Fully own it. Owning it means taking responsibility for your actions and validating the emotional implications for your partner. Period. Sometimes people almost get there but then negate much of it by following up with excuses. There may be extenuating circumstances that are relevant to the issue at hand but be careful that they don’t get framed in a way that reverses the original intent. If you’ve fully owned your role, be sure to follow up with a heartfelt apology around causing your partner pain, whether intended or not. It can feel vulnerable to open yourself up in this way but it’s an important part of this process.
Understand it. Take an honest look at yourself and the behaviors in your relationship that have been problematic. Why have they happened? People tend to operate in learned ways and often times when we “act out,” it’s a cover for personal pain or frustration. Or you grew up in an environment where dysfunctional behavior was rewarded in some way. This can be a tricky step to work through, as many people are not aware of the impact of their prior experiences. The more clarity you can get out of who you are, your influences (helpful and problematic), wounds or trauma, emotional/psychological defenses erected to for protection and function, the better equipped you’ll be to create lasting change. If you’re stuck at this step, consider finding a therapist to help you unpack it.
Change your brain. This is less daunting than it might sound. What I mean by this is establish new patterns and habits that can eventually lead to brain change. It takes time to alter conditioning but if you identify the specific behaviors you are trying to do more or less of, your practice can pay off in it occurring more automatically. Tell your partner what you are working on so he/she feels part of the process. While transitioning towards change, he/she will also likely feel more compassion if you slip up (which you probably will). If this happens, go back to step two and “fully own it.”