Mending Broken Bridges

Relationships are a two-way street, so once you do your part, the ball is in the other court and it’s out of your control. Before you do anything else, you have to come to terms with this truth.

1) “I” instead of “you”.

Use “I” language rather than “you”. “I feel X when…” “I did X…” and other such phrases are more effective because they don’t sound as accusatory as, “You made me feel X.”

Even if it’s true, the point of the exchange is to mend relationships, not rekindle the argument.

2) Be patient.

Be patient when waiting for a response. Remember that the ball is no longer in your court. Give yourself and the other person as much time and distance as you both need. Take deep breaths if you have to. Find ways to remain calm.

3) Cut your losses.

If their response isn’t what you want to hear, cut your losses. Take time to grieve if you need to, then move on with your life and let them move on with theirs. Otherwise, both of you will be miserable.

Forgiveness is a deeply personal decision that cannot be forced. It might take time, or it might never happen at all. If the other party decides not to forgive you, leave them alone and don’t press the issue further.

4) Decide if it’s worth repairing.

One of the most difficult and painful decisions to make in any relationships is whether or not to repair the bridge. If you’ve already thought it through and decide that you want to try to fix things with a lover or friend or whomever, there are a few ways to go about it, depending on how the relationship was broken.

5) When you are in the wrong.

If you are in the wrong, the most important thing you can do is, apologize. One way to apologize is to be specific about what you are apologizing for: “I’m sorry I made that snide comment about your mother,” versus, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” contrast greatly.

Keep your apology short and to the point and try to avoid getting too emotional. It’s okay to say that you deeply regret your actions, but don’t ramble on about how bad you feel. This makes it seem like you’re playing the victim or manipulating their emotions.

It’s also best not to ask for forgiveness. As I’ve said, forgiveness is a deeply personal decision and it can take time.

6) When the other is in the wrong.

If the other person is at fault, be honest about how they hurt you. Again, try to avoid getting too emotional. It could cause the other person to get defensive or evasive.

Be specific and to the point: “It really hurt me when you mocked my mother because she’s a really important person in my life.” Also, tell them that you’re willing to mend the relationship if they do their part.

7) When both are in the wrong.

If both parties are at fault, a combination of these two strategies can be used. Whatever the case, clear, open, and honest communication is important. And while I have said a few times that it’s important not to get too emotional, emotion is still inevitable. Sometimes a good cry is needed, of even getting heated. But be wise and prudent about it.  

A relationship will take time to mend and it might never be the same as it had once been. This is another truth you will have to come to terms with.

Do what you can to make things right, but remember that the only person whose actions you can control is your own. Respect the boundaries of others, but also value your own limited resources. The sunk cost fallacy, where you feel obligated to remain with someone or something because of the time, money, and other things that had been invested, is easy to fall in to and hard to escape from. Be very wary of it.

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