Since we are all human here, we all sometimes we say things we regret or know may have inflicted hurt on someone we care about. Sometimes we are the ones inflicting the hurtful words, and other times we are the ones on the receiving end. Either way it doesn’t feel good. And too much time on one or both ends eventually becomes a death sentence for closeness, safety, and trust in the relationship.
If he’s the one who spoke the hurtful words, I address this at the bottom of this post.
If it’s you who spoke them or if you have a tendency to lash out verbally, here are 2 ways to prevent those hurtful words from wreaking havoc on the relationship and to remedy them if they’ve already been spoken:
1) Enact the 5:1 rule or simply make sure to offer appreciations regularly.
The 5:1 rule is when you find 5 things to appreciate about him (and do so verbally) for every 1 time you criticize.
If you weave enough words of genuine appreciation and gratitude throughout your daily life together, your partner will feel appreciated, even if you sometimes are imperfect (as we all are) and slip into complaint or criticism or blame.
This is powerful, friends, and not a manipulation tactic. It’s a way to make room for the fact that we humans, in our unconscious pain-driven moments, may unintentionally (or even intentionally in moments!) inflict hurt. But even more importantly, it’s also a way to build a strong loving foundation in your marriage, one that’s strong enough to withstand any storms that may come.
One of things I’ve done well in my romantic relationships is express appreciation. For even the smallest things. When he clears my plate from the table, when he does his own "chores", and for things I notice that I just like about him.
I will say things like, “Thank you for being such a good dad” or “ I love the twinkle you have about you today.” This is one of the reasons my divorce was so peaceful and loving, and why my marriage now has no trouble when I do slip and say something I wish I hadn’t. True appreciation creates a solid sense of trust and safety in the relationship.
This one's so obvious, but too often overlooked or dismissed because of pride. Often when we did something we know was not kind, we want to just pretend it didn’t happen... we don’t want to admit even to ourselves we’ve done something wrong. Because most of us aren't comfortable with the feeling of guilt or shame and try to avoid feeling it by turning a blind eye.
This doesn’t work! The guilt and shame will still be there, and in fact will tend to fester and grow if you don’t address it. Especially as a conscientious sensitive person. And that feels even worse than simply admitting it, making amends, and moving on. Am it right?
So here’s the simplest remedy: Say “I’m sorry for…[fill in what you said or did]”. Say it simply, with no explanation. No “but,” no launching into what he did to set you off. At most, you could add and “ I was upset.” I was scared” "I was feeling hurt”. And unless he asks you more, leave it at that.
Sometimes a request for an openhearted solution-oriented conversation, when you are both emotionally calm again, can be a great next step. But a simple apology is magic to help return you both to calm, safety, and even connection again, making any next steps so much easier.
Keep in mind, though, that forcing ourselves to apologize doesn’t work. Just like appreciation, it’s important it comes from a genuine place inside you, so it may take you some reflection and time to get to that place. Don’t rush it. Don’t fake it.
My 3 year old comes to mind here. His filter doesn't really exist yet, and he often says or does harsh things to us. My instinct is to tell him to apologize right away. Of course, he never wants to, since it would admit wrongdoing—which we humans hate to do, especially when operating from the ego like a child does.
When I'm angry about something he did, I sometimes even threaten things like, “No dessert tonight unless you apologize right now to your brother!” So he may say “I’m sorry” just to appease me, but it is NEVER genuine and so it NEVER satisfies me or his brother whom he hurt….(I’m working on not doing this anymore with my kiddos!). It’s simply not effective to make amends if you don’t mean it.
If it was your partner who said unkind words or has the tendency to lash out verbally:
1)You can’t force him to apologize or appreciate, nor would that satisfy, as in the above example. But you can always use either of the first two strategies in my brand new guide The 7 Most Powerful Phrases To Deepen Connection. Grab a copy of if you don’t already have it!
2) Beyond that, I have the perfect words for you to use to help him understand how it effects you and stop saying hurtful things. I’ll share all about in the upcoming free training I'm offering, "From Conflict to Connection: 10 areas Communication Backfires and What Actually Works To Get What You Want In Love”. It’s a live 3 part online training, on August 25, 26 and 27th.
In this training we’ll look at the places our communication breaks down, what we usually say that doesn’t work, and what actually does work to get us the things we want in our relationship, like: affection, connection, chores done, understanding, respect, closeness, and peace.
To join make sure you have your copy of The 7 Most Powerful Phrases To Deepen Connection (it's a pre-requisite) and join the facebook group (just for women) where the training will take place.