You Messed Up in your Relationship? Tips to Recover

Author: Cheri Timko

Posted On September 10, 2021

When we imagine true love, we generally think of uninterrupted bliss. Of being with someone who knows us completely, inside and out. Of soul mates.

You Messed Up in your Relationship? Tips to Recover blog

This is an aspect of true love.

True love also includes heart break, disappointment, sadness, and loneliness. These are inevitable and expected. A relationship joins two people, not robots or idealized versions of ourselves.

You Messed Up in your Relationship? Tips to Recover

We come to love as we are. Just as we sometimes let ourselves down, we will let down those closest to us, as well. It is naïve to think we can always bring our best selves to our love relationships.

How do we mess up?

There are so many ways. We can:

  • miss an important clue to what is happening in our partner’s life, 
  • not show up when they need us, 
  • do or say something hurtful, 
  • lying or hiding something, or 
  • violate a basic and fundamental trust.

We need to actively avoid hurting our partners. It is vital that we make heroic efforts to avoid hurting the ones we love.

When we hurt our partner, our partner gets to decide how deep the injury was. They get the strongest voice in deciding how much work needs to be done.

One more time, if you hurt someone, the one who was hurt gets to decide when the relationship is repaired. That doesn’t mean you become their slave for life. The punishment needs to fit the crime.

Why? Because we always think our thoughtless behavior is less hurtful than the one who actually experienced the injury. Think about it, who can better estimate the pain of a broken leg? The doctor or the one with the broken leg? We need to recognize that our partner gets a say in when the repair work is done.

How do we make repairs? There are an infinite number of ways to repair a relationship.The most important factors are:

  1. Doing the repair work that you partner asks for, and 
  2. Making the best effort you can.

Here are a few tried-and-true steps to making things right.

1. Acknowledge what you have done

It is hard to come clean. No one likes to do it. But don’t add insult to injury by making your partner learn about the problem from someone else, be a detective, or hear about it long after the fact. You bring it up. This is about your integrity.

2. Allow time for your partner to have a reaction

I hope they do not use this as an opportunity to pile on. However, most people need time to have a real, uncensored reaction, especially if the information is new. That doesn’t mean they hate you or will always hold it against you. But allow them some space to feel shocked, angry, frustrated, and disappointed. They are human, too. Most people overreact, then calm down and are able to process what is happening.

3. Give an good apology

A good one. One that focuses on the other person’s pain and your accountability, not the other way around. A bad apology can be as harmful as the original injury. I like the format of “A Real Apology” because it walks you through the steps. But let me warn you. You can’t use it if you are not actually ready to apologize. You’ve got to be calm enough to think it through. So don’t rush to apologize or it will likely be worthless or worse, harmful.

You Messed Up in your Relationship? Tips to Recover

4. Be accountable

Something needs to change. You need to change something to avoid hurting your partner in the future. Be open to the idea that you will need to do something different.

5. Make amends

Sometimes your partner needs you to do something to make up for the hurtful incident. The bigger the hurt, the more likely they need you to do make a sustained change that you prove over time. They might have suggestions (sometimes suggestions sound like demands). Or they may be clueless about what you need to do.

Remember, all couples face this problem of hurting one another. Usually, we have small relationship injuries. But even small things can build up over time. Make sure that you repair those small incidents so they don't build up into resentment and bitterness. Resentment and bitterness can poison true love.

One of the most powerful relationship repairs is to go forward and never hurt your partner that way again. Of course, you can only prove that through action, not intention. Most people will find their partner to be gracious, generous, and forgiving. Especially if the hurtful behavior does not form a pattern or if you are able to stop hurting them.

Need help cleaning up messes in your relationship? Schedule a free phone consultation today. Learn how Couples Relationship Coaching can help your relationship.

Cheri Timko - Couples Relationship Coach

Cheri Timko is a Couples Relationship Expert who helps individuals strengthen their relationship with their current partner. Learn more about working with her here.