- Recognize and state what ought to have happened. You need to state specifically what you’ve done to harm your partner. Engaging in sexual relationships or emotional affairs cross the bounds of expected behavior of a loyal spouse. However, don’t limit the apology to “I shouldn’t have slept with someone else.” Consider all the ways in which you failed to meet your commitments, including deception, absences from home, and impact on the family and community. If you don't make it clear how exactly you hurt your partner, then your apology will fall on deaf ears.
- Appreciate the impact that your actions have made on your partner. It’s not enough to say you messed up; you also have to make it clear that you can see how you have pained your partner by your actions. Sometimes the hurt goes beyond emotional duress: affairs cause financial strain, inconveniences of time, and disruptions of living situations. Saying, “I have hurt you by what I did,” helps make you accountable.
- Make Ammends. If you've done someone wrong, it's reasonable for that person to want you to make it right in some way. That includes saying, “I’m sorry,” and “I’ve hurt you.” Beyond that, though, you must do something to make up for your errors. That’s what restitution is about. It boils down to saying, “I know I can never undo what I did, but here’s what I plan to do going forward.” First, you must offer to make changes: make a commitment to stay faithful in the future; agree to transparency in the relationship; work on improving the marriage. Next, you may want to offer some form of gesture that is hand picked for your spouse, such as agreeing to visit your in-laws next weekend or bringing home a bouquet of roses. These offers are not trying to bribe your partner away from his or her convictions. Rather, they are offered as a means of saying, “I will put my heart and soul, and even my wallet, into our relationship because I realize you are that important to me.” No one promise, or one offering, can possibly compensate for all the pain you have caused your mate.
Once Kora understood what Sean needed, she realized that the reason he was holding on to his anger was because she never gave him the kind of apology that he deserved. It wasn’t easy for Kora to complete the three steps of apology; it took reflection and creativity to really be able to apply a name and a remedy to the choices she made. When her words of apology were complete, though, Sean’s felt like a pressure valve inside him was released. Is there still work to be done? Sure. But at least Sean and Kora feel like one big stumbling block—an apology—is out of the way.