Are You Seeking Forgiveness and Making Amends in a Relationship?
Because we are human, we will all, at some time, disappoint or hurt those whom we love. Therefore, in a relationship, we must learn to seek forgiveness and make amends with our partner. It is an essential part of growth as an individual and as a couple.
Even the resolving of “smaller” offenses should be considered significant. Just because you haven’t experienced something as relationship-shattering as an affair doesn’t mean that you don’t need to seek forgiveness and make amends with your partner. For instance, have you:
- Said something in front of others that made your partner the brunt of humor or embarrassed them?
- Shared something personal or private with a third person that your partner expected you to keep just between the two of you?
- Made a wrong spending decision that has had an adverse effect and possibly caused your spouse not to trust you?
- Spent too much time at work or with friends so that your partner feels neglected?
- Said something incredibly damaging to your partner and your relationship during an argument?
- Omitted a vital fact or detail when telling your spouse something?
- Been self-centered?
- Taken your partner for granted?
Seeking Forgiveness and Making Amends in a Relationship
How do you seek forgiveness and make amends so that your relationship doesn’t erode over time from these offenses? Well, as with most factors in relationships, the answers are simple but not easy!
- Drop the Excuses. Just forget them. Don’t try to rationalize or excuse your behavior. And it would help if you certainly didn’t try to blame your spouse for “making” you do what you did. Own your behavior.
- Take Responsibility. You are an adult, and you chose to do what you did or to say what you said. Look within yourself for the reasons for your actions, but don’t use them for an excuse. Instead, use them for an opportunity to grow as a person.
- Listen to Your Mate’s Perspective and Feelings. No matter how painful it may be to hear it, allow your spouse to express how you have hurt them. Listen to their perspective and listen to their feelings. It’s not about you at this point. Don’t try to defend yourself or correct the narrative. Your partner needs to be heard and validated so that they can heal. Do your best to get them to express their feelings about what has happened so that you can understand their pain.
- Express Genuine Remorse. Apologize and mean it! Let them know that you understand that you have hurt them and how badly it makes you feel. Don’t make any extravagant promises that you can’t keep. Just knowing that you hurt because you have hurt them is the point at this stage. Let them know that you are with them in the pain of the situation and that you are hurting together.
- Ask for Their Forgiveness. Don’t just say, “I’m so sorry.” That is remorse discussed in the step above. Make it a point to ask for forgiveness so that it is clear to both you and your partner that forgiveness is granted or not. “Will you forgive me for ___________ and making you feel ___________?” is the appropriate request. Ask forgiveness not only for the action but also for how that offense made them feel.
- Make Amends. The key here is your readiness and willingness to do whatever you can to repair the damage you have caused. It may be that there is nothing that can be done, but if there is something that would help your spouse to heal, do it!
- Allow Them Room to Heal. As the spouse, but also the offender, you may not feel like the safest person to them. Give your mate space to work through their hurt and the time to do it.
- Re-earn Their Trust. It will take consistency and honesty over time to rebuild the trust in the area of the offense. For example: If it’s a financial wound, your honesty about money and your consistency in handling it well will eventually yield the “dividend” of financial trust. You want your mate to feel safe with you. You want to be safe for them. Don’t demand their trust. Earn it!
- Determine How to Avoid the Situation. For example, why did you do what you did or say what you said? What were the circumstances and the triggers for your behavior? What can you do, what will you do, to avoid repeating the hurtful behavior?
- Make an Action Plan. Enlist the help of your mate to make an action plan that you both can participate in and agree upon to eliminate the harmful behavior from your relationship. Now you are no longer adversaries but allies and teammates.
If you are the offender, apologize and make amends as soon as possible. If you are the offended partner, forgive quickly and don’t harbor anger, resentment, and pain. However, if the hurt is too deep and the offenses are too painful to handle as a couple, don’t hesitate to get help! A marriage retreat, marriage counseling, or engaging a relationship coach can all help you work through hurt, forgive each other, and move forward in love and life.