“I am not fully healed, I am not fully wise, I am still on my way. What matters is that I am moving forward.” ~Yung Pueblo
According to Dr. John Gottman, PhD, successful repair attempts are a “happy couple’s secret weapon.”
An attempt to repair is when our partner makes a mistake and then makes an attempt to fix it in their own way.
Their attempt may look very different than what we may want, and we may be tempted to react negatively, but we have a choice to catch ourselves and consciously choose a different response.
That’s part of our work in creating a loving partnership, releasing and surrendering the need to control. Allowing our partner to love and express love in their own way instead of demanding it our way only. Being open and strong on the inside so we can be soft and loving on the outside.
I remember many times where my husband acted annoyed with me, or responded critically to something I said or did.
He would at times catch himself and try to soften his language or “make up” for his knee-jerk reaction.
I often wouldn’t get a direct apology.
I would see, through his next actions, that he was aware of his tone, and that he was trying to self-adjust to come from a more loving place.
That was often not good enough for me though.
I wouldn’t accept his attempt to repair.
I was so scared and insecure on the inside that I was overly strong and indignant on the outside.
I would point out how critical or rude he was and make him bad or wrong.
I would choose to feel right and justified over loved and happy.
That’s because I wanted to be loved my way only.
That meant he had to apologize using his words, often very specific words, in order for me to feel satisfied that he felt bad enough.
I completely set him up to fail since I was so inflexible on what being loved had to look like for me.
This will never lead to a loving, open, safe, and trusting relationship.
If we can be open to our partner’s attempts at making repairs from the beginning, we are setting ourselves up to feel loved, connected, and trusted by them as things continue to move forward.
If we are repairing a long-term relationship, as we start allowing them to love us and fix things in their own way, we are rebuilding a beautiful foundation.
How To Accept Attempts At Repairing
1. Notice your partner’s effort.
Notice your partner’s attempt to right their wrong, and choose to put your focus there. If they did something that’s petty or not worth a lot of energy, gracefully move on.
This means showing warmth and gratitude, and letting them know, through your words or body language, that you authentically appreciate their effort and self-adjustment.
It means allowing yourself to accept and receive, while appreciating the way they tried to repair and do better. Your receptive energy then invites them to do more from a place of love.
2. Show appreciation for their efforts.
When we focus on what we want, and acknowledge it with gratitude, we generally attract more of it!
The same principle applies in reverse: When we focus on what we don’t want, we often attract more of that.
When I was healing my relationship with my husband, I started to really bring my attention to all of his attempts to diffuse and repair.
There was an incident where we were preparing dinner together, and he snapped at me when I misunderstood something he said. He quickly caught himself and self-adjusted by stating in a kind and respectful tone what it was he wanted.
Instead of staying focused on his first attempt, and choosing to make him bad or wrong, I brought my attention to his effort to repair. I thanked him for noticing this within himself and adjusting it. I let him know that I appreciated his effort and how he self-corrected to show up in a loving way.
Shifting my focus in this way immediately puts me in a more loving space and softens me. It feels good to shift my focus to noticing that he’s trying in his own way. And when I say thank you instead of staying stuck in my anger or annoyance, this inspires him to step up and hear me in a way he wasn’t capable of before.
3. Assume the best in your partner.
If you just started dating, remember that a potential partner doesn’t need to earn your trust if they haven’t done anything wrong.
If you’re repairing a broken relationship, you want to make sure you aren’t living in the past waiting for past disappointments and hurts to repeat themselves.
When we assume the best in our partner, we tend to get the best of them.
That’s because we’re energetically conveying trust.
Oftentimes, the more our partner feels trusted, the more they hear and support us because they don’t want to betray our trust.
If we convey that we don’t trust them, they’ll likely feel hurt and then shut down, and may even create a self-fulfilling prophecy by betraying our trust.
4. Communicate what you need in a way they can hear.
The other side of accepting our partners’ attempts to repair is communicating what helps us move forward after a “wrong.” It doesn’t have to be black and white. We can simultaneously appreciate their efforts and also let them know what helps us feel safe, valued, and respected.
If we’ve acknowledged our partner’s attempts at repairing by responding with warmth instead of anger, they’ll likely be more open to hearing what we need because they won’t feel defensive. The opportunity for connection and intimacy deepens, even in times of conflict.
The best way I’ve found to communicate our needs is by using “I” statements—after a heated moment has passed.
If you appreciate direct acknowledgement after being snapped at, you might say, “I know everyone snaps in moments of stress. When I’m spoken to that way, I feel bad about myself and disconnected from you. I would love for us both to have awareness around this, so we can catch it, acknowledge it, and support each other better moving forward.”
They may not always remember to do specifically what you’ve asked, and in those moments you can recognize and appreciate that they’re trying, in their own way, to make things right. But if you share your needs without undertones of accusation and defensiveness, without making them bad or wrong, they’re more likely to honor your needs as best as they know how.
Really, what this all comes down to is consciously choosing love over the need to be right or have the final say, which is a powerful way to reconnect a relationship. I have seen the beauty in this act of surrender, as when we choose to love from this perspective, we inspire a deeper healing within the relationship.