I ALREADY SAID “SORRY”.

Antarctic penguins on ice - digital artwork

You can make your relationship better by apologizing the right way.  An 18-year-old blogger already gets it and laments that her Boyfriend doesn’t.

The distress inspiring that young woman’s post mirrors what I find doing therapy with older-than-18 couples — neither knows what the other wants, needs, or is saying.  The resulting misunderstanding, frustration, and hurt are the main reasons arguments — fights — happen.

1.  First of all, demonstrate good will.  Starting to apologize means not being defensive, not arguing back or denying your partner’s reality, not attacking, not disappearing.

2.  It’s not (always) about what happened.  Personal experience shows me that my reactions have less to do with what actually happens than with what gets triggered in me when that something happens.  When David drives fast and tailgates it triggers a long-ago feeling of disregard for my (emotional) safety.  True apology happens by understanding the “back story”.

3.  Refocus attention away from yourself.  After all, apology is about your partner’s hurt, not yours.  “You’re not the only one who’s hurting” or “You think that’s bad . . .” or “What about me?” may have merit later, but in the moment are fighting words, not caring ones.

4.  Be sincere.  There’s nothing worse than making amends as a way of pacifying your partner, or when you really don’t believe you should have to.  The upshot is that you’ll continue to behave in a way that makes your partner crazy, proving your initial apology was insincere. Before long, no amends you make are believed.

5. Put action to an apology only when you understand what’s meaningful to your partner. Don’t know?  Both of you can benefit from Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.   For example, a woman might disdain getting flowers as an apology because she sees it as impersonal, and thus meaningless.  Meantime, her partner moans that she doesn’t get that it took effort, time, and money to get those flowers.

Your partner isn’t you; apologizing your way is likely to fuel more hurt; we’ve all been stuck in that vicious cycle.  Apologizing by putting yourself aside for the moment benefits your partner, thus the relationship.  Knowing what that looks like shows good will, kindness, thoughtfulness, and love.  Funny, you’ll find your partner doing the same for you.

Find Kathe Skinner in Colorado Springs where she specializes working with couples.  With husband David, Kathe also teaches a Secular Couple Communication Workshop.  Find out more! 

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

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