“I know,” I say. “I wish I could un-hear it. But it really hurt.”
“Part of why it hurt is because it’s something that I worry is true. Something I fear is true. And then you said it, and it confirmed my worst fears,” I say.
“I know,” he says. “I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it back.”
“Well, you can’t take it back,” I say. “But the best you can do is apologize, which you did — and not do it again, which I really hope you’ll do. Best apology being changed behavior and all that. And if you really want to help, you can crowd it out.”
“Crowd it out?” he says. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, now that you’ve said that, I’m feeling really insecure,” I say. “That’s a problem all by itself. I’m doubting myself. Feeling down. And so what I really need is reassurance. I need to know how you actually feel — if it’s not that mean thing you said.”
He nods. “That makes sense.”
“So crowding it out is basically giving compliments in that same arena. The one that you insulted me in,” I explain.
“I can do that,” he says. “I think the world of you.”
“But only say it if you mean it,” I say. “The last thing I need is for you to love bomb me.”
He laughs. “That’s so you, what you just said.”
“Thanks,” I say. “I think. Provided that’s a compliment.”
“It is,” he says. And then he gives me another genuine compliment in the same area where he misstepped.
I smile. He’s crowding it out. He’s making an effort. We’ll see how the rest of it goes — if he can keep his promise not to say such cruel things in the future.
But in this moment, I can see the effort. And I really appreciate it.