Sometimes these two words just don’t cut it. So many times people say things but never act on those words. It is hard to believe someone after so many apologies. How do you know when an apology is genuine? A real apology has four parts. You have to complete all four parts for it to be a genuine apology.
For example, let’s say I broke your window. This is a genuine apology.
Part II: Saying you are sorry. “I’m sorry that it happened. I feel really bad that I made such a mess and scared you that way”.
Part III: Fixing or repairing the damage done. “I will call someone to come out and replace your window. I’ll pay for everything”.
Part IV: Vowing to not do it again. “I will not be playing ball outside your window anymore so this won’t happen again”.
Some people can’t even make it to the first part. They won’t even admit they were wrong. This causes a major crack in the foundation of the relationship. If you have proof that someone did do something and they won’t admit it, there is a huge problem to overcome.
Other people only get through the second part. They will admit they were wrong and they do apologize, but they don’t follow through on trying to repair the damage or vow to not do it again. Or they vow to not do it again, but skip the third step. If they skip the third step, odds are great that their vow means nothing. A person has to make a conscious change for you to really know that they don’t want to hurt you again.
So how do you repair damage like cheating? Say your partner has admitted what they did and apologized and even vows to never do it again. How do they complete step three? That really is up to you. What do you need? Do you need them to spend more time with you? Do you need them to be more affectionate and attentive to you? Do you need them to tell you how much you mean to them and be more complimentary? Do you need them to be more open with their phone, email and social media accounts? I have worked with people in the past who have changed jobs so they can prove to their partner that they won’t see the person they cheated with anymore. Some people have given up promotions so they don’t have to travel as much for work. Some people have told friends or family so they become more accountable. If an apology is truly genuine, they will want to make the changes necessary to win back your trust. It will also help them keep their vow of not hurting you in that way again. It is not easy, but it may be very worth the effort to make amends and move forward.
Remember these four steps the next time you realize you hurt someone in any kind of relationship. If you are honest about your apology, follow through with making changes to repair the damage so it will be easier for that person to believe you when you say it will never happen again.
P.S. Just to let you know. If someone says they won’t ever do something again, and its a habit, like drinking, doing drugs, cheating, lying, being emotional abusive, or using pornography, be aware that they most likely will need professional help to change. They need to learn new ways of dealing with things and have someone hold them accountable while they break that habit. It isn’t as easy as depending on you to help them change. If they are willing to get help, they are more likely being honest with you about stopping. If they follow through for 3 months or more, you can start to trust that they are truly making a change. Three or four weeks of staying sober, being nice, or being helpful doesn’t mean they have really changed. This is from a decade of experience of working with many people with a lot of bad habits. Give them a chance, but be prepared for disappointment if they can’t follow through with step three.