Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour – unceasingly. – Henri Nouwen

I love this quote. Hurting our loved ones and making mistakes is part of being human. Unfortunately, apologizing does not come as easily. Here are some tips for a good apology: 

Avoid excuses. There is a difference between explaining your perspective and making an excuse. But, when we’re hurt, any explanation feels like an excuse. Regardless of whether you intended to hurt your partner or not, your behavior caused pain. It is important to acknowledge that pain in order to move forward.

Be specific. What are you apologizing for? There’s a difference between “I’m sorry for not letting you know that I would be late for dinner” and “I’m sorry.” The former acknowledges the specific mistake, and it shows that you take your apology – and your partner’s hurt – seriously.

Acknowledge why your action caused pain. The biggest barrier to apologizing properly is the belief that your behavior shouldn’t have hurt your partner. It’s important to understand your spouse’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with his/her version of reality. When you acknowledge what your hurtful behavior meant to your partner, your partner feels truly understood.

Identify what you’ll do next time. It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll never hurt your partner again. As a result, it makes sense to identify the steps you’ll take to avoid repeating the same hurtful behavior. Humans are far from perfect, and we hurt our loved ones, even when we are trying our best. Be kind to yourself as you learn and practice new behaviors.

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