When you hurt your partner you must relieve that distress as soon as possible. Distress is defined as hurt, pain, sadness, frustration, shame and even anger. Your cue to apologize, or repair, is not whether you did something wrong but that your partner has been hurt by something you did or said. Saying you are sorry is uncomfortable. It is hard to admit shortcomings and acknowledge mistakes. But when you hurt your partner, taking responsibility is the key to restoring trust in the relationship.
When your partner is hurt and they ARE able to tell you how they feel in a non-threatening way.
“It hurts when you talk to me that way.”
“That didn’t feel very good”
Even better, “I know you didn’t mean it but….”
You feel shame that your partner is in distress and it is difficult to repair. You don’t know how to take responsibility without being overcome with self-blame.
Your focus turns to how you can never be good enough for your partner. You must develop some shame resilience so you can relieve the pain of your partner. There is no shame in feeling shame but if you stay there you won't be able to repair. Explore where it comes from.
When your partner is hurt and they ARE NOT able to tell you how they feel. They either withdraw or attack.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to __________”
“What is wrong with you? You are so ___________!
“I just need to get away from you. I’m leaving!”
The Path to Relief
If your partner is reactive, you don’t take their reaction personally and understand that it is due to hurt that you caused.
If your partner is not reactive and can tell you how they feel, you hear your partner’s pain, you see your role in it and are remorseful. You don’t want your partner to feel that way with you.
As soon as distress emerges, you apologize. An apology is a positive way to show your love. When you look through your partner’s eyes it makes sense to you why they would feel hurt by what you did. An apology is meant to repair damage done to a trusting relationship by acknowledging pain caused, accepting responsibility, and expressing sincere regret at having done something hurtful to a person you care about. You don’t assess whether you did anything wrong; you relieve the pain.
HOW TO REPAIR
HOW NOT TO REPAIR