How to Apologize the Right Way


Do you… 

… and your spouse have the same fights over and over again? 
… feel like there is no resolve to your issues? 
… feel like your spouse apologizes but rarely means it? 
… ever think "What if what I did wasn’t wrong? Should I still apologize?”  
… have a spouse who blames you for all of your marriage issues? 
… feel like your spouse doesn’t fully understand your hurt?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this information will be life-changing not only for you, but for your marriage as well.

Here’s what we know.

In the first eight years of our marriage, we sucked at owning our mistakes. We were both so prideful to admit that we were imperfect and messy so we spent a lot of time blaming everyone else, especially each other, and took no responsibility  for the state of our marriage. We were that couple that fought about the same things over and over again and it was frustrating to say the least.

Once we learned the proper way to apologize, the entire dynamic of our relationship changed.

There has been more understanding, more empathy, more peace and less arguing. We are going to give you the example of Casey coming home from work late and not calling to let Meygan know so you get an idea of how this works:

4 Steps to a Proper Apology 

Step 1: I’m sorry for (action + feeling). 

It’s important to validate your spouse on the feeling they experienced when you did what you did. We often apologize for the action (I’m sorry for being late, I’m sorry for interrupting you, I’m sorry for working so much, I’m sorry for spending so much money and not discussing it with you) but the apology has to go to a heart level where you validate their feeling. And of course, there is a period at the end of a proper apology because the minute you say, “I’m sorry… but…” you just wiped away the entire apology. 

Ex: Casey: "I’m sorry for not calling and letting you know that I was going to be late making you feel disrespected and ignored.” 

Step 2: I was wrong! 

Three simple words but so hard to say if you struggle with pride like we do. This is taking full ownership for the FEELING you evoked in your spouse. You’re owning your mistake. You’re taking responsibility for hurting your spouse. 

Ex: Casey: "I was wrong for making you feel ignored.”

Step 3: What can I do to make this better? 

If you're that couple who argues about the same thing over and over again and there is no behavior change, this will become your favorite part of the apology. This is where you get to work together as a team and brainstorm ideas on how to make things better. This is an opportunity to try something new, check in in a week or two to see how things went and mix things up. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do and just a sincere apology is all was needed. 

Ex: Casey: “What can I do to make this better?”

Meygan: “I would really appreciate you calling or texting me if you know you're going to be late. Is this something you can do next time?”

Step 4: Will you forgive me?

Why is forgiving our spouse so hard, yet we all know that it's something we have to do? In this step, you're asking for your spouse to let you off the hook for the pain you caused. Whether the hurt was small or big, you want to make sure your spouse knows that you are apologetic and want their forgiveness on the matter.

Forgiveness is a very complicated idea and thats why we have entire video about it here. We take a deeper look into all of these four steps in one of our most popular webcast, The Proper Apology and invite you to watch the video where we include Couples Connecting Questions like: 

  • What are the primary issues we continue to argue about? What steps are we making to resolve them?

  • What does it feel like when I admit that I’m wrong?

  • What are some barriers that keep us from apologizing when we’ve made a mistake? (Pride, shame, fear, doubt, rejection, time)

  • What’s the difference between an insincere and a sincere apology?