It happens. We all do it. We all make mistakes and someone else gets hurt. Theresa Byrne offers men tips on how to apologize and get back to the love.
I’m like a 911 coach: I’m the one that loves helping or finding clarity for people in emergency emotional situations. I often counsel women when they’re hurting, or help men attempt to figure out how to explain a bad situation or apologize when he hurts the one he loves. It’s tough to explain things when you’re afraid the person you love may never forgive you.
I’m not talking something that has endangered them, created trauma, or has broken a cardinal rule that they hold dear. If you’ve cheated then that will take a lot more healing and discussions to try to pull things back together.
This is for the “I messed up and I need help” kind of mistakes. I understand, it gets complicated. It’s disempowering on both sides when someone messes up. There should be lessons on this in high school. Heck even junior high.
In an effort to help men find the right words, and for two people who love each other to move past the hurt, I see a need for loving apology strategy. Can we apologize in a way that makes the other person feel valued? Feel heard? And gives them the time they need to let go of the pain?
I asked myself what I use most often with my own friends and clients, and these five ideas showed up. I’m not saying that your loved one must forgive you, you leave that choice up to them. But I am saying that if you love each other, and you are honestly bummed by what you did and you know you’ve screwed up: this might be a great place to start.
You screwed up, now what?
Here are five things your love will appreciate you doing while you own up to the part you played. (I’ve written this in heteronormative prose, but the same outline would apply in any relationship.)
Mean it. No “Hey, I’m sorry.” Get real with your apology. “I’m so sorry. I know I hurt you. I hope you can forgive me when you’re ready.”
Do not pressure her to forgive you now or anytime in the near future. You know how you like to go to your Man Cave when you’re hurt or struggling? She needs time and freedom to sort through her feelings too. Without pressure. Do not set a time limit, even in your head.This step is number one for a reason.
NOTE: I personally would not recommend flowers yet, if that’s your next idea. Women love celebration flowers, surprise flowers, or “thinking of you” flowers. Not “I really screwed up and here’s some flowers” flowers. But ask your love her thoughts on this ahead of time.
2. Explain your feelings at that time.
Explain if you were confused, scared, unsure or afraid. And you’ll want to explain what you did because of it.
“I was confused by ______ and so I acted _____ and did ______.”
Explain if you were mad, drunk, stressed, or nervous. This does mean you’re going to have to figure out how you were feeling at the time, and what it had you do. (This is a great time to have a coach, close male or female friends, or a trusted confidante help you sort through the feeling things.)
If you screwed up this is your chance to explain WHY you did what you did. Note: blaming anyone here is never a strong move. You are owning up to your deeds without making anyone else the Bad Guy. She will appreciate this. It’s what grown ups do.
3. Own up to hurting her.
You don’t need to grovel (and please don’t see this step as begging, it’s important for women to feel heard, or understood, and entitled to their feelings.) You will need to acknowledge her feelings, including the bad ones. “I know I hurt you. I can’t imagine what you’re thinking. Hurting you wasn’t what I intended or wanted. But you are hurt and I get it.”
You’re giving her the freedom to have feelings of all kinds without pressure. Again, this is a biggie for women.
4. Ask her what she needs from you to make her feel safe/secure/better/trusting.
“Look I know you may not forgive me right away, (again no pressure) and I understand. If there’s anything I can do to help you with this let me know. If there’s anything more you want to know, or questions you have, let me know. I want to help you with this.” Do not say, “I want you to get over this.” Allow her time and space for her feelings.
5. If she asks you for something: Do it.
Like your life depends on it. This is your chance to make things right. Or at least build a bridge toward rightness.
If she offers you the gift of telling you what she needs or wants, and it’s within the realm of human possibility for you to do it: you’ve been given a reprieve. You are in a tenable position of earning something back. You are possibly earning back her trust and she’s giving you a chance at it. So do not screw it up.
One caveat: doing whatever she asks for does not automatically get you back in her good graces. But it is the start. And flowers could be a nice touch here, or as a celebration when she actually says, “I forgive you.”
This is not the end-all be-all list by any means. This is an attempt to get two people in conflict to help potentially resolve and get back to loving each other. To understand what’s happening will help us embrace what truly matters.
And remember, keep allowing her the time to forgive and be the man you know you can be. And continue to be that man over and over.
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