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Wonder Couples Class #5

Class Five: June 10, 2020 7:30-8:45 pm PST “Wonder Couples: Superhero Apologies” How to get good at repairing injuries as a way that creates safety in your emotional connection. 


Before class, Carolyn sends out a link to the blog she wrote about repair to the class group. 



Opening Exercise: 

A successful apology requires three important elements- the apology, the reception of apology 

and an environment of safety and security.  Our opening exercise is going to focus on creating a safe and secure environment so that we can set the stage for youtro learn about and experience successful apologies.

  • Take a moment to sit together and breathe together with each other, smiling at your partner with your eyes. 

  • Try to take note of the little things in your partner- Breathing patterns, tension in the jaw or eyes, posture, flush of the cheeks.  Internally soften those areas inside yourself and without words or gestures encourage your partner to do the same.  Make it safe for them to breathe a little deeper, relax their jaw a little more, feel good in their own skin.

  • Now for a moment, one at a time, close your eyes for a soft count of 5. Open your eyes, smile and breathe. Next person close your eyes for a soft count of 5. Open your eyes and smile. 

  • Take a couple more breaths together, expressing gratitude with your eyes to your partner for their work coming tonight to connect and build a healthy relationship. 


Concept introduction:


What you have just done is the process of attunement. You might follow some of the little things that just happened between you or that you thought about but did or didn’t put into action.  Maybe your partner's hair was messy, so they fixed it or you fixed it.  Maybe you were focused on work and your partner caught your gaze and brought you back.  Maybe you wanted your partner closer so you brought them a little closer.  


People think true attunement is a state of constant connection with each other’s state. But as we all likely know and feel, that is impossible. What we will find is that real attunement is actually a process of attuning, misattuning and re-attuning. Injuries (whether big or small, irritating or hurtful) are moments of misattunement. Repairs are moments of re-attuning. What we will be teaching tonight is re-attunement. 


Okay great, so we understand at a very deep level that apologies are important.  Injury and repair are at bedrock of our safety and security systems, they have deep roots in our attachment histories and our brains are wired to apply special importance to making things feel just and fair.  



So, What constitutes a positive repair? 


  • Focus on the need to be a good giver and receiver

  • Return to partner’s need above your own: Making the relationship the priority. All our tips and techniques return to this key point. 


  • So in thinking about this:

    • Think about what your partner’s hurt is about. Repair always for the injury not the intention. 

    • As the person causing the injury we tend to focus on our intention (I meant x, not Y) and as the injured, we think about impact (this hurt me this way, you hurt me). As the “Injurer”, our focus should be on the injured not ourselves. I am sorry I hurt you, regardless of what I meant to do. 


  • Think of mistake and repair as a recipe for growth

  • To get into the amygdala/emotional center, we need to use as few words as possible. Many words trips us up into the PFC and does nothing to soothe and reconnect

    • I am sorry

    • I love you

    • I am sorry I hurt you.

    • I am sorry I did that/said that. 

  • Proper repair contains an apology for our action, without explanation or justification. It is FOR our partner, it is not for US. Explanation is for us, to relieve our pain and suffering. 

  • Proper repair is about our action, not our partner’s reaction: I am sorry I hurt you. NOT I am sorry you are hurt/sad/sensitive. That is gaslighting-making the injury the receiver’s fault. 

  • Proper repair is offered from a place of love for your partner. It is offered for the hurt person to help them heal and feel loved. Offering from the intellect does not heal. Best repair is embodied. Felt. Can qeven be offered only with the eyes. 

  • Proper repair happens as soon as possible. The least time between injury and repair as possible. 

  • Proper repair tends to process rather than content. You do not need to agree with the “facts” of the situation to repair the experience of being hurt. 

  • Proper repair allows time for the injured person to heal without expecting them to make you feel better. Repair is not offered to heal your shame or guilt. 

  • Proper repair means doing the work to not repeat this injury. Offering what you have learned and how you will work to not repeat this. 


  • Proper receipt of repair: 

  • As the receiver of repair, we want to make it safe to apologize. We need apology so much and yet we often do not know how to make it safe for our partner to do it and how to take it in. As the receiver, we want to think about what our partner was going for, what they meant. Think about their good intentions and have compassion for their human-ness in making mistakes. 


  • Take in repair and say thank you. 

  • Pause

  • Share feedback then in friendliness. This is not making it ok, this is making it safe for them to continue trying. 

    • “Thank you for the apology. I am still upset, but I appreciate you saying you're sorry. That means a lot.” 

    • Thank you. I forgive you. We need to talk more, but I forgive you.” 

    • Thank you. I love you. 

  • Proper receipt makes it safe for your partner to make mistakes and then make it right. 

  • Proper receipt means partner first over being right and them being wrong. 


Big Exercise: Practicing Repair For a Small Thing three different ways.


