So… you screwed up. You lost your temper. You said something awful.
You betrayed their trust. You disrespected them.
You’re embarrassed. Pissed at yourself. Hurt, knowing you let them down and hurt them.
You apologized. Explained yourself. Said it won’t happen again, but they’re so sad, hurt, even cold to you. The bond was broken. Now, there seems to be a wall between you two.
What now? Where do you begin? Is there hope?
What will it take to get it back to where you used to be? Is it even possible?
I’ve had a few guys reach out to me recently asking for advice and desperately wanting to fix whatever they did. There was so much emotion in the conversations I had with them that it was obvious to me that this topic is a very touchy one for everyone, but especially for men. There is nothing worse for a man than to know that he failed his partner. When he hurt and upset her, and destroyed the trust – forcing the love away from himself. The men I spoke with were so hard on themselves, that they were even saying crazy things like “I said I’m sorry but she doesn’t look at me the same. I can’t handle it. I’m just going to walk away from this.” or “I f’d up beyond repair. She says she doesn’t know if she can forgive me and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. She’s not letting me fix it – I give up!”
I was glad they reached out to me, and I’m very happy to say that I was able to calm them down and talk through the situation with them – helping them save the relationships.
Here was my advice:
1. Listen to them. Really LISTEN to them about what upset them and why. You won’t fully understand until you let go of your own thoughts and pay attention to what they’re saying. In some cases the thing that upset him/her is not at all what you think it was.
2. Take time to Reflect. Alone. Learn from the Experience. Make sure you reflect back on the situation and dissect the events that took place. What caused you to act that way? What caused your partner to act that way? What could have prevented it? Are there deeper things that need to be looked at? What did you learn? Make sure there’s inner growth that took place.
3. Forgive Yourself. Accept what took place and that you screwed up. There won’t be any productive conversations and you won’t be in the right mindset to move on if you don’t stop beating yourself up in your own head. Let go of the guilt the best you can. Really try.
4. Show them you Understand. Regurgitate what they told you and show them that you understand, fully. Validate their feelings and explain how you will prevent that from happening in the future. Saying “Sorry” isn’t enough. This is the first step to rebuilding the bond that you broke. And DO NOT judge, criticize or dismiss anything your partner says. This is NOT the time to get defensive or change the topic and point the finger at them. If and when your partner opens up, it’s up to you to make them feel understood, accepted and supported.
5. Stop Bringing it up! This is HUGE. Once you had the intimate conversation and you explained what you’ll do to rebuild the relationship, you need to stop bringing it up. If she’s pulled away and needs space – respect it. If she’s open to still seeing you but it’s colder than usual – accept it. Whatever you do, if she is done talking about the situation and there was a resolution, you constantly saying Sorry or bringing up the topic only takes you back to step 1 and makes her feel like the relationship is hopeless. She’s looking to you to lead here, and you must be strong, focused and patient.
6. Avoid any Unnecessary Secrecy. This is especially important if your partner was betrayed before or if you know something makes them uncomfortable. Be as open as possible.
7. Take this Opportunity to Make your Relationship even Better. Be more Loving. Be more Caring. Be more Present. Be more Thoughtful. Be more Sweet. Do the things you’ve been forgetting to do, or always wanted to do, and get in the habit of it. If she’s open to seeing you but is distant – start with little mini-dates and sweep her off her feet again. Start SLOW and pretend you just started dating. Ease back into the relationship and be playful and fun about it.
8. Be Incredibly Patient with your Partner. More patient than you ever imagined. Trust is learned and earned. In this case, re-learned. It takes time. We grant it, over time, to those who act supportive, dependable, and trustworthy. Don’t even allow yourself to get upset or irritated when it’s been a week or month or however long and the relationship is still not the same. If this relationship is worth it to you – you owe your partner the time and effort that it takes to rebuild the trust. Patience is key.
We’re all human and make mistakes. Nobody expects perfection. What we need is trust, respect, and someone to depend on. Couples are able to get through so many struggles, if they only choose to work through them. Building or re-building any kind of relationship takes time, effort, and dedication. If you decide that it’s worth it to give it all you’ve got, then stick to that and make it work!