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Love means never having to say your sorry

    Do you remember the catch-phrase "Love means never having to say your sorry"?

    It suggests that two people who love one another never crash into each other, never step on each other's toes, never say or do anything hurtful. Yet, anyone who's been in an intimate relationship knows that's not true.

    In fact, if love does mean never having to say your sorry, then you are either not showing up and being fully who you are or you're using a simplistic interpretation of love to keep yourself from having to acknowledge that you can be insensitive, unaware, self-involved -- with the result that your partner feels unheard, ignored, taken for granted, or hurt in some way.

    What's wrong with saying "I'm sorry"? What do you have to lose? After all, an apology is just an acknowledgment that you've been out of line, or unconscious, or maybe just too tired to have

    But what if you've said or done something you had no idea would be hurtful? In this case, both men and women often refuse to say, "Hey, I'm sorry you feel bad." and even more adamantly refuse to assume responsibility for having been involved, even just slightly, in their partner's upset.

    "I didn't do anything," they argue. "How could I have known? So what do I have to be responsible for?"

    Well, what you are responsible for is the well being of your relationship. That doesn't mean you have to assume responsibility every time your partner feels bad. That would be like not having a self. We don't mean you say "I'm sorry" as an automatic matter of policy.

    We do mean that, if the well being of your relationship is of primary concern to you, then, even if you don't feel responsible, your being-together has been disturbed and must be attended to. It's at times like these that what's needed is a simple, "I'm sorry I wasn't aware of what that meant to you. What do you need so that this won't happen again?"

    You don't assume a false responsibility and yet you show your love by expressing support for your partner. Love means saying you're sorry when you know you are responsible, so that an apology is a simple acknowledgment of your having said or done something that was hurtful. And when you know you're not directly responsible, or intentionally responsible, you are willing to offer an "I'm sorry" anyway. It only requires your conscious care for the feelings of the one you say you love and the rewards are immense.

    The Magic of Differences

    � Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D., all rights reserved.