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How to Apologize Even When You Didn’t Mean To Cause A Problem: Couple’s Communication Counseling Verbatim

Posted Mar 03 2009 2:20pm

If you’ve accidentally done something your partner is angry about, you may think you should be forgiven automatically, just because your intentions were good—or at least not malicious. Your partner may disagree.

Just admitting that you have done something is NOT the same thing as apologizing to your partner for your behavior. And just saying “I’m sorry” may not be enough either.

After a long conversation a couple I was working with sorted out the facts about a complicated disagreement. Although they now agreed on the facts, she was still angry with him.

They agreed to let me share this conversation because they hope you can learn from their experience.

The Conversation

She: I want an apology! I have valid information, a lot of the time, and I’m angry because you just don’t listen to me!

(He says nothing.)

She: Do agree with me?

He: (woodenly) Yes it’s true. I caused the problem because I didn’t have the information. You did tell me about it ahead of time. I didn’t listen to you. I don’t listen about other things too. I don’t read instructions. I don’t understand what’s going on, and I make mistakes.

She: (really angry) You don’t give a rat’s ass about what I’m talking about do you?

Me: (to him) Now she is back to telling you about her resentments. It’s because you haven’t apologized. You admitted that you caused the problem, but that’s not the same thing as apologizing.

He: I told her that I do it in other situations. It happens over and over again.

Me: Do you know what an apology is?

He: I thought I told her I made a mistake and that she’s right.

Me: You told her about what was going on in your mind. That isn’t an apology. It may be part of an apology. But you’ve left out any thing to do with her feelings about the problem you caused. You’re only talking about yourself.

Me: (to her). Isn’t that why you’re still angry?

She: Yeah, he never apologizes.

The Conversation Continues….

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