How to Apologize-In Five Steps
Best Strategies for a Healthy Relationship 
By Genie Joseph, PhD

Being in a relationship means you need to learn how to apologize, You are going to do things – or not do things – that displease your man. It is a fact of life that men get their feelings hurt just as women do, but they don’t always know how to deal with that hurt. This means that sometimes you have to help them out by asking them how they are feeling. 

You could say something like this, “Was there something that I did that upset you?” This helps him connect the dots and realize that he may not even realize that something is bothering him. If he feels hurt by something you said or did – or didn’t do, or didn’t say – you may have to invite him to share his feelings.

If this relationship is important to you, you want to master the art of apology, because it saves time and quickly gets you back on track with the loving feelings between you.

There are as many ways to apologize as there are apologizers Some methods are more effective than others with your partner.  A simple “I’m sorry” may really do it for some men. Others need to know that you understand what they are feeling, or what need of his didn’t get met, or to understand that you regret your actions. In this case, a simple two-word apology is not going to do the job.  But the right kind of apology will work like a charm.

If you have offended your man by missing a beat that was important to him, did something that disappointed him, or forgot something that he valued, or used words that he interpreted as hurtful -- you are a candidate for needing to offer an apology. It is a sign of strength to be big enough to apologize if you have done something that triggered an upset.

Often it is some need he has, maybe one he is not even aware of, that hasn’t been met, and this triggered a deep disappointment that can simmer into real anger.  According to Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, authors of the book The Five Languages of Apology, there are some excellent and very specific ways to get the job done.  

Here is a summary of five principles to help you understand how to apologize in a manner that will best meet his needs. Remember, this is not so much admitting you are wrong, as it is acknowledging that he had a need (or expectation) that wasn’t met by your interaction with him

Being in a relationship means you are going to do things – or not do things – that displease your man. Men get their feelings hurt just as women do, but they don’t always know how to deal with that hurt. Learning how to apologize can help them connect with their feelings and grow. 

How to Apologize Tip # 1 – Express Regret

Sometimes men don’t realize what it is that is bothering them. If they are feeling hurt by you, the first step is to acknowledge that hurt is present, and that you truly regret their pain. You may or may not regret your action, or may have been unable to prevent this action, but he needs to know that you are sorry or sad to see that it caused him pain. If this is his issue, make sure to include words that indicate that you know he is suffering, and that this wasn’t your intention.  Men who are feeling hurt often retreat emotionally or physically. If so, your acknowledging that hurt has occurred can help to make it safer to return. These words of apology will be like a combination lock to his emotional safe. It will help him to open his heart again if he feels your GENUINE expression of regret. Here is an example of how to apologize while expressing regret:

“I am really sorry you had to wait so long at the restaurant. You must have felt very frustrated. I am sorry my phone was dead, and so I couldn’t reassure you I was on my way.”

How to Apologize Tip # 2 – Accept Responsibility

For a man it helps to know that you “get it,” that you did something that triggered a response in him. It is very important that your apology include the specific words that acknowledge that something you did (or didn’t do) didn’t meet his expectations and needs. You do not want to get into a verbal tango about who did what, who didn’t ask for what, because this is argumentative. What you want to do is immediately and directly address the fact that your actions didn’t meet his needs. If he needs you to accept responsibility, this will go a long way to making him feel safe and loved. Here is an example of accepting responsibility:

“Listening is such an important part of a strong relationship, but once again, I blew it. You needed me to listen and hear you, and I basically just ignored your need.”

How to Apologize Tip # 3 – Make Restitution

If this is not the first instance of a particular upset, it may be particularly important to him to hear a short, direct statement of your commitment to behave differently in the future.  This is re-committing to the importance of the relationship, and will go a long way to redeeming yourself in his eyes.  If this is not the first transgression, he is probably feeling a host of emotions.  He may be feeling sad as he imagines you don’t care about his issue, or frustrated that this pattern hasn’t changed, or angry that you are not considering his needs when you took certain actions or made certain choices.  All of these feelings (and more) mean he needs a declaration from you that you wish to do better in the future.  It is best not to assume that you know exactly what he needs, because you might have an idea that is different from his actual need.  In this case, ask the question!  Find out from him what you can do to make things better.  Here are some examples of how to make restitution that will melt his heart:

“What can I do to make sure I don’t take your feelings for granted in the future?”


“I realize now that you needed more help. What can I do to fix it now?


“In the future, how can I know what you really need?”

How to Apologize Tip # 4 – Genuinely Repent

If he needs you to repent, this means he really needs to know that you get how much what you did (or didn’t do) to upset him. You need to show him that you understand the depth and breadth of his upset. He will not give up or let go of his upset until he sees that you are truly sorry for what you did or didn’t do. To do this effectively, you show him that you empathize with his upset. You are expressing your own true desire to change, for your own growth, as well as his happiness. You are not just trying to wiggle out of the situation and get a free pass! If he needs genuine repentance, he needs to see that you are a wiser, kinder woman. Be very specific about what actions you will take and how you plan to change.  Don’t make generic character promises like “I’ll be nicer.” Those are impossible to fulfill. Here is an example of how to apologize with genuine repentance:

“I realize what I said was wrong. It hurt you. That wasn’t what I meant to do. I will not make insensitive comments about your family again.”

How to Apologize Tip # 5 - Request Forgiveness

After you have used one or more of these methods of apology, come right out and ask for forgiveness. He may not be able to give it in the moment you are asking, but by putting that request out there, it gets his mind focused on doing that, even if he is not ready right now. You can also ask him specifically, “What can I do to get you to forgive me?” Again this gets his mind focusing on a positive future, and redirects his attention from what you have done wrong, and onto what you can do right next time. Here are a couple of examples of how to apologize by asking for forgiveness.

“I am sincerely sorry and ask you to forgive me.” Or “I know you are hurt. But can you ever forgive me?” or “I blew it. Can you forgive me?”

The moral of the story is that apology is a part of relationship life, and both partners need to help each other learn how to do it promptly and effectively. If apology is new to you, it may seem like you are giving something up. What you will discover is that if you do it well, you gain harmony and happiness. You save a lot of time by ending fights faster.  

The bigger person will apologize first and be a good role model for the other. We are more likely to apologize quickly if we trust that our partner consistently does the same. Remember, whatever you are fighting about is probably not even going to matter a year from now, so why not get busy apologizing, and get back to loving right now!

We offer brief coaching sessions to help couples identify what they need to do to get their love lives back on track. Give us a shout!

Go To Healthy Relationship Advice Home  Page

Go To Advice For Women Page

-Need Immediate Help? Find Out About Our Telephone and Skype Counseling Special--Click Here

Get Your Free How To Say I Love You Ebook

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Get Your Free ebook 
I Love You

"I love you!"

Those are the three words we most want to hear.

Yet for some people saying those words is daunting. They'd rather skip barefoot through a hornet's nest. The good news is saying "I love you!" is a learnable skill.

Our FREE e-book is a love story in four acts that shows how two shy people found creative ways to express their most tender feelings for each other.

You can borrow these words or use them to inspire you to create your own linguistic art of romance.

Go ahead, be brave. Let Cupid speak in your life.

To get a copy, go to the page bottom and tell us your name and email.