When in a relationship with someone, it is inevitable that at some point, you will be hurt by your partner. It is also inevitable that at some point, you will do the hurting. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, it is difficult and painful when one partner hurts the other person. When you are the one that has hurt your partner, it can be a difficult position to be in. You desperately want to make the situation better, but sometimes it is difficult to know what to do. After being hurt, everyone has their own process they must go through to work through the hurt they experienced. If you want to provide support to your partner during this process, here are 5 ways you can comfort them:
- Apologize and ask for forgiveness. This may seem obvious, but it is a crucial step. When you hurt someone, it is vital to recognize it, own it, and apologize. Even if you did not mean to hurt them, an apology still helps. Asking for forgiveness also takes it a step further. It shows humility and remorse and can validate your partner’s emotions and experiences.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask what they need from you. At the end of the day, it can be helpful to ask your partner what they need from you. This question can help in the moment when they are hurting. It can give you guidance on how to comfort them. It also can be a question that can provide comfort long-term. Asking what you can do in the future can show your partner that you are committed to not hurting them in the same ways.
- 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.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.