Horrible couple-conversations from long ago seem to bubble up sometimes. Arguments. Disagreements. Anger. Hurt. It can be helpful to structure an apology in an intentional way.

Apology processes can be integrated into the couple dialog and be very effective. It seems they are not always a one-off fix to heal a past hurt, but need to be revisited many times as one would heal a grazed or skinned knee.

If you graze or take skin off you leg, it takes time, medical care and regular dressing changes to heal. You need to check it every day. Change the dressing. Clean the wound or cut. Apply salve or medical cream. It needs many visits over a long time until it heals. The same seems to be true for healing past hurts. Emotional grazes. Word wounds. Behaviour bruises. Fractured feelings.

Apology processes seem to need to be re-visited many times and over a long time. The deeper the emotional wound, the more care is needed to heal and recover.

One-off efforts might not be enough, especially when trust has been lost. Trust injuries may take many, many, apology process conversations over a long time before the healing is felt.

An apology process can help you address each aspect of the injury, instead of missing stuff. It helps the hurt person to receive a more complete apology. So this can help with healing.

Step1 : Express Regret

I am sorry for …

Step 2: Acknowledge

Name all the ways it has harmed the other person.

Step 3: Accept Responsibility

State how you are responsible, even if it is for one part of the issue.

Step 4: Ask ‘What Can I Do?’

What can I do to make it better?

Step 5: Ask For Forgiveness

Will you forgive me?

The person may not be ready to forgive you at this stage, and that is fine. Asking for their forgiveness is asking them not to hold a grudge.

You are inviting them to let it go.

If they do not accept, do not worry. Perhaps they are not ready yet. Or may never choose to forgive. Forgiving is then up to them.

They are free to choose.

Your role is simply to ask them to forgive you. To make it possible for them to say ‘yes’.

Barbed Apologies

When we do not take full responsibilty for the offense, or we minimize what has happened, the apology may not work.

This can be called a barbed apology. Barbed apologies seem to be unhelpful.

Book a Couple Session (or individual session)

If ‘historical hurts’ and ‘past injuries’ are bubbling up in the relationship, you can book a couple session with me to address these.

You can book a session online here .

Henk Ensing