Relationships are hard. Two different people trying to share a life together is bound to lead to conflict at some point. In fact, the research actually shows that conflict can be (when done correctly) one of the healthiest things for a relationship because it allows both people to understand one another better and can correct a relationship that has become a bit derailed. Did you know that anger as an emotion is actually all about boundaries? The reason we get angry is because we feel a boundary has been crossed. How healthy to know your limits in a relationship and to teach your partner about how you want to be treated.
The big thing with conflict is being able to manage it in a healthy way. It is normal and healthy for voices to become more stern and for people to talk more quickly. It isn’t healthy for people to become aggressive, swear, name call, bully or become passive aggressive. All of those
behaviors leave to relationship breakdown and typically cause it to become even more derailed in the long run. Once conflict has happened, the next most important step is learning to apologize. The repair process is what makes relationships healthy after conflict and is what boosts those really positive feelings after a disconnect. The challenge is most people don’t really know how to apologize. I think pretty much all of us know how to say I am sorry, but for most that is where it ends.
While those words are better than nothing, they aren’t always enough. When we apologize we want to take these 3 steps:
Acknowledge what you are sorry for:If we can’t understand why we are apologizing, we can’t really assure our partner that we are aware of the pain it caused and that we will try to do better next time. Instead, when you are apologizing be as specific as possible “I am really sorry I hurt your feelings when I chose to ignore your request to have time together and instead went out with my friends. I can imagine that made you feel like you were less important to me than they are and that would be really painful.”
Don’t Justify: As soon as you try to justify the reason behind your actions, you take away your apology. When we make mistakes in our relationships, which all of us do, we simply need to own up to them. Making a mistake doesn’t imply intent but even if it was an accident, the impact can still be the same. It is normal to want your partner to have to hear why you behaved as you did but it takes away from the sincerity of it. In the moment of the apology, it isn’t about you, it’s about your partner.
Reflect On What Happened And Then Discuss What You Will Do Differently Next Time: Apologies are all about growth. It is absolutely expected that you will make a mistake again but we don’t’ want to keep making the same mistake over and over again. In order to prevent this, it’s important to talk about what went wrong, and what you’ve learnt from it. Once we can acknowledge the pattern and how we will try to engage differently next time, when a similar situation pops up again, you will be more likely to take a different approach. It is only through active reflection and acknowledgment that we can really learn from our mistakes and change our behaviors. Take the time to understand your own behaviors, and then talk them through with your partner.