Repairing, Making Amends, and Making Things Right Is Love

Repairing, Making Amends, and Making Things Right Is Love

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A couple's therapist shares his greatest tip on how to maintain and heal relationships, and it might be simpler than you think.

Many a war, lawsuit, and divorce could have been avoided had folks just made amends—apologized for their part and demonstrated restitution or reparation. Families could still be intact, friends could still be friends, and partners could restore faith and trust in each other. Yet, when I interview most people, they are hard-pressed to remember either parent fully repairing with them before the age of twelve. There were a lot of things wrong with my immediate family—in my opinion—but lack of repair was never one of them. In our family, if a beloved relationship was breached in some way, that rupture caused personal anguish, which led to making some kind of amends.

There are no perfect people, no perfect relationships—only perfectly imperfect people and relationships. Repairing, making amends, and making things right is love! Perfect is not love.

Relationship-oriented people put relationship before self and thus bow to the gods that make human relationships possible. In other words, we strive to make things right between us, not to make ourselves right. Of all the human relational mistakes, the refusal to put our relationships first above ourselves is one of our greatest failings. To win the battle of righteousness is to lose so much more. When I see this happening with others, it breaks my heart. Of course, when I’m in the middle of my own righteousness . . . well . . . that’s quite another thing. I’m as stubborn and prideful as most others. Nonetheless, that pridefulness is short-lived for me. Painful as it can be, I am willing to sacrifice my notion of truth and fact to hold on to my precious relationships. Pick your poison, I suppose.

One thing is for certain, individuals who fail to quickly repair misunderstandings, injuries, or perceptions of insensitivity with their partners will gradually pay the price. Relationship repair begins in infancy, with the infant caregiver continually going through moments of attunement, misattunement, and re-attunement. This error-correction faculty initiated by the adult caregiver becomes the nascent properties that evolve into repair, relief, restoration of safety and security, and a reassurance of love and care. This mistake-driven process of restoration is essential for that felt sense of safety and security that pervades my writing.

If you do nothing else (with the recommendations in my book, In Each Other’s Care), repair your mistakes, make amends for what you did (not why) and if necessary (as is often the case), offer a behavioral assurance (a guardrail) against future similar mishaps and proof of understanding (“I’ll show you I get it”). Do this quickly and save all other matters for after you complete this task. How will you know if you’ve completed the task of repair? By observing visible relief on your partner’s face. The softening of your partner’s face, voice, and body are your most reliable indicators. If you care about your relationships, repair first, complain later.

One other important point. The person receiving an effective repair must show some sign of gratitude. If you want your partner to fall on their sword for the relationship, the least you can do, before uttering or doing anything, is say thank you.

Excerpted from In Each Other's Care: A Guide to the Most Common Relationship Conflicts and How to Work Through Them by Stan Taktin, PsyD, MFT.

Repairing Making Amends and Making Things Right Is Love

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