When you have a physical injury such as a sprain, a cut or a broken bone, you experience pain for a short while, you take some steps to treat the injury then you heal. Once it’s thoroughly mended, the injury becomes nothing more than an unpleasant memory or a good story to tell.
When the injury is emotional and involves your partner, it can be more problematic to heal and mend, and extremely difficult to get over. Rebuilding respect with your partner, especially when the relationship has been injured or trust has been broken, requires a great deal of effort and dedication. What’s required in that situation is that both parties dedicate themselves to the process.
As in the case of the broken bone, you can’t expect it to mend overnight. You must both be willing to do what it takes and understand that the other partner may have a different timetable than you have, especially if they are the injured party. Their perception of the injury may be much different than yours, and you might have to do a lot of work to earn back and rebuild respect with your partner. The pain of that injury may linger for a long time and you have to be willing to do what is needed to move forward together after being culpable in causing that level of pain in the relationship.
Relationship injuries, if left untreated, can truly begin to define the relationship as two people who once loved each other and now, out of nowhere, it seems like you have a relationship in which you don’t have each other’s back. You become defensive and numb out. The problem is we can’t just pick and choose what we numb. The good feelings are not accessible as well. The only way to fix this is repeated success with positive experiences that will then come to define the relationship. Often this cannot occur without help. For every injury, you need a tremendous amount of positive interactions/experience to change the perspectives. Often the only way to change this is to find an emotionally safe place to create the positive experiences and help couples have dialogues about their emotional needs. This is not easy.
If you’re the person who caused the relationship injury and lost the respect of your partner you will need to take these 5 steps towards earning back respect:
- Acknowledge your responsibility in causing pain to your loved one. You must take ownership of the pain you caused your partner and take responsibility for hurting them. It’s certain that never would be your intention but it was the result of your actions or words that cause the injury to the relationship. Once you acknowledge that. You can move to the next steps in making things right with your partner.
- Show that you feel badly about it. This can be difficult to do if your partner is still hurting and unwilling to believe in you. You have to be willing to be completely vulnerable with your partner and convince them that your intention is not to hurt them ever again, that you feel horrible about the transgression/incident/fight, and that you’re going to do everything you can to prove to them that you value them and your relationship over everything else.
- A sincere apology. This is necessary and important. You need to take steps one and two and turn them into a sincere apology. You have to BE sorry for the hurt and pain that has happened and mean it.
- Reaffirm your love and commitment. Understanding that your partner is hurting and being willing to do what’s needed to repair your connection with each other. You need to show them daily that your commitment is strong to the relationship and that you want that love and respect from your partner more than anything. You need to show your partner in every thought word and deed that they are the most important person in the world to you.Don’t just talk a good game. Be good.
- Demonstrate and model good behavior going forward. Don’t just talk, but walk the walk. Keep commitments, keep promises, be on time, give your partner no reason to doubt your sincerity or dedication. You are going to have to prove to your partner that your intention is to never hurt them or damage the relationship again. You have to earn that respect of your partner back one situation, one day at a time. You have to want it bad enough to do what is needed to build a relationship with your partner that is not like the old one but something more authentic and better than it was before the injury occurred.
For the Injured party:
- Stop blaming and look to the heart of the matter, why the injury occurred in the first place. This is where a counselor can really help you. It’s easy to blame the other person and feel like a victim. If you can get past that to realize that something is inherently broken in your relationship that may have contributed to the injury, you can see it with a fresh perspective and move towards repairing it.
- Acknowledge your part in it. You’re both involved even if you are the injured party. You need to realize that you had a part in what went wrong. Whether you pushed your partner away, shut them out, escalated the issue or treated them badly. You didn’t cause the injury but you’ve got some responsibility for what happened. Something is wrong that needs to be fixed between you. Get out of the victim mentality and be a part of the solution.
- Be willing to accept your partner’s apology. In spite of the hurt and pain you may be feeling, you must be willing to forgive. To accept that sincere apology and to see your partner as someone who values and loves you and would never want to hurt you.
- Don’t bring it up over and over. One of the quickest ways to get off track is to bring up the past. It’s a hurtful and destructive practice. You may still be hurting from the relationship injury, but keep your focus on the present and future. Living in the past is harmful and will not help to move the relationship forward. Bringing up past hurts will only bog you down and keep you in a negative cycle in your relationship.
- Encourage and reaffirm your commitment to the relationship by acknowledging when your partner is showing you how much they value the relationship. Don’t make it impossible for them to reach you, to succeed in showing you their love and commitment. You have to be willing to risk being hurt again. Being vulnerable to that is the risk in all relationships. You must believe they love you and that you are important to them and they wouldn’t never want to hurt you intentionally.
You and your partner can take the ashes of the destructive fire of a relationship meltdown and use them to rise like a phoenix into a new and better relationship where you and your partner have mutual respect and a close and loving connection.