We can all admit that we listened to Beiber’s song, Sorry. We sang it, we enjoyed the lyrics.

Ok, now that we’ve admitted it, I think he poses a good question.

Is it ever too late to say that you’re sorry?

Saying I’m sorry is one of the most powerful tools in our tool box in relationships, yet we all struggle with actually saying it.

What makes it so hard?

Pride, beliefs & fear get in our way. Admitting blame requires putting our pride aside. It means addressing our beliefs- I’ll be seen as a bad person, I’ll appear weak/vulnerable, I’m not worthy of forgiveness. Then we fear that during the next argument, our partner will throw it back in our faces.

These beliefs, become excuses that keep us from connecting and repairing in our relationships.

Saying I’m sorry takes great strength.

As I tell all the couples and families I work with, repair is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. Without the ability to repair, say I’m sorry, and forgive, we are left feeling resentment, rejected, unforgivable.

There are two type of apologies, the “real” or sincere apology and the insincere kind, said to get your partner to back off, or drop the conflict.

Have you ever heard an insincere apology? It sounds like this: I’m sorry, you’re totally wrong and blowing this out of proportion. You didn’t call to remind me about dinner, so it’s really your fault. I’m sorry you’re upset, but next time don’t expect me to be a mind-reader, call to tell me to come home for dinner.

Insincere, bad apologies leave your partner feeling like he/she overreacted, their feelings are unjustified. The bad apologizer turns the situation around, making them look like the good guy, or the victim and their partner the one in the wrong.

Tools to a sincere apology:

  • Timing. Wait until you are both calm & in a place where you can pay attention to each-other.
  • Face to Face. Looking into each other’s eyes, seeing the emotion on each others faces creates the space for healing and sincerity. There are times when we will need to use digital devices, but if you can wait until you are face to face, you create a real moment of connection.
  • Mean it. Just saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Identify what you are specifically sorry about, the exact behavior. This shows ownership, real acknowledgement of what you’ve done that hurt your partner. It also demonstrates empathy.
  • Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Validate and show understanding of your partner’s feelings. This creates space for your partner to feel he/she is being heard and understood. It also allows for your partner to teach something new about themselves, what triggered their hurt- leading to knowing each-other on a deeper level.
  • Talk about the future. Acknowledge how you’re going to handle it next time. This demonstrates you’re committed to making changes, even small ones. Follow through and deliver on what you’re working on.
  • Hug, laugh, kiss. Repair ends with showing and demonstrating healing, moving forward.
  • Leave the conflict in the past. Once you feel you have closure over a conflict, it must remain in the past. It can’t be brought up again in future fights. So, don’t accept an apology until you really feel that it’s been understood & steps have been clarified to create change in your relationship.

Sincere apology: I’m sorry I didn’t call and was late for dinner. I understand that it made you sad and feel unimportant or that I wasn’t thinking of you. I tend to be bad with time when out with my friends, but that’s no excuse because it leads to me hurting you. Next time, I will be aware of the time, and if I am running late or unsure about our plans, I will reach out to confirm and talk with you about them.

Apologizing takes guts.

Expressing remorse, becoming vulnerable is never an easy task.

But showing up, exposing your imperfections with your partner is important.

So, Beiber- it’s never too late to say you’re sorry.

Make it sincere, in a timely fashion and it can create a stronger bond between you and your partner.