The Perfect Apology

Let’s paint a picture.  You acted like an immature little baby, demanded your way and pouted when you didn’t get it.  Or you treated your spouse rudely…in public.  Or you said mean, hurtful, spiteful things that you don’t really mean but that came roaring out of your mouth in the heat of battle, followed by calling your spouse a name that no civilized human being would call someone (much less, someone they loved!).  Or in the context of infidelity, you were unfaithful to your spouse and frankly there’s just no excuse for that–and now in a clear-headed moment you realize you are responsible for what you’ve chosen.

So you behaved poorly and you are taking personal responsibility, so the time has come–in order to repair the damage done, you need to apologize.

All too often, whether it’s after a fight or after something major like an affair, I hear people say they apologized and their spouse is still rubbing their nose in it.  Why?  Well part of it may be that they apologized like this: “I’m sorry, alright already?” and then if their spouse brings up the topic again they say “I said I was sorry!!  What more do you want from me?”  If this is the type of apology you have given your spouse, it is not adequate. When asking for someone’s forgiveness, you actually need to include QUITE a lot of infomation, and that’s because you are not just “saying you’re sorry” but also acknowleding what did you did wrong, taking responsibility for it, and wherever possible, making restitution or working to restore the relationship!  A proper apology contains:

  • a detailed account of the situation–not hiding details or covering up what happened; be specific.
  • acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done–name what you’ve done; say it out loud and call it by name.
  • taking responsibility for the situation–no blame-shifting here; take personal responsibility for your part.
  • a statement of regret–indicate that you are upset over your past actions.
  • asking for forgiveness–come right out and make the request.
  • a promise that it won’t happen again–indicate what your plan is so that the person is not hurt again.
  • a form of restitution whenever possible–some actions result in damage, so replace the damaged item; however, some damage can not be “undone” in which case you might give them what they need in order to feel safe.

All of this may seem a little overwhelming to you, and honestly…who can remember all that? It’s good stuff to include in a sincere apology but there’s just so much!!!  Never fear, good readers.  I have come up with a little memory helper that even the guys will find easy and manly.  You know when you lift weights how you do X number of lifts in sets…and what do you calls those?  REPS (short for repetitions)!!!  When you want to make a proper apology, do the “heavy lifting” and do your REPS:

R – Responsibility.  Take personal responsibility, that is!  To start off an apology, take personal responsibility for what you did.  Don’t try to blame someone else for what you chose to do–admit that YOU chose it and name out loud exactly what it is that you did.  Thus on very simple terms, you might say “I regret that I … <fill in details about what you did here>”

E – Empathy.  Indicate that you have some comprehension about how it may have made your spouse feel or what it may have made them think  State that what they thought or felt was reasonable.  Demonstrate that you not only comprehend, but also understand their feelings or thoughts, and maybe give an example of how you “relate” or “identify.”    Again using very simple terms, you may say “I can clearly see that it hurt you and probably that you thought <XYZ>.  I can completely understand how you’d feel that way.”

P – Plan.  Give your spouse some specifics on your plan to keep this from happening again.  You don’t have to format it like a list, but fill them in on what you intend to do to address the issue, change, or do differently so you can protect them even from yourself!  Using simple terms again, you might say: “In the future I do plan on going to some counseling to address this with a professional, and I am going to do <ABC> when I notice this starting so it doesn’t come to this again.”

S – Safety.  Let your spouse know that you encourage them to do what they believe they have-to-do in order to keep themselves safe.  Sometimes people may feel like they need a day or two to themselves to recover–or they need you to sleep on the couch for a night or two.  Maybe they need to remove all knives from the kitchen–I don’t know!!  BUT what I do know is that this step is the one that offers some sort of restitution for the damage you’ve done.  If you did the crime–let them know you are willing to do the time to repair the damage.

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6 thoughts on “The Perfect Apology

  1. Hello There. I found your blog the usage of msn. That is a really well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your helpful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  2. Great post – and good insight into how an apology sometimes isn’t enough!

    It’s funny how an apology could go wrong … often. I love the book by Gary Chapman – “The Five Languages of Apology”. He explains the “why” behind what we hear when our spouse apologizes.

    BTW – love your acronym!

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