All relationships have better times than others, and all humans make mistakes. The strength of a relationship is not in the absence of conflict, nor the absence of mistakes, but rather in how quickly the couple is able to get back on track. This takes communication, trust, an emotional bank account that is more full than empty, an apology and of course forgiveness. A sincere apology in which the partner who caused the harm is being humble, taking responsibility, and also figuring out how to do things better next time around is one step closer to getting back on track. Ultimately the hurt partner has to determine when they are ready to forgive, and what, if any conditions may need to be met in order to make that happen.
A good formula to remember is the 4 step apology:
1) Admit what you did wrong, “I broke your confidence.”
2) Understand how your actions impacted your partner, “I get that it made you upset and you probably wonder if I was trustworthy. I also know this made things awkward for you at work and that was stressful for you this week.”
3) Explain why this happened, but do not excuse it. Be aware of some of the contributors so that you can work on it. “I was careless and should have thought more about who was around when I said that about your work situation. I should have vented more privately and not let my emotions get the best of me. I learned a lesson and wish I could take it back.”
4) Make it right. The person who did the wrong doing is responsible for finding an acceptable solution. The reality is, you can not always fix something that you broke, but you need to make your best attempt. “Honey, I have a few ideas on what I can do to make it up to you and your coworkers that I want to run by you. Maybe you can help me select the right one.”
Micah Brady, LICSW, LCSW-C, CTC, eRYT