Opinion: What to Do After You Hurt Your Partner

Face it There are times when your partner will be upset with you. Maybe you’ll know why they’re upset, or maybe you’ll have no clue what you’ve done to hurt them. While you may prefer to feign ignorance and wait for happy days to come again if your partner is hurt by something you’ve done, research shows that tackling the issue head-on is usually the best course of action.1 Though it may be uncomfortable at first, cleaning up your emotional messes can lead to honest conversations that benefit your relationship in the long run.

​Below are some simple ways you can improve your communication with your partner when they’re hurt and avoid angry stand-offs and silent treatments.

1. Acknowledge Their Feelings

Don’t ignore the situation or try to make a joke about it. You may not like how your partner feels, but you should still respect their feelings and show empathy. All they want is to feel understood, accepted, and cared for by you. Like you really get them. It’s okay if you disagree with their response. That’s not the point. The point is to simply acknowledge their hurt feelings. Think about how nice it is to hear the words, “I can understand why that would make you angry.” That type of statement can make your partner feel heard and that it’s okay for them to feel the way they feel.

2. Take Responsibility

When you do something that hurts your partner, whether intentionally or not, it’s always best to admit what you did wrong. If you’re not clear on what you said that was hurtful, just ask. It’s important to show your partner that you know you made a mistake and that you’re willing to take full responsibility for your actions. This means avoiding annoying phrases like, “I’m sorry if you were hurt” or “I’m sorry you were upset.” All these statements do is shift the responsibility from you to your partner. It’s basically you saying, “You weren’t supposed to get hurt/upset about something so tiny, but I’ll apologize out of pity.

3. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand”

Apologizing can seem scary for some people because it puts them in a vulnerable position. Naturally, following the need to protect themselves from guilt, they get defensive. However, for the offended party, defending your behavior and giving explanations is seen as trying to get excused from the situation and avoiding to take responsibility for your actions.

4. Show That You’re Sorry

While it’s important to ask for forgiveness, keep in mind that your partner may not be ready. Think carefully about what you can do to make things right. If you’re not sure what would help, ask your partner what you can do to make them feel better. Token gestures, empty promises, and insincere apologies can do more harm than good.

5. Give them space in they need it.

Some people need space after they have been hurt. Do necessarily assume that is what they need. Pay attention to their non-verbals (i.e. walking away or not responding to messages). However, when in doubt, ask them if they want space from you. It acknowledges they might need some time to recover and lets your partner decide what they need.

6. Offer affection if it seems appropriate.

At some point, most people desire some sort of affection. It might be a hug, holding their hand, or cuddling them. Everyone’s timing is different so it helps to pay attention to non-verbals as well as being in tune with your partner’s preferences. However, once again, when in doubt, ask them if they want a hug or to be held rather than making assumptions.

7. Provide some assurance.

When you talk to your partner about how you can do differently in the future, it can be nice to reassure them that you will work on not repeating the same behavior that hurt them. It can be helpful for them to receive that reassurance and even aid them in recovering from the hurt they feel. As much is people do not want to hurt their partners, it will happen. Knowing what you can do to comfort your partner after you have hurt them can help them feel safe and secure in the relationship as they work to move forward.

8. Express a willingness to do whatever it takes

It can be easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to make this better. You may think, “Anything I say only makes things worse” or “I don’t know what to do to make things better.” It can be comforting for your hurt partner to hear “I’m not sure how to help, but I know I want to help.” Let them know that although you might not always know how, you want to make things better, and you are willing to learn how to do that.

9. Open up

Expressing your emotions and showing vulnerabilities may not be your strong suit. However, it can be comforting for your hurting partner to know you are hurting too, and that they are not in this hurt alone. It can be very healing for your partner to hear and see that you hurt because they hurt.

10. Invite a discussion about how to prevent a relapse.

If your partner hears that you are taking some accountability and thinking of ways to prevent the problem from happening again, it communicates that you care. “Going forward, I will put all events on my calendar so that I won’t forget.” Or “Can we discuss a more effective system for coordinating events so that this won’t happen again.

11. Be Patient And Don’t Push For Forgiveness

It’s understandable that you want your relationship to get back on track as soon as possible. But, remember that your main objective was not to get forgiveness and be comfortable again quickly, but to make things easier for your partner and start building trust and connection again. Therefore, give your partner some space and time to process all those unpleasant emotions of anger, frustration, hurt, disappointment etc. Don’t rush them through this process or blame them for taking “too long” to forgive you.

12. Be more gentle with your partner.

Being critical will make them feel like you’re not on their side so it’s important to be gentle, even when you’re not talking about how you’ve hurt them. “Criticism is a surefire way to erode connection in relationships,For one thing, it makes both of you feel less loving towards one another. And, secondly, it almost always ends in your partner becoming defensive or shutting down.

13. Make time for each other.

Show your partner you’re trying to fix it by putting in the time. “Spend quality time together doing something you both love and find soothing,” Trombetti says. “Perhaps that’s going to a concert, planting flowers in your garden, or taking a hike. Whatever you enjoy as a couple, do more of it. It’s the good times that help bond us and get you both past your difficulties. Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than the commitment of spending your time with someone. It shows you care.” And quality time is the best way to build new memories together, so they can start to move past the feelings of hurt and betrayal.

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