when "i'm sorry" just isn't good enough: 4 steps to getting forgiveness from your partner

Okay, so you fucked up (Note: I thought about using a symbol- like #, $, *, or %- for the "u," but it just didn't seem natural. And anyways, who doesn't love a blog post that begins with expletives? I know I do.).

Okay, so you fucked up. We all fuck up from time to time. Hell, even I fuck up. I know it's difficult to believe that last statement, but it's actually true.

You did something you said you wouldn't do, you didn't do something you said you would do, or you just flat out hurt your spouse's feelings and now you have to talk about it. Well many times, a simple "I'm sorry" just ain't gonna cut it. And then you're still in trouble. Below are four easy (well, mostly easy) steps that you can take to get out of the doghouse with the one you love.

1. Listen to your partner's concerns and feelings. Listening is one of the most powerful tools in your relationship toolkit. Really. Let your mate talk about anything related to the behavior in question and pay attention to everything your mate is saying. Try to understand where your partner is coming from. Put yourself in his or her shoes and begin to recognize how your actions impacted your partner. Let your partner elaborate as much as he or she wants and acknowledge his or her feelings. You can ask questions if you need clarification. But be careful, make sure that you phrase your questions so that they imply that you actually want to understand your partner, not as if you are trying to discredit your partner's emotions or point of view.

2. Admit your faults. Take responsibility for your actions, even if you think that your partner is wrong, exaggerating, or out-of-line in his or her accusations. The fact of the matter is that even if your intentions were not to purposely hurt your mate, you did. There was some miscommunication between what you meant to do or say and how your mate perceived what you did or said. In fact, miscommunication is one of the leading causes of conflict in relationships. So, if you hurt your partner, recognize that. You can still say that it wasn't your intention to upset him or her, but it's important to take ownership for how your partner is feeling.

3. Offer up a plan. Apologies are rather useless if you don't plan to change your behavior. And many times, the plan is clear- "Okay, I won't call you my little pudgy-wudgy anymore." But other times, the plan is not as clear. This is where the two of you need to work together to come up with a solution to this problem. You could ask your partner, "How can I fix this?" or "I really don't want you to be sad/angry with me anymore. What can I do?" Again, you need to listen to what your mate says and then decide what you are willing and able to do. And if the plan is to "not do _____" ever again or less often, think of a positive, more desirable behavior to put in it's place. Ending bad habits is so much easier when you replace it with a good habit. However you decide to do it, making a clear plan for the future is an excellent way to get through this tough time with your partner.

4. Don't do it again. This seems like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times Hus or I will say that we're sorry about something and then go ahead and do the "offensive act" again; sometimes only days later. It's terrible, actually. If you make a plan to not do something and then you do it again, what kind of message does that send to your mate? I'll tell you. It says that you wee less-then-sincere in your original apology. It says that you don't have enough respect for the future plan your both made together. And it says that you do not value your relationship enough to stop doing whatever it is that hurt your partner in the first place. To put it another way (as if I haven't done that enough already), if you do it again, it makes it very difficult for your partner to forgive you and it may even make it difficult for your partner to stay with you.

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Pants said...

yep, I've found that the best way to say "I'm sorry" is to never do it again, or at least do my darndest not to do it again.

Elizabeth and Mark said...

Great, easy to follow steps!

Cassie said...

Valuable tools Miss Jen! Loving the advice and think some guys would benefit from this information! haha ;) Keep these tips coming!

Maren said...

I find that sometimes it's not the getting forgiveness that's hard - it's the figuring out what I did wrong that's annoying! If you're mad at me could you just tell me why, please? (Doesn't happen often, but sometimes.) Annoying.

I'm a fairly new reader, so you may have already written something along these lines.

Jennie said...

Thanks, ladies!

@Pants- the "never do it again" thing is sooo important in my book!

@Elizabeth- thanks!

@Cassie- Thanks, Cassie! I agree, my husband included ;-)

@Maren- Totally. I hate it when Hus is mad at me and I have no idea why. Maybe I need to brush up on my perception skills ;-)

Marc Wong said...

I think part of it is acknowledging your partner's hurt feelings. I certainly want people to know how upset I am before they start telling me to "calm down", or "don't get so excited." I may even have reservations about an apology if I don't feel my concerns are understood. And I don't think I'd enjoy explaining myself if I'm still upset.
I think sometimes you have to deal with the emotional aspects before you can intellectually work out what went wrong and how to fix it going forward.

Jessica Ayotte said...

Great posts, first off. Happy to have come by it when I did. So 2 things. First the part about sorry not being good enough. Realistickly how many times should one get the chance to say sorry for the same actions? Husband of almost 2Years now has played the disapearing act, going out all night till the wee hours of the morn(6am). And doesn't understand why I'm so mad. (We also have a 9 month old baby) And the same sorry comes out. This has happened atleast 5 times. Alcohol is always a factor in this equation. And never a strait answer on the events of the night. Last time he showed up without his shoes on. And no memory of what happened. So there's part of that.
Second, the article about being a single parent to my husband and shared child. I can't count how many times I have asked, begged, yelled, ignored and finally just did it myself, put your damn dirty clothes in the hamper. I have one in every room. Every, and I do mean every time his clothes come off, the go directly to the floor. And stay there. And yes you were right about one thing, I am sick as fuck of picking up after him. Part of my initative to "divvy" out the chores, he had trash, staggard dish days and his own "weight" ie clothes on the floor, keeping his (shared) hall closet hung and organized.... a month and some change went by. Not a single finger lifted towards anything. Nothing. And if I asked him when he was going to do it, "yeah I'm ganna do it today (today goes) tomorrow, and so on. And its like pulling teeth to get him to do anything. He will hang out with the girl for an couple of hours, when he's not asleep for 12 hours a day. EVERYDAY. I would give him credit about the oversleeping to his job, but he works 2-3 days a week for 6 hours. As a door guy @ a club. Never gets up with the baby. Is couch surrfing in front of the tv. And all I hear. Man I gotta get in shape love. Just wait till I get in shape. And I'll do it tomorrow. And I feel like all I'm doing is waiting for him. To do something. Anything.
Let's not leave anything out. I have taken up couponing, and was working today, girl was on my lap squirming, so I asked dad to take her so I could work. And as he grabs her, he looks at the monitor askedwhat I was doing, replied with coupon hunting, and he gave me the cond. Snear of pppfffttt that's not work. But when it comes time to get groceries, I'm able to save us $50-$100 sometimes. And that's what I can do to contribute financially @ the moment. When I called him on it, he of course blames it on me being cranky and tells me to be quiet. Is disrespectful to me when my bf is around. And I'm just tired. I've been on point since before my daughter was born. I have been @ work for 9 months now with no breaks and no help from my hus. So, Jeni...any words of wisdom? Or am I dealing with a lost cause?

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