What does it mean to save face?

Have you ever seen someone trip or do something you deemed embarrassing but looked away so they wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed? If you have, you have allowed someone to “save face”.

What does this mean in a relationship? When couples get into arguments, they often get caught up in trying to prove themselves right and each other wrong. When one is wrong they are in the position of being the loser. When one loses, the relationship loses. By allowing your partner to save face (even in the event they were wrong!) no one is a loser and the relationship wins.  

 So why is this important?  Whenever you get into pointing fingers, making each other own up to every mistake, demanding apologies, demanding he/she see your point of view, it does damage to your relationship, to your connection with one another.

  Let me illustrate this point with an example. A couple has their wedding anniversary coming up. She plans a special dinner for her husband for when he gets home from work. He forgets it’s their anniversary and un-knowningly makes the decision to stay late at work to finish up a project. There are two reactions she might have. She may get angry and yell at him something like, “how could you forget our anniversary, you always do this kind of thing, you just don’t care about me or what’s important to me!” Or she might say, “You must have forgot our anniversary, let’s plan somthing special for tomorrow night and you can make it up to me” (said in a lighthearted manner). The latter is an example of allowing your partner to save face. There are other important relationship skills at play in this scenario, but allowing your partner to save face keeps kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, and love alive in the relationship. I will leave you with a quote that embraces this idea: “Sheila and I just celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Somebody asked her, what was our secret? She answered, “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of Tim’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would always overlook. I figured I could live with at least ten!” When she was asked which faults she had listed, Shelia replied, “I never did get around to listing them. Instead, every time he does something that makes me mad, I simply say to myself, ‘Lucky for him, it’s one of the ten!’”
Tim Hudson, Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul, 2002

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