WHY IS AN APOLOGY SO IMPORTANT?
WHAT GETS IN THE WAY OF GIVING A GENUINE APOLOGY?
HOW CAN WE GET BETTER AT GIVING THEM WHOLEHEARTEDLY?
These are some of the questions that have been lurking in my brain ever since I realized how little we are taught about authentic apologies.
Getting to the ROOT of these questions sparks so many conversations between my partner and I.
We want to teach you what we have learned...
Mainly when we hit our own blocks in our own relationship and how we moved through them.
Our journey is no different than any other couple who struggles with some block of their own.
When I work with couples, I sit in front of two human beings and witness them display their unique version of emotional pain.
Underneath their pain, they are screaming to feel emotionally heard.
They are screaming for connection.
They are wanting their pain to be felt by their partner...
...and until their hurt is embraced, it is excruciating - for both partners.
Genuine apologies are one way to help heal that hurt.
I believe that genuine apologies require us to surrender control.
I believe they require us to have been apologized to by important people in our own lives...
...to be able to give them well to others.
We can only truly give what we have ourselves received.
But the good news is that we can learn them.
But I'm not going to lie...this one will take a true commitment on your part.
It always takes time and a willingness to be uncomfortable to learn new relationship skills.
Particularly ones that require us to feel intense...and often long-buried emotions.
But before we go into how to do apologies well...
...it is equally important to understand some of the reasons that may BLOCK us from accessing them.
There are 6 common blocks that can get in the way of a heartfelt apology.
1-WE ARE TOO BLACK AND WHITE IN OUR THINKING.
This means that we have a hard time accepting the gray.
When we are too black and white in our thinking, we may be more logical than emotional.
We tend to try to oversimplify or put ideas and concepts in rigid boxes because it can help calm our anxieties.
Someone that has a strong black and white thinking pattern has a hard time seeing and holding two realities at the same time.
When their partner expresses hurt towards them, they may immediately go into shame or guilt - and get stuck there.
"If I did that THING to my partner, I must be a bad person."
"I cant be a good person AND have done that to them."
Someone who has stretched their black and white thinking can embrace the gray.
It doesn't mean it's easy for them to do it...but they have more practice at it.
Someone who holds more gray may think to themselves...
"I know my intentions were never to hurt my partner AND I know that I still hurt them...
...and their pain is important."
"I know I am a good partner AND I still screw up with them sometimes and it's important I own and take responsibility for those moments."
2-WE STRUGGLE WITH BEING OBJECTIVE ABOUT OURSELVES.
If I am someone who has never really taken the time to self-reflect, I probably do not know many of my own limitations.
I see myself as best as I can...but I don't really see myself as others see me.
This is where therapy and GROUP therapy or coaching experiences can work - amazingly well.
It's really hard to see ourselves, we are limited in that.
That is why we go to therapy or other self-development experiences in the first place.
Group experiences allow us to get feedback about ourselves in ways that are gentle and contained.
When we hear the same feedback from more than one person over a period of time in a loving way - it makes it much easier to accept itfor ourselves.
OUR GREAT QUALITIES AS WELL AS OUR LIMITATIONS!
Let's...flashforward to two years later...where you have done some work around receiving feedback...
Your partner is upset with you about something.
They complain that you have been late to several important events lately.
If you already know you have a hard time with managing your time as you've heard that feedback many times before...
...it makes it much easier for you to simply own it and genuinely apologize.
If you receive the same feedback from people in your life in general over and over again, it may be time to look at what they are pointing at...
...in a self-loving, but honest way.
I highly recommend joining a group in your local community if you struggle with this...there are TONS of them)...
...where you feel safe and respected and can give and receive feedback.
I am personally always taking new groups every year or so to make sure I am as aware of my hurtful behaviors as possible.
There really is no shame.
If the group space is not a gentle and contained - GET OUT!!
This isn't about someone telling you your limitations in a HARSH and unkind way.
If they are, please check their credibility and trust your gut to go somewhere else.
