How to Apologize
by Kat Richter

Lego guy apologizing with flowers

We all make mistakes. We forget birthdays, we say things we don't mean and we offend our significant others without even realizing it. Apologies, however, are no easy task. Even if you're in the wrong and smart enough to realize you're in the wrong, do you really want to give your partner the satisfaction of admitting your mistake? Of saying, "I screwed up?" Probably not.

But for the sake of your relationship (not to mention your guilty conscious) you need to. Sure, there's a chance you'll come home to find your tires slashed or your belongings strewn across the front yard but there's an even greater chance that whatever went wrong is going to fester if not addressed. The longer you wait the more strain you're going to put on yourself, your partner and your relationship. So read on, take a deep breath and get it over with.

Determine What Went Wrong

Before you apologize, you need to figure out what went wrong. Was it the fact that you forgot your girlfriend's birthday or that you picked up a cheap bouquet at the gas station in a half-hearted attempt to make amends? Was it that you were teasing your boyfriend about his love of Nicholas Sparks' films or the fact that you were doing it in front of his co-workers? Try to recall that chain of events in order to determine what set your partner off.

Say You're Sorry

Offer a heartfelt apology. And yes, this means you'll actually have to utter the words "I'm sorry." We recommend that you speak to your partner privately once you've both had the chance to cool off. Take the time to apologize for both your actions and any hurt caused.

Take Responsibility

Admit that you make a mistake. If you hurt your partner's feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally, apologize for doing so by saying, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings." Note that this is different from "I'm sorry if your feelings are hurt" or "I'm sorry you feel that way." You need to take ownership of whatever happened and apologize for it without offering excuses, explanations or judgment.

Ask for Forgiveness

Now comes the part where you ask for your partner's forgiveness. It can be tempting to skip the first two steps and head straight to the "Will you forgive me?" part but this is not the time to cut corners or take the easy way out. Only after you've apologized and taken responsibility for your actions should you be asking anything of your partner. And if you're apologizing about something big (such as cheating or lying) be prepared to wait. Your partner may not be ready to forgive you yet, or even to accept your apology. In this case, all you can do is say you're sorry, admit your mistakes and try to assure your partner that it will never happen again.

Don't Do it Again

You may think you're done now but unfortunately there's still more work to be done. Saying you're sorry is only half of the battle. Now you need to make a game plan. How are you going to avoid making this same mistake in the future? Are there certain situations, topics or subjects that would best to avoid? Can your partner help you to understand what he or she feeling so you can figure out what to do differently? Talk it over and promise yourself and your partner that you are going to try harder.

Say Thank You

Even if your partner isn't ready to forgive you, you should still thank them for listening. They didn't have to answer the phone, they didn't have to speak to you or meet you for coffee to discuss your latest blow up, but they did, so acknowledge this and be patient.

Make Amends

Sometimes making amends can help to speed along the process. Surprise your sweetheart with a bouquet of flowers, a card, a box of chocolates or a handwritten note of apology. You can't just erase what happened but a homemade meal or a nice bottle of wine never hurts (unless of course your partner decides to throw it at you, in which case: good luck.)

In conclusion, say you're sorry, admit that you made a mistake and figure out how you can modify your behavior to avoid making the same mistake again.

Homework

  • Think back to your last fight or argument and try to figure out how it started. Was it what you did, something you said or how you said it?
  • Make a list of your partner's favorite things. Keep this list handy for the next time you're in the dog house.
  • Talk to your partner about ways he or she can help you to understand why they're upset. With better communication in the future, there's a better chance you won't find yourself needing to apologize quite as often.
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