If you’re the one who messed up, it’s time you fessed up. Your relationship broke up. Maybe you lied or cheated. No matter what happened, getting your ex to forgive you is a little bit of work. But listen, it’s not completely impossible.
First, a warning, however. Your ex’s forgiveness is never guaranteed. You might never get your ex to completely forgive you. What I can offer is a roadmap. And hopefully the roadmap will lead you to forgiveness and a second chance.
#1. Decide what you really want. Sometimes all of this striving won’t really get you the kind of relationship that you want in the end. It’s important to take a step back and think about whether it’s your ex who you miss or it’s the act of being in a relationship with them that’s really bothering you. You can do everything under the sun to get your ex back, but if your relationship with them isn’t right in the first place, it’s a huge waste of time and energy.
Once you get clear on this, and it’s your ex who you indeed miss, proceed.
#2. Take complete responsibility for your part and apologize sincerely. So often we think that providing a genuine apology is a weakness, when really it’s the first step in getting things between the two of you to where they’re good again. Think of your sincere apology as opening the door and clearing the way to a better future between the two of you.
One caveat. You can’t apologize sloppily. What do I mean by sloppily?
“Oh my goodness dear, wonderful ex, I’m the most wrong person in the history of wrongness, and everything I ever did was for us and I somehow lost my path. I love you now and forever, please forgive me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
There are a few problems with this. It comes off ultra pathetic, and it’s clear that you’re trying to get something from your ex. Now, you ARE trying to get something from them (their forgiveness) but they can’t lose respect for you during your apology! This is better:
“I wanted to let you know that I’m really sorry for (whatever I did). It wasn’t the right thing to do or fair to you. You deserve better. I’m sorry.”
This is better for several reasons. First, it’s crystal clear exactly what you’re apologizing for. You aren’t groveling for the entire history of your relationship or making yourself look like a pathetic, sappy mess. You’re also recognizing and taking responsibility for the hurt that you caused them. Get in, get it done, get out.
#3. Accept that they might punish you for a while. Sometimes we hope that we’ll say the magic apology and our ex will immediately jump back into our arms, ready to forget about everything that happened. Unfortunately, this seldom happens. Depending on what you did, your ex is possibly still angry with you and will have a difficult time treating you the way you wish they would treat you.
Now, I never advocate letting anyone abuse you, and it’s up to you to decide how much of an emotional beating you’re willing to take. However, happy times might not happen again right away, and you’ve got to let them work through the anger and hurt, even after your sincere apology. That leads me to my next point.
#4. Give them time and space to forgive you. Knowing that they’re still upset or hurt can make us feel guilty and bad in our ex’s presence. We yearn for things between us to go back to how they once were, and we just want to get the whole process over with so things are happy again.
The problem is that often we want all of this way too soon. It can take a long time for someone to feel better around you, and you have to recognize this when looking for forgiveness. Let them process their feelings and give them some space to do it.
#5. Avoid becoming defensive. It’s up to you to maintain a clear head in the face of whatever they might toss your way.
Avoid the temptation to roll into an emotional ball, re-apologize, or launch into more explanations for your behavior. Stay calm, accept that they’re still emotional about what happened, and make them feel heard.
A good statement like “I completely understand why you’re upset about that,” works well. Let them get it out, and then gently move the conversation on or remove yourself from it. You listing the 24 reasons why you did what you did and apologizing profusely YET AGAIN will just add fuel to the fire. Instead, keep your eye on your real end goal — a harmonious relationship with your ex. Getting defensive and fighting doesn’t accomplish that goal.
I realize it’s hard when you feel like they’re attacking you, but it’s so important that you avoid saying something that you know will devastate them. Don’t fight back. Stay cool.
#6. Continue trying to make it fun, even though it’s not fun right now. The biggest mistake that people make with their exes is that they let negative patterns continue while they’re trying to get their ex back. What I mean is that instead of using their actions to remind their ex how amazing things were in the beginning of their relationship, they go back in and rehash all of the old, negative emotions.
If you really want your ex to forgive you, this is the wrong thing to do because it reinforces the negative pattern between the two of you. If they’re going to forgive you and repair your relationship, breaking that negative cycle is absolutely crucial.