When you’ve made a mistake or a bad choice, you’ve got to show that you’re genuinely aware of how much your actions hurt your partner or your ex that you’re trying to win back.
Sometimes, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough.
You’ve also got to prove that you’re making positive changes.
There probably isn’t a person alive who has never done something that broke trust or caused pain to a loved one. It happens.
Here are a few common examples:
John lied to his wife about going drinking with his buddies.
Cindy texted with her ex-boyfriend even though she promised her current boyfriend she wouldn’t.
Alex had an affair while away from home on a business trip.
Pete went through his girlfriend’s phone messages even though he claims not to have a jealousy problem.
Your mistake may have mostly disappointed your partner or maybe it made him or her very angry or extremely sad. What you did might be the reason why your mate is, right now, considering whether to stay in or leave your relationship. Perhaps your partner already broke up with you and you’re hoping for a second chance.
Taking that first step and owning up to what you did is essential.
You certainly can’t make amends for a mistake until you own up to it.
If you want to repair the damage and start to move closer again to your partner or your ex, you’ve got to prove to him or her that you’ve actually changed. At the very least, you need to show that you are making strides to change — even if you’re not there yet.
Here are four steps you can take when saying ‘sorry’ isn’t enough:
1. Convince yourself first.
While showing your partner that you’re changing is probably at the forefront of your mind, your first challenge is to prove it to yourself. Your partner or ex will see through if you are hesitant, uncertain or you aren’t genuine about making a significant change.
It’s going to show.
Take the time to truly develop that new habit.
Identify what triggers and fuels your tendency to be jealous, flirt, lie, yell, jump to conclusions or whatever it is you do that pushed your partner away. If there’s healing to be done within you, begin to do it.
Give yourself credit for the strides you have made and are making. Allow yourself to feel hopeful that you are now pointing in a direction you want to go…and a direction that will be beneficial to your partner and your relationship too.
2. Make sure that what you are working to change is what is really at issue.
While your partner might appreciate that you now do a better job of taking out the trash, this still doesn’t address the way that you lied about the porn on your computer.
Sure, making improvements and being more accountable does help, but if you continue to undermine trust in other ways, you’re not proving that you’ve changed.
Be clear about and focus in on the habits you have that are contributing to problems in your relationship.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore other habits you have that could be putting a strain on your relationship. It does mean that you make sure you are honing in on what is really at issue.
If it’s your jealousy, make that your focus. If it’s stopping the texts and emails with the cute guy at work, make that your main goal.
3. Create clear and conscious agreements.
A great way to prove that you’re making significant changes is to create agreements with your partner or ex. These need to be specific so that you both can see that the agreements are being kept (or not).
It’s vital that you both have the same understanding of what you are agreeing to and that you both are consciously saying “yes” to that. Confusion or agreement as a way to please or avoid a fight will only cause more distance.
If you and your partner seem to have different ideas about what needs to change, this is something to talk about. Be honest with yourself first.
For example, is being able to watch porn something you’re willing or unwilling to stop doing? Is there a compromise agreement either of you will make? Is this a deal-breaker for you?
4. Follow through.
As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”
Remember this and make sure that your actions are matching up with what you say you will do.
If you have a habit of forgetting or not following through, this will require you to do the work. Write yourself notes, use your computer or phone’s calendar, write it on your hand if you have to.
Whatever it takes for you to keep your word and do what you said you’d do — use those reminders and supports.
If your habit feels too big for you to handle alone get help from a professional coach or therapist.
Trust and connection can be rebuilt one kept promise and one followed through action at a time.
Be clear about what you are truly willing to change, create agreements and then keep your word.