How to genuinely apologize
Here at love is respect we love to talk about healthy relationships. We know that healthy relationships make us feel good about ourselves, and they give us space to be our authentic selves. We also know that people aren’t perfect, so there will be times when you are upset or angry with your partner, or you may do something that upsets them. Arguments and conflicts happen in healthy relationships, so knowing how to talk about what hurts you or your partner is important. A big part of navigating those conflicts in a healthy way involves knowing how to apologize.
How to apologize.
We all make mistakes, so there will be times when our partner upsets us or when we hurt their feelings. Being able to apologize for those times is important!
Here are some good steps to take when making an apology.
- 1) Admit to what you did wrong.
An important first step in an apology is naming what words or actions upset someone. If you can name what caused harm, it shows that you are thinking of the situation and trying to be empathetic and see it from your partner’s side of things. An example could be, “I’m sorry that I ate the last cookie that you were saving. I know you were looking forward to eating it.”
- 2) Acknowledge feelings and harm caused.
Once we know what words or actions upset our partner (or us), there needs to be an acknowledgement of the feelings and emotions that were brought up. Acknowledging the impact of our actions shows that we are trying to see if from the other person’s perspective. An example of this could be, “I know that when I ate the last cookie, it made you feel like I don’t respect your boundaries. That is not what I wanted, and I’m sorry I caused that.” It’s important to note that this part should not have any if’s or but’s involved. Saying things like “if you weren’t so sensitive, it wouldn’t have upset you!” or “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have left the cookie out!” can cause the person who is upset to feel blame for the issue. That can be a form of gaslighting or emotional abuse.
- 3) Share steps you are taking to fix the situation.
If harm has been caused, it is important to take steps to fix the situation. This can look different depending on what happened. If you have broken something that belongs to someone else, you may ask, “what can I do to fix or replace it?” If someone’s feelings were hurt or they were upset because of your actions, it is important to take steps to work on those behaviors, so they do not happen again in the future. An example of that could be, “I am working on my self-control when it comes to sweets. I have a friend that is helping me work on that who I can text when I’m struggling.”
- 4) Let go.
Once an apology has been made, it is okay to let it go. The hope of using these steps is that it will help resolve the conflict while also giving action steps to help move forward. Since the person who upsets the other recognizes what they did and are taking steps to ensure that does not happen again, it does not need to be brought up over and over again. If you find that your partner is constantly bringing up an issue that you felt was resolved, you may want to check in with trusted friends, family, or a love is respect advocate who can give insight on if the other person is using it as a manipulative tactic or not.
After the apology.
When we have hurt someone or another person has upset us, it is crucial to use words to apologize for the action and let each other know that we recognize how it hurt. However, those words without any change in behavior or follow-through take away from the apology.
If we said in our apology that we would not do something again, it is crucial that we take steps to ensure that does not happen again. There are many ways that people can work on behaviors or actions that are unhealthy or abusive. Someone could use a journal to write down how they are feeling and process their emotions — so they don’t unleash it on their partner — or decide to take a break and go on a walk when they are feeling overwhelmed. Individual counseling or therapy can also be an option if you have the financial resources and can be a wonderful way to work through the root causes or issues that may lead to unhealthy and abusive behaviors.
Taking steps to adjust or change behaviors and actions shows that someone truly recognizes an issue, and they understand the importance of getting help. Those actions help show that we do not want the actions to continue.
However, a lack of change or continuing to do the same harmful behaviors can be a red flag. If someone apologizes to you yet continues to do the same things, that can show that they do not think what they are doing is wrong, or it is not a big enough deal to work on. If you feel that your partner is mistreating you or continuing with the same unhealthy or abusive behaviors after an apology, our advocates are available 24/7 to talk. You can reach us by calling 1.866.331.9474, through chat at loveisrespect.org, or by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522.