Have you been apologizing for the same thing over and over again and it never seems like enough? That's frustrating! You are sorry but your partner is not forgiving you. So what is the problem? Is your partner just a meanie who likes to see you tortured? Probably not. Chances are your apology is falling flat and it's not giving you the resolution you need. We can fix that. Read below for how to make your apology land.
1) Acknowledge the wrong-doing in specific terms. A lame "I'm sorry" with no details will not communicate to your partner that you understand why it hurt your partner. So give some details. "I'm sorry about coming home late and not answering my phone" is much more specific.
2) Put yourself in their shoes. In your apology, include why it hurt them. You will have to set yourself aside for a second and think about what it was like for your partner when this misdeed happened. How did they feel? What were they thinking about? Let's build off the above example: "I'm sorry about coming home late and not answering my phone. That must have made you feel like you were unimportant and like I was taking advantage of my free time. You were worried about my safety when I didn't answer my phone and I bet that was terrifying for you."
3) Let them know what you will do in the future. How will you behave in the future so you don't hurt your partner anymore? Some of my clients hesitate to say what they won't do in the future for fear they will never be allowed to make a mistake again. The opposite is usually true. When your partner hears your commitment to them and feels like you are trying to make things right, they are much more likely to give you flexibility and forgive any mistakes in the future. Even if you have the greatest apology of all time and you don't let them know what you will try to do differently in the future, your apology is not going to let you guys move on. Again, building on the example above: "I'm sorry about coming home late and not answering my phone. That must have made you feel like you were unimportant and like I was taking advantage of my free time. You were worried about my safety when I didn't answer my phone and I bet that was terrifying for you. The next time I'm at softball and things are running late or I decide to go for a
drink after, I will call you ahead of time to let you know what's going on. Also, I will try to be more diligent about charging my phone so it doesn't die."
4) Don't defend yourself. Notice in the apology above our fake person did not defend their behaviors or justify their actions. The situation might have been a complete misunderstanding or you might have had the best of intentions, however during an apology, that's not what your partner wants to hear right now. Maybe after the apology, your partner will be open to hearing what happened but first thing is first, hit your apology right.
Apologies can be difficult. We all have that little ego gremlin within us that makes it difficult to apologize. But if you can learn how to apologize well, this will help not only your romantic relationships but relationships with everyone. Many people feel like an apology makes them look weak but the opposite is true. Think about when someone gave you a great apology. Did you look at them like they were a weak loser for doing it? I doubt it. You most likely had way more respect for them after they apologized.
What do you think about my apology tips? Anything you would add? Send me a message if you have any questions.
Corrin Voeller is a couples counselor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She specializes in couples counseling, marriage counseling, discernment counseling and sex therapy. She lives with her husband, children and extremely fat dog.
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