Some mistakes are annoying but we learn from them and usually end up laughing about them later on. Other mistakes, however, are hurtful to those we love and to our relationships. These hurtful mistakes may be unintentional but they cause emotional pain. They make us question whether we are valued by our loved one or whether we can count on him or her to be there for us when we need them. They are not corrected with a friendly smile but rather with tears or sometimes, anger. And sometimes they are not even corrected because the hurt is so painful. These kinds of mistakes must be addressed and appropriately responded to in order for the relationship to heal.
The first step in addressing these mistakes is to allow yourself to feel the pain, including the pain that is underneath the anger. It is much easier to feel angry but anger is always divisive. Anger does exactly what we don’t want. It causes us to feel more alienated and alone. When we are willing to feel the real pain, the next step is to recognize that this pain must be shared to begin the healing process. And that takes a lot of courage.
Unfortunately, sometimes when the real hurt is shared, the response from the loved one is simply that it was unintentional or “I didn’t mean to” with the attitude of “so let’s just move on”. The problem is that the hurt partner has an emotional injury. They can’t just move on, anymore than someone who has a broken leg can “just move on.” The cause of the broken leg may have been unintentional (or accidental) but it still hurts and it still needs to be healed and that takes time and appropriate attention.
The first step in responding to your loved one when you have made a hurtful mistake is to acknowledge that you have caused pain, even though it may not have been intentional. Show your loved one that you care about their pain, just as you would if you had unintentionally caused a physical injury. Be with them and feel with them and certainly express remorse for what happened (again, whether or not it was intentional). This is how the healing process begins. You are now answering those questions positively which were left unanswered before: “Do you value me? Can I count on you to be there for me when I need you?” "Yes. Yes".