Do you need to be forgiven for something you did or said, but don’t know how to make a sincere apology that actually inspires your partner to forgive you?
Perhaps the trust in your relationship been eroded by feelings of betrayal, hurt or resentment as a result of what you did?
Read on, because new research reveals that there is much more to forgiveness than the ubiquitous “5 easy steps to saying I’m sorry” that you’ll find in an Oprah magazine.
One of the most common times people come to me for relationship help is when their relationship has suffered an affair and they want to know how to forgive a cheating spouse.
What I’ve learned over the years is that it doesn’t matter if you did something BIG (like cheating) or something small (like forgetting your anniversary dinner date).
What matters is how your partner felt when you did it and what that means now about their ability to feel safe trusting you.
- heals your partner’s hurt feelings, and…
- restores trust and safety to your relationship or marriage.
Anything less is a waste of time, because until your partner’s hurt gets healed they’re not going to feel safe to completely trust your heart again.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.”
~ Nelson Mandela.
The New Science Of Forgiveness
The more I’ve studied forgiveness and experimented in my own relationship, the more I learned this one lesson:
Beneath the anger, hurt and resentment of any serious betrayal of trust lies a CORE WOUND that needs to be acknowledged before real forgiveness can happen:
The core wound we need to heal is the feeling of being abandoned by the person we count on to support us the most.
We feel abandoned by our partner not being there for us in a critical life-and-death moment when we needed them most.
How to apologize and heal a betrayal of trust once and for all…
The new science of forgiveness is showing us that certain very specific factors need to be in place in your sincere apology in order to heal emotional wounds inflicted by you – the one person your spouse entrusted with caring for and supporting them.
Emotional safety first
For an apology to be effective, you need to have established a basic level of emotional safety in your relationship.
If you’re still tip-toeing around on eggshells, worried that you or your partner will explode when talking about your hurt feelings, then you don’t yet have enough safety to get through this kind of conversation without it breaking down or blowing up into am angry yelling match.
If this is the case in your relationship, I recommend you get a relationship coach (you are welcome to contact me) to support you in establishing safety, and then guiding you through a forgiveness conversation.
Take your partner’s hurt seriously
Research shows that in order for your partner to forgive you, they need know that you take their hurt seriously.
If you’re the one seeking to be forgiven, then the best thing you can do is listen attenetively while your partner expresses their hurt and anguish to you.
Demonstrate to your partner that you are emotionally available by holding their hand reassuringly and listening attentively while they share their hurt. If you have established emotional safety first, this will help you resist the urge to take your partner’s words personally and react to them.
Ask your partner questions about what your hurtful actions mean to them about your bond or connection to each other.
The 3 Step Proven Apology That Inspires Forgiveness
Here’s what research studies have proven to work over and over again:
- Your partner must share their pain with you and look into your eyes and see that their pain hurts you and that you care about their pain.
- Then you must share your own sadness, remorse or regret with them and let them know that you feel their pain.
- Then your partner must take the risk of asking you for what they needed from you most at the original moment of the betrayal. If they say “reassurance”, your job is to give them that reassurance now (in this moment) and demonstrate to them that you care now. This is like a kind of re-enactment of the original injury, but with a different ending.
In a scientific study, ALL the people who were able to do this (with one significant injury) healed their relationship, forgave their partner and increased their trust… and were still in that place 3 years later.
How we healed a 1 night stand…
One night during a really tough period in the Power Struggle stage of my relationship, my partner invited another man up to her hotel room for sex (while attending a business conference).
At the time, we were in the middle of trying to get back together after a painful break up.
Once she had him in her room, she couldn’t bring herself to go through with it and stopped the action, telling him she was in love with me.
She called me the next morning to tell me what had happened, how “fucked up” she felt and how sorry she was.
I was furious and felt betrayed…
…and underneath that I felt abandoned.
Although we were not officially back together, we were working towards that outcome. I felt like the one person in the world I needed to be able to trust to be there for me, could no longer be counted on to be there.
My partner knew better than to be defensive…
Instead, she listened to me express ALL my hurt and anger until I was done. It took me 15 minutes of expressing my anger and hurt before I calmed down, and she stayed emotionally present with me the entire time.
I felt heard and understood.
She then broke down in tears and shared how sorry she was and how awful she felt that she had caused me to feel so abandoned at such a critical time in our relationship.
I could see that she was genuinely remorseful and deeply suffering in her own pain.
She then asked me, “Baby, what do you need to feel safe again?”
I took a moment to think about it and said, “I need to feel like you love me, like I’m the only man for you and like you are still sexually attracted to me.”
She gently and patiently reassured me until I believed her, staying emotionally present the entire time.
By the end of the conversation I harbored no feelings of betrayal and was able to completely let go of any resentment and hurt.
We were both flooded with feelings of love and gratitude for one another and the trust between us grew even stronger than it had before.
Your Sex Life Will Disappear First…
If the trust in your relationship is being eroded by some kind of betrayal, don’t think that the hurt will just fade away with time.
If you don’t make a sincere apology that inspires forgiveness (or forgive them yourself) as a matter of URGENCY, your relationship is at risk.
If you think that I’m being overly-dramatic here, consider this: When you or your partner are harboring resentment or hurt feelings, the trust and safety in your relationship gets eroded. While this trust may have taken years to build, it can be lost in seconds.
Without trust and safety, emotional intimacy is impossible and the first thing to suffer will be your sex life.
Why would you connect intimately with someone you don’t feel safe around? You wouldn’t.
For your own peace of mind and your relationship’s sake, don’t wait until you apologize. It is possible to restore trust between you if you use the 3 scientifically researched steps I outline above… and faster than you may think.
"I'm Sorry" Isn't Enough... How To Make A Sincere Apology and Be Forgiven
by Bruce Muzik
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