When words can't convey, let our actions speak.
In relationships, we hurt one another. Sometimes we do it on purpose, and sometimes we had no idea that we offended our partner. Once we realize that we inflicted pain on them, whether we intend to or not, the correct thing to do is to say "I'm sorry" and repair the damage.
But many of us find apologizing extremely difficult, if not impossible. Saying "I'm sorry" is hard. It makes us feel vulnerable and, in general, is a very challenging enterprise.
Before we offer an apology of any kind, we must prepare ourselves for either no response or a wide range of responses from the other person (including negative ones). Depending on the degree or nature of the hurt, it may take your partner awhile to accept your attempt at repairing the relationship. But if you're truly sorry, be prepared for forgiveness to take some time.
If you're unsure how to say "I am sorry" in a way that conveys your sincerity, here are 10 powerful ways to apologize:
1. Say it with words
Say the actual words "I'm so sorry" and then add exactly what you are sorry for. Let your spouse know that you're aware of the actions and words that caused the hurt. Name your crime specifically when you say "I'm sorry."
2. Say it with a look
Don’t fake remorse because doing so will likely do more damage. When you apologize, make sure you have a genuine look on your face that you really are sorry. Saying the words but having a smirk, grin, air of indifference or some other expression will tell your partner that you are trying to say the right thing, but you don’t mean it.
3. Say it with a touch
When you know that your partner is ready to hear the words "I'm sorry," add a soft and gentle touch. Do NOT use a sexual touch, but, rather, a touch that communicates "I care about you, and I want you to be OK."
4. Say it with a note
Struggle to say the right words? Try writing a note that expresses how you feel about what happened. Convey that you're sorry, and also add a little about how you think your actions may have made your spouse feel. Let her/him know that even if it takes some time, you want their forgiveness. Avoid trying to explain why it happened, as that may only do more damage — save that for a later time.
5. Say it with a gift
A small gift or token can help repair the damage that was done. You can give this gift with a note or when you actually say the words "I'm sorry." Be careful not to overuse this method of making amends however. You don’t want your partner to think you believe you can buy her/him off with a gift and then repeat your offensive behavior again later.
6. Say it with emotion
When a woman feels hurt, the emotions associated with that hurt get attached to the memory of that event. When something reminds her of the event, the hurt has a way of returning full force, as if the event just happened again. When you say "I'm sorry" to her, try to do so in a way that has some emotion attached to it.
Note: Using humor is NOT always a good choice here. She needs to see in your face and hear in your voice (as well as through your words) that you fully understand that you hurt her, you take responsibility for it, and your hope is that you can repair the damage you've done.
7. Say it with an act of service
Is there a particular task that your partner wants done that you've been putting off? Now might be the perfect time to do it. Don't do this as a payoff for your crime or with the expectation that all is forgiven. Just do what you've neglected doing and later, when you say "I'm sorry," you can let her know that part of your gift to repair what you have done is that you took care of the task you know she wanted done.
8. Say it with a sacrifice
If you know that what you did is particularly hurtful to your partner and/or if this is a repeat offense you were determined to never to do again, consider going the "extra mile." Think of something you can do that will either be very meaningful to your partner or would get across the point that you fully recognize the negative impact of your action.
Take on a task/project that is really going to cost you something in the way of time and energy as a way of "paying for your crime." You can let your partner know that you did this because you're fully aware of the extent of the hurt you caused, and you want it to cost you something so that you never do it again.
9. Say it with understanding
The point here is to let your partner know you understand some of what he/she may have felt as a result of what you have done. Think through how it might have affected you, but even more, consider how you think your partner felt.
You know your partner; you know her/his life experiences. Often your partner may feel very differently about what happened than you would based on his/her life experiences, so include that information in your thought process as you prepare to share with her.
10. Say it with sex
This is definitely NOT the first place to go when trying to say "I'm sorry." However, once you know that the damage is repairing, "make-up sex" can be a great way to come back together as a couple and get back to normal living.
Dr. David McFadden is a couple’s counselor at Village Counseling Center. Receive your free copy of the Better Life Magazine filled with articles with topics from taking good care of yourself, resolving conflicts in your relationship and discovering how to have success in your life.