When a Repair Attempt Fails
A cautionary tale
Posted May 31, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
- Understanding the critical importance of repair attempts empowers is all to restore trust that has been damaged.
- Their relationship disintegrated not because of the original broken agreement. It was finished because the attempts at repair were blocked.
- Some people prefer to hold on to their righteous anger and not give us a chance to repair.
- Mistakes happen in life despite our strenuous efforts to be a responsible person who does not cause harm to others.
Linda: Bridget had been seeing the same beautician every month for twelve years. She loved the way Babs cut her hair, and since they both had passionate interests in reading and cooking, they traded book recommendations and recipes. Bridge had a demanding job, so her visit to the hairdresser had special importance to her. It was one of the ways she took care of herself. Babs always made her a cup of herbal tea when she came to the salon and never failed to inquire about what was going on in Bridget’s life.
Bridget was a highly responsible person who took her agreements seriously and made a special effort to be on time for all of her appointments. She had never forgotten an appointment with Babs in all the years that they had been working together. But no one is perfect, and one month, she was so absorbed in a work project and up against a deadline, that she missed an appointment. It was an extreme time in Bridget’s life that caused such uncharacteristic behavior on her part. As soon as she realized her mistake, she called in an attempt to talk to Babs to apologize.
She mailed a check for the cost of the missed appointment, but the payment did not take away her bad feelings. Bridget still felt horrible about breaking their agreement, agitated to the point where she wasn’t sleeping well for four nights. Even after leaving the first two messages, Bridget felt confident that they would be able to repair the trust that had been damaged. Then, when two additional outreaches were made, and Babs did not call her back, she knew that the relationship was over.
Their relationship disintegrated not because of the original broken agreement. It was finished because the numerous attempts at repair were blocked. Bridget was sincerely sorry that she had disappointed Babs and wanted a chance to apologize to repair the damaged trust. But Babs was so furious at her that she shut her out, punishing her by not returning her calls.
Mistakes happen in life despite our strenuous efforts to be a responsible person who does not cause harm to others. Despite our best effort to do the right thing, to live an ethical life, to not cause harm, and to do good works, we sometimes do cause harm. Our only recourse is to repair the damaged trust. Relationships fail when sincere attempts to rebuild trust with understanding and goodwill are blocked.
If we are on the side of the spectrum where we feel that we are the wounded party, it serves us well to have a broad overview. Babs lost sight of the many years of appointments that had been kept, and their animated conversations that occurred when they were together. She failed to factor in the rapport they had enjoyed for years. It wasn’t the original blow to their relationship that took it down, but the refusal to receive the repair attempt that destroyed it.
Their story is a cautionary tale. We can’t force the person to whom we have caused harm to listen to our apology or to be understanding about the circumstances that led to the breakdown in trust. All we can do is hold up our own side and invite them into the conversations that might lead to a healing of the relationship and restore it to a place of safety and security. If they prefer to hold on to their righteous anger and not give us a chance to repair it, that is their choice.
Many relationships are lost, that with attention and communication with an intention to heal, could have been saved. All we can do is to make our very best effort to put the trust back when it drops down. When the time comes that we are in need of trust repair because of something that we did to cause harm, we will be glad that we made an effort to keep our relationships in the best possible condition, one of the most important goals we can have in life.