3-OUR FAMILY SUCKED AT GIVING AN APOLOGY.
This may be one of the biggest predictors of whether we arecapable of giving real apologies.
And it makes sense why!!
If we never saw our parents value apologizing to each other...
...or to us...
...then we don't really have a model for it.
Unless we had another adult figure or mentor growing up teaching this to us...
...we probably struggle with apologies.
One of the most important factors in healthy parent and childrelationships is NOT perfection.
It is NOT a parent never making any mistakes.
A healthy and secure bond with a child is defined by how good a parent is at making repairs with them - quickly.
It is how good they are at owning their mistakes and the child really feeling that remorse and desire to connect...
...whether that is given through words or body language or emotions is all based on the child's unique needs.
A great adult relationship is the same.
It is NOT about being perfect.
It is about how open we can remain...
...to the ways in which we hurt our partner.
Based on THIER perception...not ours.
4-OUR CULTURE DOESN'T VALUE AN APOLOGY
Our culture affects us immensely - in more ways than we realize.
Some cultures place a much higher value on emotional connectionthan other cultures do.
In the western world, communication and parenting styles are always being researched...
...in order to provide the best of care for children.
That includes the best ways for parents to make repairs with their children...
...the best ways to repair with their partner so they model that for their children.
Obviously not every culture holds this same standard.
Being willing to take a deeper look at our own culture can help us get an honest sense of this.
Does my culture promote an apology?
If so, how often, and under what circumstances?
Was it for more major events or smaller ones too?
Is something I observed often amongst my cultural peers or adults?
Do they shame it or think its weak to give one?
Does my culture have the same expectation to offer an apology from men or women?
5-WE DON'T WANT TO FEEL THE PAIN OUR PARTNER FEELS.
If we are an avoider of feelings in general...
...apologizing WILL probably feel very hard.
Stretching our this emotional window is NOT an easy task.
Our partner can feel when we care about their pain and when wedon't.
And we know when we are bull-shitting them, too.
And if you have a particularly sensitive partner who really values to see you're emotional experience in an apology...
...that can feel deeply painful to them.
If you resonate with this one - putting some words to this can be very helpful to your partner.
"I'm feeling a little emotionally blocked and I'm really sorry for that. I want you to feel my regret for hurting you. I really do."
"Even if I have a hard time seeing what you are pointing to...I will think about it deeply because you are so important to me and your feelings matter so much to me."
...and then just try to drop into your heart as much as you can.
So you actually apologized...but in a slightly different way...
...AND you took responsibility for where you know you tend to get stuck.
That in itself often can sometimes be enough to allow your partner to feel heard and deeply valued.
6-OUR SELF ESTEEM CAN'T TOLERATE OUR PARTER BEING UPSET WITH US.
If we have been abused, neglected, abandoned...
...if we have really deep wounds that have not been emotionally FELT and EMBRACED...
...having to apologize to our partner can trigger the feelings and shame associated with those painful experiences.
So, of COURSE, we would try to avoid doing it!
If we felt helpless and out of control as a child...apologizing requires us to be deeply vulnerable again.
If we were degraded with terrible and abusive words...apologizing may trigger the deep shame that lives inside our body.
...and going there may be impossible....without help.
For this one - I would highly suggest therapy or some form of counseling support.
In order for us to practice opening up that vulnerability...we really do need a safe container.
A professional can help open up those areas up...slowlyyyy...
...so we don't overwhelm ourselves.
If you identify with this one - you can communicate this to your partner.
"I'm noticing that when you express upset with me, I feel a lot of shame and that has been blocking me to fully feel what you are feeling."
"I know that's not fair and I would love your help to do this."
A true apology lives in our heart.
We have all been wounded.
Our partners will see and feel our woundings when we apologies - they will see all of us.
But that is also what will allow them to also feel DEEPLY connected to us.
When we do our best work to look at our blocks, we become vulnerable with them, again.
Communicating our limitations in itself is vulnerability too.
An apology allows your partner to get a glimpse of your full, unguarded heart.
They deserve that.
...and so do you.