them, such as the birth or miscarriage of a child, the death of a parent, the sudden loss of a job, or the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness) the hurt partner feels abandoned in a time of need. This erodes trust in the emotional safety of the relationship.
Jeff Simpson of the University of Minnesota and Steven Rholes of Texas A& M University demonstrate in their research that lack of an emotionally supportive response by a loved one at a moment of threat or high stress can destroy the feeling of security in the relationship. This is so powerful because there’s a part of our brain that’s always asking, “Are you there for me when I am most in need? Do you care about my pain?”
Until these feelings are explored and resolved, true emotional connection is gone. You can pretend it didn’t happen, but usually the hurt partner shuts down emotionally and becomes more distant.
For example, Bill had lunch with an ex girlfriend and didn’t tell Judy. When she found out, she was hurt, and Bill said, “I’m sorry, I should have told you.” And he thought Judy was being “controlling,” by holding a grudge, because, “Nothing happened; she should trust me.”
What we found out when we dug deeper was that Judy’s ex left her for another woman, and it was a sensitive wound. She needed Bill to feel her sensitivity, like he was pulling the bandage off of a gaping wound. She didn’t need to make him “wrong;” but she needed to feel that he was moved by how sensitive she was, in order to trust that he cared enough to be more communicative next time.
This is hard because most people can’t fully feel their partner’s pain without feeling punished; “If I feel your pain, then I’m going to feel too guilty.” Because that’s what we’ve learned, most often from our parents.
So that’s why my clients tell me that having a relationship professional be there and facilitate the healing process for both people is so necessary.
So here are the steps to effectively apologize and get “back to love:”
Pick a conflict that you can apply this to and let’s work through it right now.
1) Ask your partner to share their feelings, while you listen with an attitude of compassion, curiosity, and empathy for their pain about this conflict.
In order for your partner to forgive you, you have to step into their shoes, feel their pain, and they have to feel completely understood. (That’s probably how you felt during that great apology, right?)
Even if you feel that what you DID wasn’t “wrong,” if you want to restore emotional connection, you have to get into their world; see it through their eyes.
This means you ask your partner to share their hurt feelings without blaming you. Ask them:
- “Tell me the specific details of what happened; just the facts; the way a fly on the wall would see it. What did you see, hear, and feel?”
- “Share with me the pain that you felt, and what was painful about it? Describe the hurt, sadness, fear, or shame and what that felt like.”
- “How did it affect your sense of safety with me?”
It’s crucial that you take their hurt seriously, because, remember: you may not be hurt by this, but they are; and you need to accept that if you want to resolve this conflict, inspire their love, and re-awaken their passion for you!
2) The hurt partner must be able to look into your eyes and see that their pain hurts and moves you, and that you care deeply for them and their experience.
It’s not until you’re moved by their pain that they can feel connected enough to trust you again.
3) Share how you feel their pain, and how their pain moves you.
Do you feel sad? Regretful? Tender? You can put those feelings into words now.
4) THEN (and not before then) you explain why you did what you did.
You have to be able to explain the behavior in a way that makes sense to the hurt person. Enlighten them to your point of view; your thought process that lead you to take the actions you took. You have to appear predictable in the hurt person’s mind, in order to restore trust again. That’s something that we solve more deeply in 1 on 1 coaching.
5) Ask your partner (in your most sweet and sincere tone), “What did you need from me in that moment that you were hurt, that I didn’t give you?” THEN you either give that to them now, or else you work out a way (that’s authentic for both of you) to give them what they need next time.
For example, Judy just needed Bill to call her when he ran into his ex and decided to have lunch, and reassure her that he loves her and there’s nothing to worry about, and then she would have felt safe. She didn’t actually want to control him; she just wanted him to reassure her in this moment right now, and when he did, she could let it go FOR REAL, and not bring it up again.
I’ve seen this process work again and again, both with clients and in my own relationships, to TRULY forgive past hurts, and feel closer than you did before.
And this process is filled with potential emotional landmines, so it requires a baseline of emotional safety first. So if you or your partner feels resentful, and you fear that they would dismiss you; or it would start an argument if you shared your true feelings, then I invite you to contact me for a strategy session today. I can guide you through the process to restore trust and emotional closeness.
Like a broken bone, relationships can heal stronger in the broken places.
And please share your comments below: what’s your biggest question or take-away?
Please share with those who would benefit 🙂