Couple Not Speaking to Each OtherYou know something’s wrong. Your partner (or your child) won’t look at you. They won’t let you touch them. And they don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe it’s something that happened at work or school. Maybe they just need some solitude. Or maybe . . . the problem is you.


When you’ve hurt the one you love, what can you do?

Hurt Closes the Heart

In relationships, we dare to open our hearts to one another. But that makes us vulnerable to all the things our loved ones do that may hurt us—intentionally or otherwise.

When your loved ones resist eye contact, touch, and talking with you, you have probably hurt their hearts. And they have closed down to protect themselves from getting hurt more. To open your relationships back up, you must find out what you did that hurt them and begin to repair the damage—and resolve not to do it again.

Warning: you may hear things you don’t want to hear. Decide now that restoring your relationship is more valuable than your pride.

Decide now that restoring your relationship is more valuable than your pride. Click To Tweet

Ready? Okay, read on. (These tips are adapted from “Homes of Honor,” a series of video lessons by Gary Smalley, available for free through our Earn While You Learn program.)

5 Steps to Re-Opening a Closed Heart

#1 – Get soft. This is not the time to argue. It’s not time to yell or lecture or prove a point. You’ve already hurt them. You must soften your own heart and your approach to them. Show them that you want to make things better, not worse.

  • Lower your voice
  • Relax your face (think of a puppy that knows it’s been naughty)
  • Kneel down beside them where they’re sitting

#2- Seek to understand. Ask gentle questions that show you want to really “get” what is bothering them and why it hurts so much. Listen carefully to their answers. Say things like:

  • “Please help me understand what I did that hurt you.”
  • “I see that you’re really hurt by what I did. What could I have done differently?”
  • “It looks like I really hurt you. Can you help me understand why this matters so much to you?”

Couple Talking Through Relationship Issues

#3 – Admit the wrong you have done. Once you understand what you did that hurt them, own up to it. Your loved ones will actually respect you more if you are adult enough to admit your failings. Try statements like:

  • “I was wrong to yell at you, especially in front of your friends.”
  • “That game was very important to you. I should have gone to watch you play.”
  • “I was wrong to break my promise to you.”

#4 – Ask for forgiveness. Apologize without excuses. Assure them you plan never to do it again. Then ask them to forgive you.

  • Give them time. They may need to warm up to forgiving you.

#5 – Touch them when they’re ready. When you see signs of a softening heart—eye contact, relaxing body language, and willingness to talk—touch them gently.

  • Ask permission. Say, “May I give you a hug now?” rather than, “Give me a hug.” (It’s a good time for you to give, not take.)
  • Use touches that mean the most to that particular person: hold a hand, touch a cheek, hug.
  • Physical touch sets off healing, relaxing signals in our bodies. Gentle, non-sexual touch is a great way to help heal your wounded relationship.

Not Sure How to Make This Work?

If you know you’ve hurt someone you love, but can’t seem to work through these 5 steps, maybe we can help you. If you’re an expectant mother or already parenting young children in the Redwood Falls area, come on in to Choices Pregnancy Center. We love to coach our clients as they develop the healthy relationships they want. Our text number is available for you in the right margin.


When It’s YOUR Heart That’s Closed

If you’re the one who’s been hurt, you may have closed your heart down. You can learn ways to encourage your loved one to walk through the 5 steps above. We explain how in this post.