Sorry is a complete sentence.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.“ (Love Story)
While many people will quote this film, never saying sorry in a relationship means you are not recognising when your partner is hurt by your words or actions.
Apologising is an attempt to repair a conflict in your relationship and is vital to show your partner that you are aware of the impact you can have on them.
When trying to repair your relationship after a conflict - apologising is usually one of the first things you will do.
“But I always apologise – and they don’t accept it.” If your apology is going unheeded – ask yourself why? Have you ensure your partner can hear the apology and accept it for what it is – or are you trying to explain to them why they shouldn’t be upset in the first place?
Any apology which doesn’t centre the person who has been upset is going to go unheard -
I’m sorry but…
I’m sorry - I was trying to …
I’m sorry, <insert rationalisation for behaviour>
When someone hears any of the examples above - they immediately feel that their experience of the situation is dismissed or not correct. Their hurt feelings will still be there, unacknowledged by you, and they will not recognise the attempts at repair from your side. Their feelings will linger, and you will both stay In the cycle of conflict – because sometimes these types of apologies will just prolong the conflict.
“For some people, an apology often feels like an admission that they are inadequate—that, rather than having made a mistake, there is something inherently wrong with them.” According to an article from Very Well Mind.
Can you reframe an apology as a way of acknowledging that the other person has been hurt – rather than an admission of guilt or wrongdoing? Growing up we are often told to apologise for wrongdoing - so the association with the word sorry is one of accepting blame. If you can look at an apology as an acceptance of the your partner’s feelings, rather than an admission of your own culpability, it may be easier to reconnect emotionally with them in the repair needed after a conflict.
I’m sorry is a complete sentence - let the boundary be that if the other person needs an explanation they can ask for it. Other ways to try and ensure the repair is more effective include;
I’m sorry, what do you need from me to help you get over this?
I’m sorry - I was wrong.
Check in with yourself on how you apologise - and see if it centres you, or your partner.
What you put out into the relationship will help to define the emotional safety for you both.