5 Apologies That Always Work

Written by Andrea Shair

My husband’s very good at apologizing.  It’s not that I don’t apologize. Admitting when you’re wrong is hard but I always do it when I believe I’m wrong. It’s that the way I apologize doesn’t get received as being sincere.  I’m working on getting better at apologizing and this is what I’ve learned so far.

In any apology, the hearer is usually willing to accept it if they believe the apologizer is sincere. The problem comes in how we determine whether or not someone is sincere. This all has to do with how you were taught to apologize.

We didn’t hear each other

In my family you could do or say something nice as gesture of apology. If you used words you just said “I’m sorry” and that was enough. But in my husband’s family apologies are more detailed than that. Rather than simply saying, “I’m sorry”
you say what you’re sorry for. In his family apologies are specific. He’s used to hearing things like, “I’m sorry I reacted without getting clarification first.”

Our different methods of apology have lead to some complicated situations in our home. I would do something inconsiderate. My husband would point it out. I’d mull it over, agree internally that it was inconsiderate, and do something nice as a gesture of apology. Then my husband would get mad that I glossed over the issue by doing something nice. I’d be left confused by the whole incident.

Other times I would do something inconsiderate. My husband would point it out. I’d mull it over, agree and say, “I’m sorry.”

My husband would say, “You’re not sorry, you don’t even know what you’re sorry for!”

So I would say, “But I agree with you! I’m really sorry!”

And would he say, “I don’t believe you’re truly sorry.” Once again, I’d be confused.

5 Ways to apologize

The differences in the way my husband and I hear apologies are pretty common. So what do you do when the person you love doesn’t hear you when you say, “I’m sorry?” In his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Married, Dr. Gary Chapman details five languages of apology that are universal.

1.Expressing regret -This language appeals to the emotions. It indicates that we are aware that we caused pain. “I’m sorry I spoke harshly. I know I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m so sorry for that.”

2. Accepting responsibility - This language spells out what was done wrong. “I was wrong to speak to you in that tone. I shouldn’t have reacted like that.”

3.Making restitution - This one is all about how to make up. Usually the request will fall in line with that person’s love language. “I can’t believe I reacted that way. Please tell me what I can do to make it up to you.”

4.Expressing the desire to change behavior - This one is pretty self-explanatory. “I keep losing my temper and I know that’s not right. I don’t want to repeat this. Can you think of anything that could help make sure this doesn’t happen?”

5.Requesting forgiveness – This is where forgiveness has to be requested before the apology is seen as being sincere. “I’m so sorry I spoke harshly and reacted the way I did. I know this hurts you. Will you please forgive me?”

One of these apology languages will resonate the most strongly with you. (For me it’s expressing regret). And likely, a different one will resonate more strongly with your spouse. (For my husband it’s accepting responsibility). Now we’re learning how to apologize in each other’s languages, as well as to extend the grace in accepting an apology that didn’t come out in our preferred language.

Something else I try to practice is to NEVER say “I’m sorry…but” even if there was wrongdoing on the other side. The “but” nullifies the whole apology. It’s an attempt to excuse your own bad behavior based on their bad behavior. It takes strength and humility but you ALWAYS have a choice over your actions. Be responsible for owning up on your end. God will deal with your spouse separately.

If you’ve received an apology are you ready to forgive?

Forgiveness is not a feeling
Forgiveness does not cancel out consequences


16 Responses to “5 Apologies That Always Work”

  • Chris Chris says:

    yvonne…i am sorry to hear of your relationship struggle. sometimes people do need time to get back up on their spiritual feet but two weeks does seem a bit much without communicating. why not you call him? perhaps he is sick or has had an accident. we should never assume any of our loved ones are ok without verifying that. at this point, its really not important about him calling you but rather being sure of his own well being. who knows, perhaps that is what he needs to get back into the swing of things and let whatever happened stay in the past. however if not, you can be assured that God has the right mate for you. these trying times are the fire that can prove whether or not we are connected to the right person or not as well. as proverbs 3 says…trust in the lord with all your heart and dont lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. if you need more information on knowing christ more personally log onto…knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above. my prayers are with you!

  • Yvonne says:

    This is what my lover replied when I told him, I’m sorry that I over reacted I will guard against that in the future. He replied, “I know you are” but he still will not communicate with me. Its been two weeks. What is going on?

  • Susan Susan says:

    Hi Pat,
    I know it’s not easy when your husband become tensed and says he don’t trust you anymore. Pat, why not try like this, when your husband is not tensed, ask him, “do you know how much it hurts me, when you say you don’t trust me; ask him, do you really trust me or love me” . And on the other side, you keep praying for him. I am sure, God hears our prayers. What do you say about this Pat?

  • Pat says:

    I have done things that hurts my husband, he says he forgives me but he always keep on reminding me and say he’ll never forget. Sometimes he just became tensed out of no reason saying when he think of those things he don’t trust me anymore. I have ask for forgiveness and restored by God but with my husband that doesn’t change anything. I don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Chris Chris Landwerlen says:

    susan…i pray jesus continue giving you the ministry of his encoruagement. blessings!

  • Susan says:

    Great! I am glad to hear that it worked for you. Friend, may I know how that worked in your life so that I can also learn something from that…? or let me know how that helped in your life so that I can share your experience with others and they can be blessed…?

  • Susan Susan says:

    The more we delay to apologize, we are opening doors for devil. So, the moment we realize it, we can always say, “I am sorry I spoke to you harshly. I know I have hurt your feelings. Will you please forgive me”? I am sure, this can strengthen our relationship with both with God and with each other.

  • computer says:

    Thank you so much it really worked!

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Yes ! i agree with you, just like our Father forgives us when we mess up so we to must forgive others and except there apology.

  • rozhan says:

    that’s great thanks

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God
    Lord I lift up Bells to you at this time in her life, that You will comfort her in many ways, as she is seeking Your comfort in the area she is concerned about. In Jesus Mihgty name amen

  • bella says:

    Each time one of my family members gets upset with me all of my past mistakes I have done to this person is hashed over even if I have apologized . This has been going on for years. I am always told I did not own up to my mistakes or validate the persons feeling. I am at the end of my rope and can’t found or know the words to make it right. Thank you

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Andrea, your suggestions to Mercymicheal are awesome! It is so true that in our marriages we must talk about what is meant, what is most meaningful, and get to know our spouse. Knowing what is important to him helps us to better understand him and to show our love.

    Mercymicheal, do you know what your husband’s Love Language is? We have a couple of great articles on this. Why not check out http://powertochange.com/studies/introduction-to-love-languages/ or watch this video http://powertochange.com/itv/family/communication-in-marriage4/. When we understand how to communicate it opens the channels for better relationships.

  • Andrea Shair Andrea Shair says:

    @mercymicheal – I would suggest having a conversationg with your husband, talk about the five kinds of apologies and then ask him what kind of apology is the most meaningful to him. As well as ask what his silence means. You cannot try to read his mind or guess his meaning as you’ll just never know for sure that way.

  • Mercymicheal says:

    Pls,i offend my husband and i ask him for forgiveness, but he didn’t say anything ,does it mean that he have not forgiven me?

  • otieno says:

    woow thats cool,i wish kenyans should lean from that.

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