Sometimes in relationships we mess up. Perhaps its a small mistake that doesn’t do too much damage. These can be a positive experience in the end because they allow us to reflect and learn more about who we want to be in our relationship. Sometimes it’s a big mistake where trust is broken and the damage is so extreme that we can’t work through it together.
I am sure all of you have heard how important it is to learn from our mistakes. I think this applies to our relationships especially. When we do damage to our relationship there are many different ways we can approach it. We can easily get defensive and try to rationalize what we have done. We can quickly apologize and then try to pretend it never happened. Or we can own the mistake and take time to properly reflect, painful feelings and all, on what caused our behavior and how we want to do it differently going forward.
I have said this many times (and you will likely hear it from me again), we often hurt the ones who are closest to us. While I am by no means saying this is okay I do think it gives us an opportunity to learn about our own tendencies and the relationship can be what holds us accountable.
So what am I proposing? Take a look back at some of the things that have caused your partner (or the relationship) pain in the past. What are they? What was it about that issue that hurt your partner? What role did you play in it? It is easy with this last question to blame your partner, try not to and instead just to see what it is you could do differently going forward. By reflecting back it can give us a perspective that we can’t always have right in the moment when our defenses are up and we are trying to protect ourselves from feeling guilty. It is important to be kind to yourself through this and know that the behaviors that cause harm don’t mean you are a bad person, they simply mean you are human. By being compassionate it will allow you to tolerate the guilt and sadness that comes up while encouraging you to have an honest conversation with yourself about your areas of improvement.
After doing this spend some time thinking about who you want to be in your relationship and the areas, in particular, that you need to invest more thought into intentionally changing the behaviors that can do so much damage. Be honest with yourself through this process and know it is okay to make mistakes, especially when you take the time to actually learn from them.