Making Amends

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This is a very specific process that can be adapted easily.  Use this process when you would like to make up for something you did, and now wish you hadn’t.  Deal with your guilt list this way.  Do not say, “I am sorry” even if you may feel it.  Turn that feeling into something that works.  

Also do not think that by Making Amends you will erase your partner’s issues.  I believe that most people say, “I’m sorry!” quickly in an effort to either prevent their partner’s hurt (too late, it doesn’t work), or to prevent their partner from talking about their pain or distress.  Helping them with their pain or frustration is completely independent of your Making Amends.  In this process you are dealing with your side of the situation.  You deal with their side by dealing with their Frustration or just by listening/mirroring and Validating.

SENDER          I’d like to make an appointment to make amends for something.

RECEIVER       Grant appointment soon.  (Always do "hard stuff" by appointment.)

SENDER          One thing I would like to make amends for is …..

(State what you did that you want to make amends for.  Give no reasons nor excuses for the behavior. Their old brain will hear “I was sick, I was tired” as justifications and get distracted.)

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror.

SENDER          You did not deserve that from me because …..

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror.

SENDER         And how I imagine you may have felt is …..?  Is that accurate, and/or did you have any other feelings?

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror, and then share the memory of your feelings at that time.

SENDER          Mirror your partner’s corrections or additions.

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror.

SENDER        A: How I wish I would have done this differently is ….. 

(This does two things: you engage your frontal lobe to create a new choice if this situation or one similar arises, and it lets your partner experience you actively, intentionally, consciously, healing them.)

                        B: What I think you really deserved from me was …..

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror.

SENDER          I am sorry that I did that and that I hurt you.

RECEIVER       Listen or mirror.  Validate.

Pause for 30 seconds or so.  Then switch directions. 

RECEIVER      Tell me what your behavior, what  you are making amends for, reminds you of in your childhood?

SENDER          Tells childhood story about who taught you to do that or who did the same thing.  “And the way I felt then was ….”

RECEIVER      Listen or mirror. 

(If Sender talks about self-behavior, ask about who was the adult teacher.  Say more so that I can hear what it was like for you.  The way you might have felt as a child was…..  All you wanted was …?)

RECEIVER    Then says, “Thank you for telling me all this.”

Pause for 30 seconds or so.  Then switch directions.

SENDER          An unconditional gift I would like to give you is …..

​Offer a gift that is to your mind approximately the same size as the behavior you are making amends for.

RECEIVER      Thank you.  Receiving this gift will help me feel …….

SENDER          Listen or mirror.

SENDER          And I am ready to hear your side of this situation, when you want.

RECEIVER       (Optionally shares their side, participates in a Restructuring Process, etc.)

Example of Making Amends.  (Sender in red) 

Note how the Making Amends process is modified and made smoother.  This is just an example but has all the critical pieces.

“I would like to make an appointment to Make Amends for something.” 

“OK.  How about now.”

“I would like to make amends for coming home last night over an hour after I told you I would be there.  You didn’t deserve that from me, because as my wife and friend you deserve the respect of knowing what is going on and of me keeping my word.  I imagine that when I was late you felt angry, betrayed and upset.  Did I get that?

“Actually I felt mostly worried, but a bit pissed off, too.”

“Ok, worried and pissed off. Right?


I wish instead I had called you, when I realized I was gonna be late.  You deserved that so that you wouldn’t have been worried.   Gosh, I am sorry I did that and that I hurt you.

“Well, I can see why you want to make amends, because you were late, don’t want me to worry and think I deserve the respect of being kept up-to-date.   Thanks.  (Pause)  By the way, what does your being late remind you of from your past.”

“Damn.  It reminds me of waiting and waiting for my mother.  She would pick me up from school and be late again and again.  I recall one time she forgot me and I had to walk home almost three miles.  When I got there all she said was, ‘Where have you been? Oh.  Well, wash you hands.’  I was so hurt…   Guess she me taught me to be callous and late at times.”

“Ok, so your behavior reminds you of your mom and waiting and waiting and she didn’t seem to be concerned. Hurt you a lot. Right.”

“Yep.  So I would like to give you a gift and offer you a dinner on the town of your choice to make up for that.  Sometime in the next couple of weeks.  Just let me know.  My treat.  Thanks.”

“And thank you.”

"And by the way, if you would like to work on your side of this, if you are frustrated, please let me know.  I am ready, or  can make an appointment."



Making Amends — 10 Comments

  1. Will this work if my husband has told me he is leaving? I am going to follow your four steps ( does sending a text informing of an upcoming event for the children count as my one communication for the week?) We’ve been married over nine years and I am for sure the clinger. We’ve made it thru some pretty rocky times and recently our relationship went down hill, I thought we were getting close to a reconciliation but I awoke to a text this morning saying it was over. I of course bombarded him with texts today. How long should I wait before I tell him I want to make amends?

    • Well, Rose, I think this (Making Amends) is better by far than simply saying “I’m sorry.” If you are trying to recover connection with a departing spouse, then those little four sentence emails seem best. One sentence about the kids’ event would be good. Bombarding him with texts seems a good idea only if your goal is to drive him away 🙂
      I would wait till he shows signs of turning around, stopping the leaving behavior, before asking him anything much at all. You can slip into Making Amends, parts of it, in your short and occasional messages. Good luck.

  2. Thanks. This process worked very well for both of us. It felt more complete than just “owning” something. I can see how it can potentially reprogram old patterns. Amends is a great word b/c to me it feels more connecting.

    Afterward I shared that I learned this from your site and now he can understand and apply the process too.

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