3 Tips For Apologizing Better After You Hurt Your Partner's Feelings

Within a relationship, words don’t always land with the intended effect. Instead of explaining it at length, we’ll just use this example:

R = Relisher P = Partner

P: (Walks in the door at 6:30 with take-out in hand)
R: "Take-out again?"
P: "What? Is that not okay?"
R: "I mean... we just never go out anymore."
P: (Immediately gets defensive about their hours at the office, how long it’s been since your last meal out, etc)

This is a classic example of IMPACT not matching INTENTION. Now, buckle up, we’re about to say 2 really important things:

In a relationship, words don’t always land with the intended effect. And MORE importantly, Whether or not you meant it is completely beside the point.

So in the above example, you would NOT launch into how they’s being too sensitive or how they spun your words the wrong way. That doesn’t matter. That’s as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Instead, you do damage control. Here’s how:

Step 1.

Apologize For Hurting Their Feelings.


sorry

No brainer, huh? But it will take a little practice to put this one into action. First things first, your partner is hurting. That’s the biggest priority. So the first action step is to seek forgiveness for hurting their feelings.

R: "I mean... we just never go out anymore."
P: (Immediately gets defensive about their hours at the office, how long it’s been since your last meal out, etc)
R: "Wait, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come out as an attack on you. I know how much you do for us."

Step 2.

Clarify What You Meant.


clarify

Only after you have apologized, you can explain how you meant that to come out. (For this to be effective, you cannot, we repeat, cannot sound defensive or frustrated. Speak gently, clearly, and calmly.)

R: "I mean... we just never go out anymore."
P: (Immediately gets defensive about their hours at the office, how long it’s been since your last meal out, etc)
R: "Wait, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come out as an attack on you. I know how much you do for us."
P: "Well, that’s not how it sounded."
R: "I know, I think I’m just frustrated in general about how crazy things have been and I’m really ready to have a night out with you. It wasn’t about you."

Step 3.

Say What You Originally Meant To Say.


again

Now we’re officially in de-escalation mode - you’ve apologized, you’ve clarified, and now you get to be honest. THIS statement is what you wanted to say the first time, but didn’t quite get right. (Hey, we’re all human.)

R: "I mean... we just never go out anymore."
P: (Immediately gets defensive about their hours at the office, how long it’s been since your last meal out, etc)
R: "Wait, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come out as an attack on you. I know how much you do for us."
P: "Well, that’s not how it sounded."
R: "I know, I think I’m just frustrated in general about how crazy things have been and I’m really ready to have a night out with you. It wasn’t about you."
P: "I appreciate that…"
R: "What I meant to say is that I miss having alone time with you outside of the house. Do you want to go out for dinner tomorrow night?"

See? That’s a very, very, very different statement than “We never go out anymore.” One is accusatory, one is vulnerable. And if you realize that the words that left your mouth have an unintended effect on your partner, it’s never too late to remedy it! Just go into damage control mode and:

  1. Apologize For Hurting Their Feelings
  2. Clarify What You Meant
  3. Say What You Originally Meant To Say

A healthy relationship is really as easy as 1-2-3.

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