Knowing how to reconnect after an argument is one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship with anyone – especially someone you love. Often, knowing how to say sorry is about being vulnerable and humble. It’s a risk to apologize after a fight, isn’t it? It takes guts, but the payoff is sweet.
“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partners,” said Ann Landers.
Nobody is born knowing how to say sorry to someone they love and resolve conflict in relationships! We have to learn it. Reading books like When Anger Hurts Your Relationship: 10 Simple Solutions for Couples Who Fight is helpful, and so is swallowing your pride.
5 Tips on How to Say Sorry to Someone You Love
One of the best ways to say sorry to someone you love is to stop feeling guilty. “Couples who make it a rule not to guilt each other for mistakes are physically and emotionally healthier,” says certified holistic physician Michael Finkelstein. To reduce guilt, he encourages couples to focus on solutions to current problems – and not rehash past mistakes.
Get off the guilt train by forgiving your partner and letting go of the past. The more you do it, the easier it gets! Learning to fight fair and love each other even in the midst of a disagreement may be one of the best skills you can learn as a couple.
Give and receive an apology with love and grace
Be the first to say sorry to someone you love even if it wasn’t your fault. Figure out your role in the conflict, and tell your partner why you’re sorry (for example, “I’m sorry that I lost my temper and yelled at you. I’m sorry we fought about X, and above all I’m sorry I hurt you.”).
Allow your partner to apologize without having to grovel, humiliate herself, or sacrifice your dignity. After you say you’re sorry, discuss ways to avoid a similar situation in the future – without laying blame.
Remember what worked to make up after a fight in the past
“To make up after a fight, remember when you’ve successfully changed things with your partner in the past,” says Paulette Sherman, Ph.D., author of Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart. “Did your partner respond when you spoke calmly, made a direct request, or offered a big hug?”
Sherman suggests focusing on the communication style that works best for your partner. For instance, you might need intense conversation and physical affection but no sex to work things out. Your partner may prefer to have sex first, then discussion. There is no right or wrong way, but it’s important to be aware of how you and your partner reconnect. This tip on how to say sorry to someone you love is requires some past experience resolving conflict with each other. The more you do it, the better you get at saying sorry!
Know your boundaries
An important part of a healthy relationship is knowing where you begin and end. When you say you’re sorry after a fight, be aware of what’s “yours” and what’s “not yours.”
For instance, if your partner loses control and hits you, you are not responsible for her actions and you need not apologize for making her angry. You are not responsible for your partner’s actions; you are only responsible for your own. To learn more about healthy boundaries, read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No-To Take Control of Your Life.
Do not disengage – even if you need space to calm down after a fight
Romance coach Kathryn Lord encourages couples not to walk out on each other. “Withdrawal is severely punishing,” says this creator of Find-a-Sweetheart. “Say, ‘I need to take a walk and calm down, but I will be back to talk this through. I’ll let you know how I am doing in a half hour. If I need more time then, I’ll tell you.” This tip on how to say sorry to someone you love is about staying physically and emotionally close.
Maintain your connection even if you need time alone. Take as much responsibility as you can for the fight, and apologize thoroughly for any misbehavior on your own part.
If you don’t feel connected to your boyfriend or spouse, read When You Feel Alone in Your Marriage.
Make sure your feelings match your words and actions
It’s healthy and appropriate to express your feelings after a fight. Remember that 90% of communication is nonverbal, which means that even if you don’t speak your feelings, your actions will likely reveal them! Focus on being authentic, and matching your feelings with your behaviors.
This may mean not saying “Everything is fine” when your lips are tightly pressed together and your hands are clenched! That’s not a good way to say sorry to someone you love. Instead, say “I’m angry and frustrated because I was relying on you to take the garbage out, and now the garbage truck won’t be back for another week,” or “I feel sad and lonely because I expected and hoped to see you there.”
I hope these tips on how to say sorry to someone you love help you reconnect after a fight. Disconnection is unhealthy, uncomfortable, and untenable. For more tips on reconnecting with someone you love, read 5 Most Common Mistakes in Relationships.
If you have any comments on how to say sorry to someone you love, please share below!
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.