If you want to make your relationship last, two simple words make all the difference — the only catch is that they can also be two of the most difficult words to say: I’m sorry. Everyone messes up from time to time, but what sets healthy relationships apart from unhealthy ones is the ability and willingness, of both partners, to own up to their mistakes and apologize. As simple as it is in theory, apologizing to your partner is often easier said than done… but why is it so difficult to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship?
“I’m sorry” –- this simple phrase is so hard to pronounce sometimes. The underlying reasons for this are varied, but the most common are: we all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. So why is apologizing so darn difficult to do? Most of us like to be the recipient of a heartfelt apology, but giving is different from receiving, isn’t it?
I’m sure you’ve figured out, there are many reasons why saying “I’m sorry” is such a challenging endeavour. First of all, who likes to admit they’re wrong? It’s NOT fun! Believe me, I know. I’ve had lots of practice.
(1) Sometimes it’s the fear of rejection that makes an apology so hard to say. The prospect of getting a cold shoulder, not being forgiven or losing a friend can understandably be unsettling, especially when it comes from someone you still love, care about and want to maintain a relationship with. Sometimes people feel that initiating an apology is a sign of weakness.
(2) When you apologize, you admit that you may be wrong, which is a threat to our ego and our pride. Simply put, our pride can get in the way during an argument, which makes it difficult for us to see things from our partner’s perspective, which in turn makes it harder to apologize.
But as uncomfortable as it can be at first, it’s crucial to learn how to say “I’m sorry” and genuinely mean it, because it can have a seriously positive impact on your relationship as a whole. You should learn how to be objective and admit your mistakes, and not allow your egocentrism to blind you.
(3) Apologizing can make some people feel vulnerable, or feel like they are in danger of losing their power and status. Others simply equate saying “I’m sorry” with admitting they’re inadequate or incompetent, which makes admitting mistakes so much harder to do.
Some people find saying they’re sorry humiliating. Perhaps they were criticized harshly by parents or other important people while growing up, and as a result, avoid admitting mistakes because of the horrible feelings it brings up.
(4) Some people see an apology as a confirmation of guilt and, as a result, of responsibility for the conflict.
They mistakenly believe that if they apologize, then the other person wouldn’t realize his or her wrong behaviour. This is false. Apologizing opens the lines of communication and stimulates empathy and understanding on both sides.
(5) Some people assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness, but actually, it is a hallmark of strength. It is an act of generosity and an expression of hope for a recrudescent relationship. It is an act of bravery because it subjects people to the risk of humiliation.
(6) The person believes that he or she is not worthy of forgiveness. They cling to excuses like “he or she will never forgive me, so why I should I even try?”.
But thoughts like these can be extremely destructive to a relationship because the helplessness it breeds stops the offending party from taking the actions required to heal and mend.
(7) Saying sorry is meant to make us feel vulnerable. How could it not? But here’s the thing: It’s really important to do for us to have healthy relationships. We all want and need to feel safe with the people we allow into our inner circle.
We want to know that the people we are close to care about how we feel and are willing to admit their flaws. Not taking responsibility for wrongdoings makes us seem unsafe or untrustworthy.
And withholding an apology is certainly not going to win us any friends! Saying you’re sorry shows those you love that you care enough about them and the relationship to be aware of your shortcomings and take responsibility for your hurtful actions. In the end, making things right is way more important than being right.