Successful Rebuilders are more sorry for their spouse’s pain than for their own guilt.
Rebuilders grieve over their partners’ sorrows without allowing their own self-pity to distract them. It is good for betrayers to be remorseful about what they have done. Yet, a betrayer’s regret for his/her guilt needs to not supersede a deeper regret for the faithful spouse’s agony.
Healthy guilt needs to be about the awfulness of the deed, not about how bad the betrayer feels about him/herself. Unhealthy guilt becomes all about the betrayer: “Poor me! I am such a failure!” while healthy guilt is about the damage doen to the betrayed: “I am deeply sorry for the ways I’ve wounded you!”
When hurt spouses cry or fly off the handle over their overwhelming pain, Successful Rebuilders say things like, “I feel awful about what I have done to you,” “I’m sad to see you in so much pain,” It kills me to think about what I’ve done to you, and “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.” Hurt spouses desperately need to know that their betrayers deeply regret how badly they have hurt them.
Betrayers who spend more time recriminating themselves than offering love and sympathy for their hurt spouses, take away from their partners’ needs for understanding and comfort. On the other hand, Successful Rebuilders seek to put more energy into healing the pain of the betrayed than in punishing themselves for their indiscretions.
Successful Rebuilders grow in their abilities to show sincere empahthy and offer heartfelt apologies.
It is difficult for most of us to hear about how much we have hurt a loved one. Yet, when a betrayer allows shame, defensivenss, and self-absorption to get in the way, then he or she remains unable to get into the hurt partner’s shoes.
Successful Rebuilders openly care about the sorrows they have inflicted upon the faithful spouses. They don’t avoid the emotional outbursts of betrayed partners. They accept their partners’ rights to express their feelings. They sincerely apologize over and over again and seek to soothe their partners’ emotional pain.
On the other hand, unsuccessful rebuilders stumble in their attempts to “fix” their partner’s sorrows by offering weak, unhelpful apologies.
a. “I am sorry if I hurt you.”
b. “I am sorry for your hurt.”
c. “I am sorry for whatever I did.”
Such statements come across too detached to satisfy injured spouses. They send an “I bear no responsibilities” message. Thus, faithful partners will feel more hurt, and think or say things like:
a. What do you mean if you hurt me? Is there any doubt about that?
b. You are only sorry for my hurt? So, you think it’s mine to bear alone? Or, that I am making this up?
c. “What do you mean ‘whatever I did’? You mean you don’t Know what you did? ”
Rather than offer shallow apologies, Successful Rebuilders show concern for the damage they’ve caused in peronal, engaging ways. They are truly grieved to have harmed their beloved. They know that sharing their partners’ pain through the gifts of genuine remorse and heartfelt apologies lessens the burden of sorrow for the betrayed.
Helpful Apologies that Successful Rebuilders Use:
I feel terrible for how badly I’ve hurt you.
I don’t blame you for feeling that way.
I am sorry for what I did to you.
You didn’t deserve that.
I deeply regret hurting you.
You have the right to feel that way.
That must feel awful.
That must feel terrible.
I was so wrong.
I will do whatever it takes to make this up to you.
I love you and promise to never betray you again.
Successful Rebuilders recognize that heartless apologies prolong and even defeat the healing process while sincere apologies and believable emphathy speed it up. They also realize that by choosing the path of empathy, they become more selfless, compassionate, and caring persons —just the opposite of who they were when they engaged in their affairs. This requires thoughtful reflection and practice, practice, practice.