How to Master the Art of Apology for a Happy Life

Remember that old movie line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry?” Well, forget it. When you love someone, you’ll need to apologize often — and mean it — or you can kiss your relationship goodbye! To keep your love thriving, you and your partner will need to work through problems in a direct, respectful way. To do that, you’ll both need to take responsibility for your own behavior.

When someone refuses to apologize, it’s generally a sign of insecurity — that person is afraid to admit to any fault lest something terrible should happen. Of course, he or she usually can’t explain what that terrible thing might be. Sometimes men have a harder time apologizing because they were taught never to show vulnerability.

Both men and women can become “apology avoidant” if they were frequently criticized and blamed growing up. The person then becomes shell-shocked and hypersensitive. At the first hint of a criticism, his mind shuts off, and he either changes the topic, defends himself vehemently — or goes on the offense, blaming his partner. For him or her apologizing is too big a threat.

But the bottom line is: No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and in any relationship where partners interact frequently and intensely, it’s usually just a matter of time before both of them make a mistake. Usually the errors are small, relatively insignificant. And sometimes the mistakes are much bigger. There are also times when it’s kinder to your partner just to fix your mistake without divulging it.

Saying you’re sorry in such a direct, clear, non-defensive manner usually helps the two of you make up and grow closer. In contrast, failure to take responsibility and apologize can quickly drive you apart. Your inability to apologize quickly becomes a huge stumbling block.

If you let your partner take responsibility for everything that goes badly between you, the relationship will become very uneven, and will either end or become very unhealthy. Even if your mate ­doesn’t fill in for you in the apology department, blaming her for your mistakes — or squirming around every which way to avoid apologizing — will quickly lead her to lose respect for you.

If you have trouble apologizing, see a psychologist to work on your thoughts and your self-esteem. Concentrate on accepting and loving yourself as the imperfect mortal you are. Look at your mistakes as unfortunate, but inevitable facts of life. In doing so, you’ll free yourself up to be happy and healthy — and the best partner you can be.

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