In the last blog on repair, I described the steps you need to take in order to prepare yourself for making a repair in your relationship. Once you’ve completed those, the next stage is to sit down and have these tough conversations with your partner. This is often the most difficult step for couples to take, but it’s crucial to the safety and security of your relationship.
Anyone can say a quick and half hearted “I’m sorry”, but if you want the repair to hit the mark, it’s worth taking the time to do it well. A good repair can go beyond fixing the problem; it can lead to new levels of intimacy and trust between you and your partner.
In this blog, we’ll look at steps you can take to address what went wrong, understand your partner more deeply and set yourself up for a strong and lasting repair.
- Access curiosity about your partner’s experience. This part is not optional, and it’s often the part that is overlooked. Your goal here should be to understand your partner’s perspective well enough that you really get how hard this was for them. You want to be able to paraphrase what you have heard and encourage your partner to let you know what you have missed. Use the following questions as a guide:
– What is their perspective on this?
– What about it was hard?
– How did they interpret the situation?
– How would they have wanted you to handle this situation, and why?
This part can be hard, especially if you tend to avoid any form of discomfort, distress, tension and/or conflict with your partner. So, it is super important that you remain grounded, breath and maintain a curious attitude. Focusing entirely on putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Note: This is NOT the same as agreeing, all you are doing is understanding your partner far better than you did before.
- Show empathy. Now that you have a deeper understanding of their experience, this is the moment to show your compassion i.e. “I now understand when I did (x), it triggered (describe your partner’s internal experience in-depth) for you. I know understand why you reacted that way, given the combination of my action/behaviour and what it meant to you”. Don’t lie if you don’t feel it, don’t pretend to understand when you don’t because your partner will be able to pick up on the genuineness of your words.
- Apologise. Explain to your partner why you are sorry. Key here is to focus on their experience and resist the impulse to explain your perspective, that will come, just not now.
- Explain what you plan to do differently in the future (if anything). This is a really important step because if you make an agreement now that you can’t or won’t follow through on, then all the good work you’ve put into the repair will have been for nothing. The trust, safety and security of your connection with your partner will once again be scrutinised. Hence, this is not the time to appease your partner, but rather a time to be very, very honest about what you think, and what you intend to do, even if it’s not exactly what your partner wants to hear.
- If you’ve expressed a plan to act differently in the future, acknowledge that your partner might have some doubts about your ability to follow through effectively with your plan. It will probably be hard for your partner to believe that your action will change after just one conversation. Show empathy for your partner’s position by acknowledging that they may be wary to trust you, especially if recurring dishonesty have been part of the issue. It takes strength to acknowledge your partner’s doubt, and in doing so, you are showing them that you are paying attention and that you care, and you are not dismissing their concern.
Taking responsibility for your choices and actions is the underlying concept in a good and effective repair. It will also go a long way in strengthening the trust and safety of your relationship.