Saying your sorry is not always easy, especially when there has been a lot of hurt and damage done in a relationship. Typically there are many factors that contribute to the occurrence of a regrettable incident. In many cases a relationship injury was not the intention of the offender but driven by underlying goals, interests, or needs that were focused on self-preservation in one way or another. Nevertheless, we can all make mistakes in the context of a relationship, and we can all get hurt. Trust can be damaged and resentment, among other negative emotions, can build.
Experts in the field of relationships, John and Julie Gottman, provide a structured approach to helping couple’s address and resolve a regrettable incident. With each of these steps it’s important to be able to listen to your partner without judgement, criticism, or defensiveness. In each of the five sequential steps, each partner takes turns in identifying and expressing to the other:
- How they felt as a result of the incident.
- Sharing their perspective of what happened or what was happening for them at the time leading up to the incident or during (making sure to refrain from attacking and blaming).
- What experiences, or memories (past emotional injuries) triggered them to react much stronger, than they would have otherwise, (and it’s helpful to share the stories of why these are triggers for them-usually this comes from childhood experiences).
- What things they did that contributed to the incident occurring or that made it worse.
- Asking their partner for one thing they can do differently going forward that can help reduce the chances of future incidents.
This 5-step strategy will not only enhance communication but allows for each partner to truly connect with each other’s perspective, and gain a better understanding of what was going on for their partner that resulted in the regrettable incident.
If communicating is hard for you, or there is a lot of emotions and resentment that has built up, I would recommend you consider having a counselor that is trained in the Gottman Method, assist you. The path to rebuilding trust, and gaining a sense of reassurance, connection, and understanding is possible. I hope you find your way.