We are going to have you practice offering and receiving repair. The goal is to help you feel the difference when you intentionally focus on different aspects of a successful repair. Jason and I will walk you through this by demonstrating it in repairing to each other. 


So first, without asking your partner, bring to mind something small you did in the last 24 hours that annoyed your partner. We all know there are things we do that our partner doesn’t like. Pick something minor that you do that your partner does not like. Such as leaving the sponge in the sink; leaving the toilet seat up; leaving your shoes in the hall. Something minor that does not trigger big fights. Ok. Got it. 


Attempt 1: So this repair is focusing on leading with relief. Imagine that this little thing you did HURT your partner and before you offer an apology, we are going to do something to help them feel loved/appreciated. 


To show you what this looks like, Jason and I are going to show you. So I am going to apologize for X and Jason is going to apologize for Y. First I am going to do something that communicates my love and appreciation for Jason. 


“Jason I really love working with you!” 


“Next, Jason I am sorry I did Y” 


Next, Jason: “Thank you.” 


Now you guys will go: 

  • First offer  a communication of love and commitment. You guys can do something physically soothing, making sure your face and body communicates love and friendliness. Or you can offer a loving statement with a smile or love in your face. 

  • Now, say, “I am sorry I did X.” (I

  • Receiver, communicating appreciation for their effort in your eyes and face: “Thank you.” 

  • Now, just notice and take note of the impact of that interaction (better/same or worse) without sharing it. We will get to talk about it later. 




Great.  Now take a deep breath and see if you can make your partner smile.  Good, now fist bump, high five or your special handshake.




Attempt 2: Now we are going to focus on putting the relationship first. Now you are going to focus on what is most important in this interaction which is the re-attunement to put the relationship back together rather than who was right or how OK your behavior is. When we think about the relationship and all the ways we benefit from the relationship, the challenge of apologizing becomes easier. In focusing on our relationship first, we focus on making them feel better. We put their experience first. 


  • As I think about all I am getting out of the working with Jason, it becomes easier to apologize. When I do that I want to understand and care for his experience rather than explaining my own.  “I am sorry for X”. Jason: “thank you”. 


  • So now you guys, spend a second thinking about everything you get out of being partnered by this relationship. Think about what your partner does to make your life better. Think about the things that make you laugh. Think about your desire to make sure it is healthy and vital.


  •  Now, thinking about that same annoyance, focus on making sure they get the apology they need. Focus all your energy on wanting them to feel better. 


  • Now offer the same apology with a twist: “I am sorry for ____. I love you and want to make it better.


  • Receiver: “Thank you. That felt so nice I really appreciate it.

  • Now both of you take note of how THAT felt. Note better/same or worse.




We congratulate them.  Focus on how so much of what we do is automatic.  Being in synch assumes that know what we are doing, have it planned out, this is not possible.  The main thing is that we learn from our experience.



Attempt 3: Now we are going to focus on really feeling into your partner’s experience. Following that last apology where you focused on putting your relationship first over being right, now we want you to think about what it felt like to your partner when you did it. No matter how small it was, what was their experience? What’s about it is hurtful or annoying? What about it bothers them? Does it feel like you do’t care? That you don’t understand? What is the real problem? When you don’t empty the trash, does it feel like you leave them to do it all themself. 


  • Spend a moment with your eyes closed and really feel into their experience.


  • When you really have a sense for their experience and what is painful about it, think of the words you want to say (“I am sorry for doing X”)and open your eyes and say it.


  • Feel into your partners hurt- take it into your body and imagine their hurt and upset. Close your eyes imagine the partner that you love and that they are hurt. Open your eyes and apologize


  • Receiver: “Thank you. I love you very much and I know you did not mean to hurt me.” 

  • Each think about how that felt. 




Back together talk about the experiences: Which one of these experiences felt best? What did you notice that was different in each one? 


Weave in attachment and neurobiology. 

Attachment and Neurobiology Content: 


From an attachment perspective we are talking about what the developmental researcher Ed Tronik calls, “mismatch and repair”.  In his lab looking at infants and caregivers they figured out that even in secure caregiver/child dyads that mismatch happens 70% of the time.  (Think of mismatch and repair in a game of peek-a-boo, you look for me when I’m gone but then I find you and we laugh.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.)  


What separates the securely attached caregiver/infants is not the mismatches, it’s the amount of repair.  An insecure way of relating to the environment develops at a young age when we learn from our pre-verbal experience that our caregivers will leave us in a distressed state for too long or will not let us have our own experience of being distressed before we receive repair. 


As a result, we learn to lose faith in the repair process and begin to develop strategies to not have to risk dependence in close relationships.  To make it more challenging, this develops preverbally so it is hard to put into words and we are trying to fix something without an internal blueprint.   You can see why there is so much vulnerability within the apology process. 



