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How to Ask for Forgiveness in a Relationship

Marcy has researched and written about relationships, domestic issues, dating, and con-artists for more than a decade.

It's normal to feel sad when you've hurt someone you care for.

It's normal to feel sad when you've hurt someone you care for.

Saying "I'm Sorry" to Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend

You were dating the perfect guy, and then you blew it. How do you make it up to him? Better yet, how do you get him back?

Your girlfriend was perfect, but you were a bad boy. How do you convince her you're sorry?

You and your BFF were best buddies for years, and then you said something offensive. Do you go forward without that friendship, or try to patch things up?

If you've made a mistake in a relationship, the burden is on you to make it right and try to patch things up.

But if he won't talk to you, or isn't interested, what do you do? If she hangs up when you call, how can you get her to listen?

Here's how to ask a guy, a girl, or a good friend to forgive you. These proven tips will help you know what to say and get back together.

Having a good talk can help clear the air and overcome misunderstandings.

Having a good talk can help clear the air and overcome misunderstandings.

How to Say You're Sorry

The first thing to do is to admit you were wrong, or that you violated the relationship in some way.

This step is more than just saying "I was wrong," or "Please forgive me." A person who has been wronged needs to hear the other person understands what they did, and understands that it was hurtful.

Even the most serious violations in a relationship can be healed if you follow these simple guidelines. Well, they're simple to list, but they can be painful to execute.

Apology Guidelines

  • Recognize what you did wrong. Think about it, and identify it specifically.
  • Admit to your lover what you did, and that you know it was wrong. Mention it specifically, such as through a statement like, "It was wrong of me to date your best friend."
  • Validate his or her feelings by saying you know it hurt and that it damaged the trust in your relationship.
  • Tell your lover they deserve better than what you did.
  • Acknowledge that you know it's asking a lot for him or her to forgive you, and that you will understand if he or she doesn't want to do that.
  • Then, and only then, ask for forgiveness.
  • After that, you can ask to still be friends, or to see if the relationship can be salvaged.

Why These Guidelines Work

In court cases, the two parties who are opposing each other are often asked to go through mediation. Mediation can be expensive (it can also be free, depending on the court system), but the concept of it is simple, and anyone can use these techniques to overcome problems in relationships or at work.

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The main thing a mediator does is get the two parties to listen to each other, and to verbally repeat what they have heard. The steps above use the 'mirroring' strategy, which means you 'mirror' how the person might have felt and what the experience was like from their viewpoint.

Interestingly, during a mediation, you can palpably feel the tension lift in a room once the two parties express these things to each other.

It doesn't matter whether the issues is a neighbor's dog barking, or an unfaithful spouse, the person who feels they've been hurt needs to hear the other person own up to what happened. Once those words are spoken, the two people can more easily communicate about the incident, as well as about the future.

It can be challenging, but asking for and getting forgiveness can help bring you even closer than before.

It can be challenging, but asking for and getting forgiveness can help bring you even closer than before.

What to Do After You Apologize

Now that you've put things into the open and you can perhaps communicate, use this valuable time to explore how you can go forward, if at all.

Some guys or girls will not go back after being hurt (after all, who likes to be in that position?). But some will be open to seeing if you can still be a couple or be friends. Either way, you will feel better for having admitted you were wrong and for asking him to forgive you.

Ask what you can do to make it up to them. If trust was violated, maybe you can agree on a way to communicate that will help rebuild the trust, such as by calling him when you're out with your buddies or girlfriends, or by letting him/her know of your plans (but it might not be wise to ask 'permission' for your plans - you want to be partners rather than losing control of your life).

Check on things from time to time to see if they're going well and if you've gotten past the issue that required forgiveness. Ask your lover how he or she feels about it after a few months, but don't dwell on it needlessly or endlessly.

If things need to be discussed again, do so, but if the discussions end up being blaming sessions, you might still have some work to do as a couple or as friends.

Asking for forgiveness means you want to make amends, and granting forgiveness means you're willing to put the issue in the past and move forward. Do whatever it takes to move forward, but don't allow the past to control the relationship.

Should You Seek Couples Counseling?

Depending on the type of relationship you have (or had) and the type of issue you're overcoming, counseling might be a good choice.

A counselor who meets with two people at once (a couple, for example) acts a bit like a mediator by helping you communicate better and offering suggestions for overcoming trust issues or for reaching an agreement.

Counseling does not mean one of you has a mental illness or needs to be repaired. It simply puts a neutral third person in the room who can help bridge the gap between you and help you move forward in new ways.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Marcy Goodfleisch

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