How To Say Sorry To Your Partner & Why It’s Good For Your Relationship, According To Experts
Couples argue. In fact, research has found that arguing is beneficial for your relationship in the long-term. According to a 2012 study, to express anger toward your partner when there's an issue might even be the best way to remedy a situation and resolve the problem. What this means is that, on the flip side, couples who never argue might be asking for trouble. It's these couples who allow tensions and resentment to grow — and never having to say you're sorry isn't necessarily a good thing.
"I actually worry more about couples who never fight than couples who fight too much," Dr. Holly Richmond, CST, LMFT, head of the advisory board for Ella Paradis, tells Bustle. "Apathy and indifference are certainly relationship enders."
But when it comes to arguing and reaching resolution, an apology is necessary. And not always from just one side, but from both sides. Both partners need to recognize that, ultimately, it takes two people to have a disagreement. Naturally, apologizing isn't always easy for everyone. But if you try, by putting away your pride and taking responsibility for your part in the situation that demands an apology, you'll find that saying sorry is so much easier. Here are seven things to do to craft an apology to your partner.
1. Give Yourself A Chance To Calm Down
Honestly, no one ever got anywhere by not thinking about what they should say first. Because of this, it'll be helpful to calm way the heck down. If that means counting to 10, going for a walk, giving yourself five minutes of meditation, or sleeping on it, then do it.
"Give yourself time to simmer down, and then re-approach your partner when you’re calm," Amica Graber, a relationship expert with TruthFinder, tells Bustle.
2. Be Sincere In Your Apology
Although some of us may be guilty of apologizing and not meaning it, a constructive and effective apology is one that is truly genuine.
"The simplest way to handle your error is to say, 'I'm sorry,' and mean it," bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. "The most important ingredient in making your apology effective is sincerity."
When you speak from the heart, as Winter explains, the impact your apology has on your partner has a lasting effect and they can actually feel that you mean it.
3. Own Your Role In The Situation
Even if the argument started because of something one of you said or did, there's a good chance that as the argument got rolling, you both might have said or done things that escalated the situation. Both partners need to own that.
"What was your contribution to the argument or incident? What were your triggers? Spend some time thinking about what prompted your own behavior," Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. "Everyone has their hot buttons and these sensitivities may never go away."
It's because of these sensitivities that we need to be aware of the things that trigger us.
"Being more in tune with your triggers and coming up with healthier behaviors, such as calling a time-out, can help you react better next time," Chlipala says.
4. Understand Why And How Your Partner Is Upset
You can't offer up a sincere apology without understanding why you're apologizing.
"When apologizing, it's critical to make an attempt to understand why the person is hurt or angry with you," board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. "Saying you're sorry without that understanding won't reassure them that you want to prevent this kind of problem from happening in the future."
Ideally, you want to prevent future arguments, and that means being aware of your behavior and adjusting it.
"If you didn't tell your partner that something was bothering you until you blew up, you must acknowledge that they probably are now afraid that you won't be open with them again until it becomes a big deal," Dr. Edelman says. "An apology isn't enough."
5. Remember That Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Your partner's love language doesn't have to be acts of service for them to need more than words to properly solidify your apology in their brain and heart.
"Sometimes words are just not enough," Chlipala says. "Pick one thing that you will try to make things better next time. This will show that you’re taking responsibility to avoid or minimize the same thing happening again."
In choosing this path, you're also showing that you're capable of learning from your mistakes and are willing to work on making yourself more trustworthy.
6. Be Clear That You Didn't Want To Hurt Them
Although there's the saying that we always hurt the ones we love, the fact is that you probably didn't want to hurt your partner during your argument or with your actions. You need to make that clear.
"State that your intention was never to create harm," Winter says. "Admit your error in judgment. Be specific, but concise. Brief, heartfelt, and to the point is the best way to heal the wound without re-opening a discussion that creates greater distress."
7. Don't Put Constraints On What An Apology Is
While the desired outcome of an apology might be universal, what constitutes an apology doesn't need to be set in stone.
"Let the relationship win by broadening your definition of what an apology means," Chlipala says. "An apology isn’t all-or-nothing, where saying 'I’m sorry' means you’re completely wrong and your partner is right. Thinking in absolutes can prevent the necessary repairs a couple has to make to keep their relationship healthy."
More than anything, when it comes to apologizing to your partner, you need to be as genuine as possible.
"Sincere apologies are the glue that holds relationships together," Dr. Edelman says. "It's much easier to get over your anger and forgive someone who apologizes."