Your stomach turns. In the heat of the moment, say something hurtful to your partner that you deeply regret about him now. You know you need to apologize, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it.
If you think I’m sorry to give you a break, you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to apologize, especially since we feel embarrassed about the way we hurt our loved one, says Tracy Ross, a New York City-based couple’s therapist.
People often find it hard to say I’m sorry because they’re confused that they did something wrong by having something wrong with them, Ross said. They don’t want to deal with this feeling – even if it’s distorted – so they postpone apologizing. But it is possible, of course, that you did or said something hurtful while you were still a good person. We all say and do things we regret.
Good news? Apologizing is a skill that you can develop. Continue reading the six steps to say sorry to your partner.
Step 1: Be honest.
There is nothing worse than hearing that I am sorry and knowing someone else does not mean that – they just want to get over any misunderstanding that has arisen in the relationship. But a true apology is one that is sincere and well thought out.
“You want to apologize for being serious and not just for the idea of dropping off or keeping the conversation going,” Ross said. “A sincere apology is reassuring and helps you to stop going forward, but a simple apology only fills you up for a while.”
Step 2: Take immediate action.
Once you realize that you have made a mistake and need to apologize, it is important that you take immediate action, says Gabrielle Usatynski, a licensed counselor based in Boulder, Colorado.
“Immediate correction is a sign of a successful long-term close relationship,” Usatynski said. “The longer you wait to clean up the mess you have made with your partner, the more you threaten the well-being of your relationship.”
Step 3: Look at your words.
Choice of words is especially important when apologizing. Using the wrong words can make the whole situation seem like an understatement, ”says Caitlin Garstkiewicz, a Chicago therapist.
Garstkiewicz says it is important to use “I” statements compared to “you”. For example, instead of saying, “You look mad at me,” select, “I hear you say that you feel bad.”
“When we use ‘I,’ we make a statement of ownership,” said Garstkiewicz. “When we use ‘you,’ it can be seen as a shift in responsibilities and you feel very indifferent to our partners.”
Garstkiewicz also recommends avoiding the words “if” and “but,” as they too may face rejection. For example, “I’m sorry if I made you feel that way…” or “I’m sorry, but you…” doesn’t sound as real as saying, “I’m sorry I did that and made you feel that way.” ”
When choosing your words, be as specific as possible. Ross recommends the following phrases to get you started:
I can see that I hurt you …
I didn’t understand you again…
I wish I could …
In the future, I will try to…
Step 4: Consider your delivery.
Words are important, but also body language, tone, volume and eye contact.
“Smiles, good speech and a low voice are all important signs that show your partner that you are not threatening and that you are truly sorry for what you have done,” Usatynski said. “Words are important, but the world’s best names will not be meaningful if they are presented with angry, derogatory or dishonest speech.”
Satynski says the importance of these signs reinforces the fact that an apology should always be made in person – not by text, email or telephone. “Ninety-seven percent of our communication is not verbal,” he said. “Your partner needs to be able to see your face, the way you speak and your body language so he or she knows you are sincere.”
Step 5: Look for clues that you have been forgiven.
If you apologize well, you will know, Usatynski says. You will notice a noticeable change in your facial expressions and body language that indicate that they are beginning to relax. They may gasp, smile a little, take a deep breath or seem to shrug their shoulders.
Step 6: Be patient.
If you do not see any of the above ways to apologize, there is a good chance your partner is not ready to forgive you right away. And that’s okay.
If your partner is not ready to forgive, you need to find out why you are asking open-ended questions. “Focus on the emotions and the emotional experience, not the content of what happened or who said what,” Ross said.
Remember that just because your partner is not ready to forgive immediately does not mean that they are angry. “Forgiveness can’t always be quick,” Ross said. “It has to happen after a certain routine that you both do as a couple, and the timeline can be different.”
Even if you feel angry or frustrated by the fact that your partner is not ready to forgive you, it is important not to act on these desires, says Garstkiewicz. Do not challenge your partner if they are not ready to forgive, as this can cause further damage instead of putting you on the right track.
He says: “Think of a forgiving attitude like that of the offender. “The wave can feel uncomfortable, bumpy and turbulent, and at the same time we may feel overwhelmed, impatient and hopeful. Instead of fighting the tide of unforgiveness and unpleasant feelings that we may have created, we can choose to live with them and understand that the present feelings of insecurity will not last forever. ”
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