Been thinking a lot about apologies. Came up in some conversations. In particular, what makes an effective apology to a partner.
I think any effective apology is a mutual effort all the way down the line.
- The people involved must be able to agree on what happened (what went wrong).
- The people involved must be able to agree on the places where intention and result veered away from each other.
- The people involved must be able to agree on what (if anything) must happen next, either to ameliorate the issue, avoid it in the future, or simply accept it as something that happens sometimes (think of bumping into someone while walking around as an example of the latter).
- The people involved must be able to agree to accept the resolution. That is to say, if you mutually agree to accept the resolution, then you can’t be coming back later and making it an issue again.
There might be other steps, but what I’ve discovered in life is that when shit breaks down, one or more of the players has decided to fuck off one or more of these things. It rarely gets better after that.
People who need to be angry or need to be sullen or need to be resentful can’t be helped no matter what you do, so in those cases, they will balk at the above points, because that would take away their power. Best thing you can do with those kinds of folks is make whatever apology you need to make to clean your soul, accept that it will likely be completely ineffective, release any internal need for a workable response from them, and move on.
Now, don’t read this and think it’s some kind of thing with which you can beat (or be beaten by) your partner. Deliberate abuse is obviously out of scope. The idea isn’t to make someone agree with you or to allow yourself to be made to agree when you really don’t. The idea is to find a place of agreement, in mutual good faith. That’s a mutual effort.
Meaning you, too.
The bottom line on all of this is to find a path past whatever happened so you can get on with the business of having a fantastic relationship. One of the hallmarks, in my experience, of an excellent partner is someone who never loses track of the goal of getting on with having a good and happy relationship.
(as an aside, people who treat apologies as capitulation [in either direction, and notwithstanding the above] are typically a goddamn menace.)
Feel free to discuss below. Success stories welcome!