You knew you said the wrong thing the instant it came out of your mouth.

You could see it in his face. The instant coldness. The refusal to look at you. The blunt way he said he had to leave.

You gave him a few days to let it blow over, then you messaged him with a bright and breezy, “What’s up? Haven’t heard from you. Hope you’re good.”

He never wrote back.

You talked to your best friend about it.

She told you it was nothing. Yeah, sure, maybe you shouldn’t have said it, but he’s overreacting. He’s the one at fault. If he had a problem with it, he should have talked to you, not gone silent. So immature…

Now you feel better, but you also feel mad at him. Why is he punishing you over something so little?

That self-righteous satisfaction helps you put the incident behind you for a few days. You get on with your life. You decide you’re going to wait until he contacts you. You did your part.

But then Friday rolls around, with the weekend stretching long and empty before you.

You miss him. You don’t want your relationship to end over something so stupid. You want things to go back to the way they were.

What should you do?

  1. Hope he’ll get over it in time and do nothing until he contacts you.
  2. Think of something sweet to do for him, so he knows you’re trying to make it up to him.
  3. Message him again with, “So what are we doing this weekend?” Act like nothing happened.
  4. Ask him what’s wrong and whether you could talk.

We all have our preferred way of dealing with situations where we messed up.

Some people never say they’re sorry, but they buy a special gift or do something nice as an apology.

Others pretend like nothing ever happened, in the hope that if they forget about it, you’ll forget about it, too.

Still others try to talk about it, but they bungle it badly.

They say things like:

  • “Look, I said I’m sorry, okay?!”
  • “You took it the wrong way.”
  • “That wasn’t my intention.”
  • “I wouldn’t have said it if you hadn’t….”
  • “I didn’t know you were so sensitive.”

Ouch!

It’s a rare person who can muster up the courage and vulnerability to say…

“I’m really sorry I hurt you. I can see that I made a mistake. You matter a lot to me, and I want to do better respecting your feelings. Is there anything I can do to make this up to you?”

The 4 Parts of an Effective Apology

It is hard to apologize to someone who matters to you deeply.

You care about their opinion of you. You don’t want them to think you’re a bad person.

Apologizing brings your mistake out in the open.

It feels like an admission that you did something wrong.

But relationships are full of moments like these…

Where we say something that makes sense to us, only to see the impact of those words on the one we love.

It’s no wonder that forgiveness is one of the keys to a happy marriage, because we all do things that need forgiving.

So don’t get stuck in the guilt trap, where you beat yourself up for what you said rather than doing something about it.

See this as practice for the future!

Show him that you’re ready and willing to do the work of making repairs, because you value the relationship enough to fix it.

Saying, “I’m sorry,” won’t cut it, though.

An effective apology involves four steps:

  1. Express remorse.
  2. Acknowledge personal responsibility.
  3. Listen to and empathize with his feelings.
  4. Make it right again.

When you say you’re sorry, explain exactly how you’re feeling. Let him know that you’re embarrassed that you said something so insensitive, or that you feel awful you didn’t think about his feelings first.

Then take responsibility for the negative impact your actions or behavior had. It can be tempting to explain away what happened or defend yourself, but be careful of making the apology about you rather than how he felt.

Next, show him that you’ve thought about the situation from his perspective and how he must have felt. Hear him out if he has something to say.

Finally, ask him how you can make it right again. Is there something you can do to repair the situation?

That may sound like a lot of work. It is!

It’s a lot easier just to pretend nothing happened and hope he forgets about it.

But loving another person for a lifetime means messing up sometimes…

And knowing how to fix it.