Repair of a marriage or intimate relationship is one of the most important things you can learn for long-term happiness.
You can feel the tension between you. You know that an offense has happened and you would really like to repair things and get back to a loving, positive relationship. You hope that repair and forgiveness can happen soon between you. How ?
Conflict is normal in any close relationship, especially ones where you expect to have some of your needs met. Perhaps your partner isn't affectionate as you need them to be. Or perhaps they can be a little self-focused and forget about you when they are at work or with their friends. Conflicts between individual needs vs. partner needs are common. And sometimes a partner just has a bad day, and words are said, and defenses go up. Conflict. Even the best relationships will sometimes have
harsh words against each other
ignoring each other
gossip against each other
use up communal resources for one person
There is some research on the importance of repair attempts in relationships. Gottman studied couples in his love lab and was able to find attempts at repair as a sign of healthy couples. Repair attempts can be many things, including
saying "I'm tired of fighting, can we return to normal?"
giving a gift
doing a chore for the other person
returning to kind words and positive way of relating
Some repair attempts are clear- with the person saying they don't like the conflict and want to make things right. Many times there are minor tiffs and conflicts, and then one person will make a repair attempt without stating that is what they are doing.
How to Make a Great Repair Attempt
Observe what is really going on. Are there underlying needs that help you observe and understand the conflict. Even if you don't fully understand, it is helpful to try and understand why you and your partner are at-odds with each other.
Pick the right TIME to attempt a repair. If either of you are still overwhelmed with emotions, then you might need to cool down first. Sometimes a good break, meal, or even overnight sleep can help cool down and be ready to repair. You can just ask your mate, are you ready to try and repair this yet or need some more time? Accept their answer.
Offer an Apology for your part. A clear direct apology, without explaining the reasons you hurt your partner. Just say "I'm sorry I hurt you. I should not have said those things to you"
Reasons can be helpful, but not always. If your partner is ready to hear the reasons why you hurt them, you can offer up your reasons. Reasons can be things like being tired, stressed out, feeling sick or hungry, or getting too focused on yourself and not considerate of each other. But offering up reasons before your partner wants to hear them is usually heard as excuse-making. See how this comes across to you:
A. I'm so sorry I said those terrible things to you. I shouldn't have said that.
B. I'm so sorry I said those terrible things to you. I was tired, and cranky, and hungry, and my boss got on my case today at work about nothing. It was a terrible day for me.
Would you rather hear A or B from your mate? Most everyone says A. That is taking full responsibility. Explaining reasons often comes across as excuse-making.
5. Offer up generous relevant restitution. In a relationship, balancing things and doing your best to be a blessing and a resource to your partner is important. If you said mean words, then offer up some kind and loving words to compensate. If you ignored your partner, make a plan for a good date together. If you gossiped about him with a friend, say you will tell your friend you were wrong and repair that relationship. Any kind of restitution is helpful, but restitution that is generous, and relevant to the offense is best.