The quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” from the novel and motion picture Love Story has been cited as one of the most quoted catchphrases of all time while also being the subject of much criticism. Since Valentine’s Day will be celebrated this week, it seems appropriate to reflect on love, forgiveness, and “I’m sorry.”
Often when couples enter the therapy office, both parties identify various levels of hurt or resentment that has surfaced in their marriage/partnership related to one of more precipitating events. The initial steps of couples therapy include identifying the root cause and the affects of the event(s), the current impact of the hurtful event(s) related to both person’s emotions, as well as its impact on the future plans of the couple.
It is critical to understand how the couple fell in love, what traits of their spouse does each party respect and admire, as well as how the couple has successfully negotiated hurtful events in their past to make initial progress. These three elements create a baseline of data to negotiate and collaborate about what steps to take to address the present day hurt. And often, those steps include acknowledgement of the pain and frequently involve saying “I’m sorry” with a combination of other action oriented steps.
Most couples who have been together for decades will describe the importance of being best friends for each other. They also emphasize being loyal during challenging times. When I am entrusted to work with a couple to resolve a conflict, I focus on affirming each party’s inner strengths as well as restoring trust and resolving conflict.
Maybe a better definition of love would be that love means owning a daily commitment to ensuring the happiness and well being of my soulmate.