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3 Things that Blow Up Relationships (and What to Do When You Do)

A Travel Guide for Life, Faith, and Relationships!


I want you to think back to the last fight or conflict you had with your spouse, parent, child, or friend.


Got it?


I’d be willing to bet that one of three things caused that altercation.


  • An unmet expectation
  • An unresolved issue
  • Unforgiveness


At the root of almost every disappointing and negative experience is one or more of the things mentioned above.


Either something wasn’t done that you felt should have been done (an unmet expectation), something irritated you again that resulted in an emotional eruption (an unresolved issue), or you became harsh and bitter (due to unforgiveness).



Add to this the tendency we humans have to stockpile our hurtful experiences rather than openly address them in a godly manner, and you can see why we end up demolishing relationships.


In this blog, I’m not going to address in depth the ways to avoid these relationship challenges. (You can read more about that in this book I wrote.)


The short version is to talk it out as you walk it out.


In other words, don’t stuff, don’t hide, and don’t run from the tough relational challenges. Lovingly face them head-on (and get professional help if needed).


Unmet expectations, unresolved issues, and unforgiveness have power only when we stop caring, stop communicating, and choose to stay stuck. For the record, doing so always leads to bitterness, and being bitter never makes us better.


What I am going to focus on in this short post is what to do after you’ve blown it.


In fact, I’m going to give you the ten most powerful words you can use to repair a broken relationship.




Here are the ten absolutely most incredible words you can use after nuking somebody: You were right, and I was wrong; please forgive me.



Now, before you shrug this off with a sarcastic “whatever,” stop and think about it for a moment.


You want to get someone’s attention when they are mad at you or hurt by you? Start with the sweetest words most of us love to hear: YOU WERE RIGHT! We love to be right, and we especially like it when someone acknowledges our rightness.


Along the same lines, a person will lean into your words when they hear a genuine AND I WAS WRONG!


Nothing endears us to a wounded person more than owning it when we’ve blown it. You don’t justify, rationalize, or downplay anything; you just own it and confess, “I blew it.”



But then comes the most challenging part of this relational interaction: PLEASE FORGIVE ME. It’s hard because this requires a transaction on the part of both parties. You are asking for grace and forgiveness, and the offended person then has a decision to make—to forgive or not to forgive. That's why this request is far better than merely saying, “I’m sorry.”


The plea for forgiveness means you are asking to move forward without the baggage that typically comes with failure.


Of course, it’s essential to deal with the “uns” mentioned above. Without question, you must deal with the root issues to reduce the number of relational weeds that crop up. But the best path to healing and hope is to learn to use this sentence often: You were right, and I was wrong; please forgive me. (Go ahead, practice it out loud; it truly is powerful.)


There’s nothing magical or mystical about these words, but I promise you, they will change your relationships.



Not convinced?


Write that email or make that call (the one you’ve been avoiding), use these ten words, and see what God will do.


What’s holding you back? What do you have to lose? If not now, when?


Just go for it.


You never need to wait to do the right thing in the right way to make a relationship right again.



Own it when you’ve blown it. Confess your failures and sins to others.

Then pray for each other because that’s the path

to relational wholeness and healing.

James 5:16  (Bubna Paraphrase)

Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna has published seven books, is an internationally recognized blogger, conference and retreat speaker, as well as an experienced life and leadership coach. Bubna has over forty years of experience working with individuals, teams, and a wide variety of business and non-profit organizations.