Ever wondered what a full apology might look like in the face of real harm or abuse?
A friend of mine is a counsellor who works with men who have been abusive. She shares with them the 3 steps to a full apology. A man who has been abusive, who wants to start to heal his relationship needs to do much more than just say “sorry”. There are 3 steps to a full apology. This is true in any situation in which harm has been done by one person to another but I will speak about it here in the context of abuse.
1) The man needs to say, “Here’s what I did that I regret…” Specifics are helpful. Vagueness is not.
2) The man needs to say, “Here’s what I am doing so this never happens again….” What can he do to create emotional and physical safety for the woman? Accountability with a counsellor is one helpful step in this.
3) The man needs to say, “Is there something you need from me right now?” He then needs to be willing to really hear what she has to say and to respect it. She may need him to leave the house for a while or for months. Her needs will likely be quite different from what he wants.
Sometimes a woman is criticized for not accepting her partner’s apology or sometimes a woman thinks there is something wrong with her because she does not want to forgive him. Sharing with a woman what a real and full apology would look like can sometimes help her to understand why she does not feel okay with a lame “sorry”. It is not a real or full apology.
The other matter we always need to keep in mind is safety. Even if the man does move through all the steps of a full apology, it may not be safe (emotionally or physically) for the woman to engage with him or interact with him. As always, the woman is in the best position to judge the safety of the situation.