You can easily recover from some painful episodes. Others cut so deeply that recovery is at best a long, slow process. When you have caused your partner pain that is deep and lasting, it is important to respond to the pain.
It’s difficult to face pain you have inflicted on someone you love and care for. The temptation is to avoid, distract or minimize your partner’s pain so that you don’t have to see the agony caused by your behavior. But face it you must.
The key is to avoid trying to take your partner’s pain away and instead to sit beside the pain. You must share the pain by being humble and compassionate.
Being humble. You must acknowledge your role in causing pain. A humble person knows their place in the relationship. In causing pain, you must accept your role and avoid defending yourself. Now is the time to defend the relationship, not yourself.
You must be patient! Your role is to be supportive as long as it takes – you do not get to say how long that is.
It is natural to try to put your behavior in some context that explains why you are not such a bad person even though you have hurt your partner. It is natural to want your partner to acknowledge his or her role in the painful episode, but now is the time to be humble and accept your role in your partner’s pain.
Being compassionate. It is not enough to acknowledge that you have caused pain, you must also show you understand the extent of the pain you have caused.
A compassionate person is a listener. A compassionate person empathizes. A compassionate person recognizes he or she cannot remove the pain but can be a source of support. A compassionate person does not judge the person in pain.
Pain can be expressed in many forms and pain diminishes at different rates. Initially, pain is expressed as anger because anger feels stronger, but as you listen for the pain you will see your partner become more vulnerable and willing to accept your compassionate soothing.
Pain can leave a lasting footprint in the brain but the intensity and frequency of the pain will diminish over time. But time alone will not heal the relationship unless you are willing to be humble and compassionate.