Relationships are hard. It’s a challenge to manage two people’s different personalities, wants, and needs, and even the best of us go through rough patches or breakdowns. But these relationships are usually worth the effort – worth fighting for. To fight for a relationship, you’ll need to reach out to your estranged partner, come to terms with the past, and ultimately accept that person for who they are.
1. Apologize, if need be. Relationships strain when one or both partners feel hurt – whether because of a fight, careless words, or long-term resentments. All relationships go through this to some extent. The important thing is to reach out and apologize when you’ve done wrong. Apologizing shows your commitment to your partner and the relationship.
To apologize well, you have to be sincere, specific, and recognize the hurt you caused. Accept your role in having damaged trust or respect in the relationship. This doesn’t mean accepting all responsibility, but owning up to your part.
Be sincere and specific. Only apologize to make amends and heal damage and not for some other ulterior reason. At the same time, be specific about what you are apologizing for and how it hurt the other person. For example, “I’m very sorry that I stormed off during our argument. I can see that it hurt you and made you feel humiliated. Please forgive me.”
Avoid weasel-worded apologies. These don’t really accept any responsibility and come off as insincere, i.e. “I’m sorry if what I did offended you” or “I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way.”
Don’t request an apology in return. Mutual forgiveness is important, but your partner may need time to process their feelings. Asking for an apology will only seem like a demand.
2. Listen to your partner. An apology is only the first part of reaching out. It won’t fix things but can break the ice and start the healing process. Don’t be surprised if your partner reacts emotionally or even interrupts you. Resist the urge to interrupt and defend yourself, though, and instead be patient and respectful and listen.
Try not to react defensively or insist on “finishing” your side of the story. Your first urge may be to correct or refute your partner, but instead let them speak.
By showing patience, you also let your partner speak openly without fear or reprisal and demonstrate that you’re serious about healing the rift.
Keep in mind that the point of an apology is to heal the relationship. It is not about proving who was right and who was wrong.
3. Leave the door open, but don’t over-pursue. Make it clear to your partner that you want to save the relationship. At the same time, accept that these things take time. Resist the urge to pursue your partner, especially one who has become distant, or you may end up driving them further away. Allow for some time and space while leaving the door open to reconciliation.
Be clear that you are ready to talk if and when your partner is ready. Make sure they know you are open to communication.
At the same time, people often want physical and emotional space after an argument or hurt. Try to recognize and respect this need for distance – do not hound your partner.
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