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Repair is the #1 relationship strategy. Here’s how an apology can reconnect after a misstep

Making up for mistakes is an important relationship strategy.

We often talk about how to avoid conflict in relationships. But since we’re imperfect, we might still raise our voices, be impatient, dismissive, even unkind. Mistakes are sometimes unavoidable. But there is something you can always control – how you make up for it.

Studio 5 Parenting Contributor Heather Johnson believes weekly and daily repairs might be the #1 relationship strategy. Yet, she’s seen in her counseling office that many people are unwilling to repair or don’t know how.


What is Repair?

“Repair is anytime we go back to a space of disconnect, but then we take responsibility, and we address the impact that our actions have had on another person. That’s a space of repair,” Heather explained.

Missteps happen all the time, sometimes every day. There is disconnection between people, parents and their children, spouses, regularly. And so, we want to repair regularly too.

But there are several things that can get in the way of repair. Shame is always going to get in the way of our willingness to repair.

“Shame is when we make something about us versus guilt when it’s about behavior.” Heather went on to explain, “When we shame, this is again, a parent yelling or a spouse being unkind and deciding that I’m not a good wife or I’m a bad mother, versus I yelled and that wasn’t appropriate. Or I stonewalled and that wasn’t appropriate.”

The Power of Repair

Repair is potentially the most powerful relationship strategy we have because it’s inevitable we misstep. So, we want to be able to reconnect. More importantly, it creates a really healthy attachment so that we “disconnect, connect, disconnect, connect.” So, we have a healthy way of working with each other given we’re all going to be imperfect.

Heather said, “Repair gives us this place where we can help write the story. Let’s take for example, a parent who yells at their children. That child then is going to write a story about what just happened. And the story that they’re probably going to write is, ‘My mom hates me’, or ‘I’m not good enough’… So, we go back to them, and we take responsibility. You say, ‘I didn’t handle that appropriately, and I’m sorry that I raised my voice. It wasn’t right, and I put you in a position where you felt uncomfortable.’ Now that’s the story that they carry with them.”

The Anatomy of Repair

The anatomy or repair involves three steps:

  1. State what happened
  2. Take responsibility
  3. Say what you’ll do differently next time

“If you want to start somewhere, start right there. Look at the situation, acknowledge what happened. Be true about it. Take responsibility for it. And then be really open to say, ‘Hey, this is how it’s gonna look different next time,” Heather emphasized.

To contact Heather for counseling, email, or visit

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