How To Make A Heartfelt Apology
So you and your loved one have had a tiff, a fight or, the English say, you have 'fallen out'. Such a great description for what in fact has happened - for whatever the reasons, a rupture in the relationship has occurred and you and your partner have disconnected. There has been a break in the relationship and both of you no doubt will have your perspective of 'who was wrong'.
So you have two choices. 1) You can go around the merry-go-round of blame, sitting in an excruciating tense atmosphere waiting for your partner to finally admit how wrong they were. Depending on the situation this may or may not happen. Or 2) you can spend some time thinking about your vision of how you want to be in this relationship and opening up your awareness of how you might have 'slipped' in this recent interaction.
Autonomous Change - the key ingredient to figuring out any problem
Whenever there is a break in a relationship. No matter what the issue, there will usually be a part, even a small part, that was your responsibility. For this you should apologize. Realizing that a disturbance is your responsibility is a giant step towards emotional maturity and truly harnessing the power of autonomous change.
'Why Sorry is the hardest word': Identify your fears about apologizing and get support
It takes courage and integrity to make the first step to solving a relationship issue that you may have contributed to. Our defenses are all about self-preservation and nobody likes to admit where they have been wrong. This is normal. A part of us feels that if we apologize we are admitting guilt. Then the fear is if we admit guilt it will be used against us. Our fear is our partner will then release an onslaught of back ordered blame and shame on us. Yes this might happen, however you do not deserve it and your partner will need to be challenged for this.
Apologizing is not about swinging the pendulum of blame back and forth. You both have a responsibility to challenge yourselves to step off this dysfunctional and damaging cycle. Working to dissolve the unhelpful defenses so you can access your WISE self within, who ultimately is the source of relationship success, takes real personal work. However, the rewards are countless and your relationship will thrive because of it.
How to apologize: A helpful script
Effective apologies are:
Genuine not faked
Open-hearted not defended and full of justification
Express understanding of what you did and the effect it had on your partner
Include feeling of empathy (the ability to jump into your partners skin and vicariously experience what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of what your behaviour was)
Express that empathic understanding in a way so your partner is convinced that you understand how that must have been for them and their hurt as a result.
Try this script:
I______________am sorry for ___________________. I can imagine how that must
have made you feel_______________ and think__________________ and
do______________. Is that correct? Is there anything more I didn't get?
Repeat from the beginning if there is anything you missed.
I want you to know how sorry I am for doing ____________ and making you feel
____________. I want you to know that I am working on ________________ and
you letting me know how you feel helps me achieve my self vision. Is there
anything you need?
Some final words of encouragement:
It is important not to rush his but to take the time to make a thorough repair. It is okay to apologize for he same thing again. As human beings we need time to change dynamics and we often repeat the same behaviours. Be compassionate with yourself. You are human.
Carly Goodfellow, MA, RCC is a Registered Couples Therapist and Co-Director of Vida Relationships in Vancouver, BC.