Madissyn Fredericks, Licensed Professional Counselor, Symmetry Counseling

Saying “I’m sorry” when we have hurt our partner is often extremely difficult and can feel like a sign of weakness, a confirmation of guilt, or can even wound our pride. However, recent studies have found that apologizing and asking for forgiveness are crucial components to a successful relationship and marriage. According to Fincham, Hall, and Beach (2006), apologizing to your partner will validate their feelings, foster forgiveness, and allow you to both move on from your mistakes. While apologizing to our partner’s has proven to benefit our relationships in many ways, many of us have a difficult time finding the strength to admit our fault in a situation. It seems so much easier to point fingers at our partners, avoid the topic altogether, or believe we are the ones who deserve an apology. However, this behavior and way of thinking can often leave you both with unresolved feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment toward each other. Saying “I’m sorry” and taking responsibility cannot change the original act, but it can help ease the tension, open the line of communication, and improve the quality of the relationship. Below are a few tips for giving a sincere apology to your partner, even though it may feel intimidating to do so.

1. Accept Responsibility

Accepting responsibility for the hurt you may have caused your partner, even when you don’t feel you were in the wrong, changes the dynamic of the conversation. When you acknowledge your faults to your partner, you have opened the line of communication between the two of you and your partner is more likely to apologize for their part in the conflict as well.

2. Describe your fault without blame or excuses

Use statements that begin with “I” rather than “You” and acknowledge exactly what you did wrong. For example, you might say “I am sorry I got mad at you. I had a stressful day at work today and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you” rather than “You said you would meet me for dinner at 5pm and I don’t like when you are late”. Using “I statements” help you to refrain from blaming your partner and help you take responsibility without looking for excuses.

3. Be direct and say “I’m sorry”

Use phrases such as “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” when apologizing to your partner. Make sure when you say “I’m sorry” that you are not using a negative tone or attitude that could compromise the apology. By admitting your faults directly, your partner will be more likely to hear and accept your apology because it feels sincere and honest.

4. Ask your partner for forgiveness

Being vulnerable can feel intimidating and scary, but letting go of your pride and asking for forgiveness will deepen your relationship. Discuss the incident with your partner, take responsibility, and ask them for forgiveness. Forgiveness allows you both to let go of the anger and resentment and repair your relationship, thus making it stronger.

If you are currently having a difficult time apologizing in your relationship and would like support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapist.