Recently, I realized that I cannot remember my parents apologizing to each other. I know they did hurtful things to one another, as all married couples do. I know they had arguments, but sadly I don’t have a mental picture of them looking into each other’s eyes and saying the words, “I know what I did was wrong, I understand your hurt, and I am sorry that I hurt you.” My parents were good parents and people, but a real apology is a learned skill that they didn’t have, nor did I.
I’m learning not only what an apology looks like but also why it’s so important. For most of my life, I thought being right and winning was better than the shame of admitting that I was wrong. Through Global Glue and other sources, I am learning that admitting when I am wrong, knowing how to apologize, and quick repair are keys to happiness and success in long-term relationship.
The promise to apologize and repair should be in marriage vows. Most brides and grooms vow to love and respect and support one another, but often ignore the fact that human beings are flawed and will therefore inevitably break those vows of perfect love. Years ago, friends vowed to each other on their wedding day to eventually hurt each other, they understood this as a simple fact of marriage.
UNFORTUNATELY, WE HURT THOSE WE LOVE THE MOST.
The key is to repair the mistakes and stay connected…here’s how:
- Understand that there is profound magic and healing in a heartfelt apology and there is no shame in making a mistake. Human beings are flawed, period. When the other person fully owns their hurtful behavior, almost anything can be forgiven.
- Quick repair is key. If something isn’t repaired right away, it gets lodged into long-term memory and is harder to deal with later on.
- What’s important is the hurt, not whether or not we agree with our partner’s hurt. We don’t get to say, “Oh you shouldn’t feel that way” or pretend it didn’t happen and justify our behavior and explain why we had a right to hurt them, we simply take responsibility and say, “I am so sorry I hurt your feelings.”
- Sometimes one heartfelt apology doesn’t do the trick, and we must be available for repair until the other person feels safe again. In the extreme example of the devastation of an affair, we don’t get to say, “I already apologized for that, get over it.” We make ourselves available to our partner 24/7 and when they need our reassurance, presence, or for us to simply listen and understand the hurt more, we are there.
- Make a habit of keeping things “clean.” Don’t let things fester. If you are experiencing a hurt, don’t give your partner the silent treatment and make them wonder why there’s an elephant in the room, own your feelings. If you are on the receiving end of hearing your partner’s hurt feelings, go back to step one above, suck up your pride, apologize, and mean it. Take your partner’s hand, look them in the eye, and tell them, “What I did or said was wrong, I am so sorry I hurt you.”
If the above hasn’t yet convinced you of the importance of quick repair, consider the fact that sex therapist Esther Perel considers this to be one of the keys to a better sex life. When you keep your partnership clean with open lines of communication, that openness can extend to the bedroom and create more desire and connection.