The absence of repair (cleanup) turns a momentary injury into a procedural memory. A procedural memory is one that becomes automated.  So an injury that becomes automated means the next time we see something similar in our partner/relationship, we expect the same thing and have an automatic response. If you are late without acknowledging it, I expect it. I get angry faster and faster with each subsequent occurrence. Quick repair prevents those occurrences from joining procedural memory. 


Add to this the brain’s natural tendencies for negativity bias and keeping score of what’s fair and what’s unfair and you can see how this can see how two well meaning people can really hurt each other. 


The way to face these destructive patterns is through making a deep commitment within your couple to creating safety and security and seeing injures as a series of bumping up against each other's boundaries risk the smaller corrective emotional experiences that allow for growth.


[Jason final exercise]

Settle into each other's eyes.  

Close your eyes:

I forgive myself.  Sadly, I have hurt myself.  Not speaking up enough, speaking up too much when I know I should slow down and breathe, focusing on myself too much or not enough, not asking for help, not helping myself enough.  For not protecting my loved ones or being overprotective when you need space.  For not having your back when the chips are down.  I forgive myself for - Forgetting that you are my beloved and that I put you first.


Open your eyes: 

I Forgive you.  Sadly, you have hurt me.  Not speaking up for me enough, speaking up for me too much when you know you should slow down and breathe, focusing on yourself too much or not enough, making me the problem when your own introspection is needed, not asking for my help, not helping yourself enough.  For not protecting me or being overprotective.  For not having my back when the chips are down.  For being overly controlling or not taking enough control.  I Forgive you for - for th times you forg that I am your beloved and that you put me first.


Forgive me.  Sadly, I have hurt you.  Not speaking up enough, speaking up too much when I know I should slow down and breathe, focusing on myself too much or not enough, making you the problem when my own introspection is needed, not asking for help, not helping myself enough.  For not protecting you or being overprotective.  For not having your back when the chips are down.  For being overly controlling or not taking enough control.  Forgive me for - Forgetting that you are my beloved and that I put you first.


Then exercise; Meditation on forgiveness: silently exchanging apology and forgiveness. 


  • Ideas:



  • Think or Talk about the most memorable/powerful repair you received. What did that feel like? What was it about that that felt so powerful? 

  • For those of you who did not receive a powerful repair/who cannot recall, what is the most significant repair you need. 

  • Other thought: Play with/practice apologies: think of things you know you do that are annoying, inconsiderate. (I can apologize to jason. “I am sorry I interrupt.”) Exchange apologies, practicing saying it and receiving “thank you” in response. Make muscle memory. 

    • Find three things you know you do that causes annoyance/problem/discomfort for your partner. Using as few words as possible: make a repair. “I am sorry I forget to load the dishwasher.” “I am sorry I talk loudly on Zoom calls” 

    • Play with speed/tone/volume: where do you create the most relief? 

    • Now find something that causes hurt for your partner and apologize for it. “I am sorry for hurting you.” 

    • Partner receiving: practice receiving with gratitude for the effort each time. 

  • Constructive living/Naikan idea of apology letters: Write a letter to your partner telling them how you caused them trouble.  What have you done or failed to do.


  • Play w/ how to do it well and not do it well.

  • Declarations as a way to address attachment wound.

  • One thing that makes apologies ineffective is dangerous words and phrases.  Here are some safety building words and phrases that you can try to make the environment safer.

    • You don’t have to be perfect

    • I love you as a whole person.

    • You are enough

    • We are on the same team

    • Wonder couples powers activate :)

    • I’ve got a lot to learn

    • I want to hear from you

  • Practice and apology and receipt of apology with no content.  Partner A- I’m sorry.  Partner B- Thank you.  Have them provide feedback to each other and try again.


  • Q&A


  • Closing exercise:  

    • Ideas:

    • Mindfulness forgiveness exercise- I’m sorry, I forgive you, I forgive myself.




Exercise: declarations with “I’m sorry” 


Topics to cover: 

Why apologies are important

Why they are difficult

How to give repair

How to receive repair to encourage and make safe. 


Mismatch - mess - repair


Lead w/ relief






Apology/ repair is one of the hardest thing we do.  Showing our belly.  Have to create space for someone to do it- puts onus.  


A successful repair has 2 parts the gift and receipt.  The only thing to say to someone is a genuine “thank you.”  Taken in the gift.


Now you got to show up and do the work?  So many apologies are hollow.  


Non-appolgies-  I’m sorry you feel that way, I’m sorry you wont let this go. 

What makes an apology real-  Felt Ownership, 

What if I’m not sorry?

  • Start with tell the story to your partner of an apology that worked for you.


Corrective emotional experience

I put you above what went wrong


Sweet spot between-

Not being good enough.




When we talk about apologies and couple relationships, the stakes tend to get high quickly.  Our minds can easily jump to the times we have given or received big apologies or maybe you find yourself searching for the apologies that feel overdue.  All of a sudden, we are in the territory of high pressure and high expectations.  This can become a recipe for trouble- under pressure and expectation we tend to become unavailable or intrusive to each other.  

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