At first, Karen did not want to tell me what she had done.
I only knew that her relationship was “destroyed” because of her.
She was nervous and you could hear her voice shaking as she spoke to me on the phone. She couldn’t get words to explain.
She asked me to help her “fix it,” but she didn’t say what we were going to fix.
Karen didn’t know that as a relationship expert, I really respect anyone who is brave enough to ask for help with their problems.
No matter what you did or how embarrassing it felt, you had the courage to admit it and take responsibility for fixing the damage.
Karen also didn’t know that I hear from a lot of women who think they’ve “ruined” their relationship. Usually, it was just a simple mistake. It won’t hurt their relationship unless they handle it badly.
No matter how good a relationship is, there will always be mistakes, misunderstandings, fights, and hurt feelings. Count on them.
You’ll say something to your partner that will hurt them. You will do something to upset him. When he needs you, you won’t be there. You’ll mess up. He’ll do wrong!
The most important thing is what you do after you make a mistake.
The Gottman Institute says that this is what makes the “masters” of relationships different from the “disasters.”
Masters know that it’s their job to fix their connection whenever it breaks.
How NOT to act
When Karen came to me, she wasn’t ready to do the work of fixing things.
She still felt bad about herself and felt guilty.
She felt bad about what she did and thought she was a bad person because of it.
Too often, the first thing we do when we mess up in a relationship is beat ourselves up about it.
We’re wrong about ourselves.
We let our mistake make us think we can’t do anything right, that we ruin everything, that there’s no hope, and that it’s a miracle that our partner puts up with us.
Now, the mistake doesn’t have anything to do with how we broke up with our partner.
It’s about how hard it is for us to feel good about ourselves. It’s about how we can’t be kind to ourselves.
When you feel like a bad person and have to beg your partner for forgiveness, it rarely works out well.
A good man doesn’t need your shame because he doesn’t deserve it.
A good man needs you to keep him honest.
He needs to see that you’ve taken responsibility for what you did and are trying to make things right.
Don’t make a mistake even worse by making it about how bad you feel.
Keep the attention where it should be:
How to repair your relationship with your partner.
Karen thought that if she could just get her boyfriend to forgive her, everything would be fine.
But it didn’t.
He told her he was sorry and would forgive her, but he didn’t act like he was sorry.
He still kept to himself. He was still mad, and she could tell.
She didn’t know how to talk to him about it because he got angry whenever she brought it up.
She wanted a way to magically erase everything that had happened so that they could go back to how things were before.
Even if I could have stopped Karen from making the mistake in the first place, it would only have put off what was going to happen.
All couples make mistakes. All couples mess up. It will happen eventually.
Healthy couples don’t count on never making a mistake together.
They think about how they can learn from their mistakes and get better.
What does this teach Karen?
Here are the ideas I told her to think about.
1. Figure out how what you did affected him.
Kirsten didn’t give her boyfriend a chance to talk about how he felt because she was so worried about what making a mistake would say about her.
He tried to tell her how her actions made him feel, but she couldn’t pay attention. She kept seeing that he was upset with her as proof that she was a bad person.
Try to listen to your partner without letting your own regret or guilt get in the way. Recognize how he feels. Don’t rush to defend yourself or say sorry again.
2. Try to change what you can.
Even if you forgive someone, what happened won’t go away.
It may seem important to you to get his forgiveness, but it’s more important to find out what he wants from you.
Can you make sure that this doesn’t happen again? Does he want you to promise to work on it? Was this the kind of thing that everyone does? Will you be able to laugh about it and move on at some point?
Karen realized that she had never asked her boyfriend what he wanted or needed from her.
She found out that he didn’t want to talk to her about it anymore not because he was tired of her, but because he was tired of the topic and the emotional drama it brought.
This minicourse gives you a 5-step plan to follow if you’ve made a mistake in your relationship and don’t know what to do.