How to apologize: The secret to a healthy relationship

Apologizing is a crucial skill in any healthy relationship, but it can be challenging to get it right. We'll show you how to apologize effectively and share some expert tips on how to do it right.

On this page

Apologies play an important role in repairing damaged relationships after interpersonal conflicts. 1 Learning how to apologize correctly is one of the most important secrets to having a happy and healthy relationship.

In this article, we’ll explore reasons why it’s important how you apologize, discuss the steps you can take to effectively apologize, and answer frequently asked questions about apologies.

Check out our ultimate guide on how to deal with conflicts and challenges in relationships!

Why it matters how you apologize

Why it matters how you apologize

A sincere apology can go a long way toward repairing the damage that’s been done in a romantic relationship. 2 How you apologize matters because it speaks to your character, and the sincerity of your apology can indicate how much you value the relationship.

A half-hearted or insincere apology can lead to further resentment and mistrust, while an honest apology can strengthen the relationship and foster a deeper level of understanding and trust between partners. 3

Let’s take a look at the key points why sincere apologies are so important when it comes to maintaining a strong and healthy relationship.

1. Apologies show respect

A sincere apology shows respect to the other person by acknowledging that you caused them emotional pain and taking responsibility for your actions.

A heartfelt apology is a sign of empathy and shows the person that you care about their feelings. 4

2. Apologies promote forgiveness

An honest apology can help to promote forgiveness and encourage the person to let go of any negative feelings they may have toward you. 1

While it may take time for your partner to truly forgive you, a sincere apology can be the first step in this process. 4

3. Apologies reduce tension and negative emotions

When conflicts arise in a relationship, it can create tension and negative emotions between partners. A genuine apology can help to diffuse the situation and reduce tension and negative emotions. 1 5

While it may not instantly resolve the issue, a sincere apology can open the door for constructive dialogue and help to put things back on track.

4. Apologies improve communication

An honest apology can open up the lines of communication and help to create a more open and understanding environment in which to communicate. This can make it easier to navigate other conflicts that may arise in the future.

It shows that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions and that you value the relationship you have.

5. Apologies help (re)building trust

Trust is a crucial component of any relationship, and a sincere apology can help to rebuild any trust that may have been damaged. Research showed that even apologizing for something that’s not directly your fault has a positive impact on relationships and interpersonal trust. 6

For example, when you apologize for being late because of unforeseen circumstances, even if it’s something out of your control, it still shows your partner that you value their time.

However, be careful not to fall into the habit of over-apologizing. If you’re struggling with over-apologizing, check out our article on how to stop over-apologizing for practical tips and strategies to help you break the cycle.

6. Apologies strengthen the relationship

Ultimately, a sincere apology can pave the way for a strong and healthy relationship by increasing trust and friendship and reducing anger and the desire for revenge. 3 However, this is only true when done right. Find out common things that couples get wrong when it comes to apologizing so you can avoid them in your relationship.

So, to sum up, when you own up to your mistakes, genuinely apologize for them, and show your partner that you are committed to working on yourself, it will show them that you value the relationship and are willing to put in the effort to make it work.

5 steps on how to apologize sincerely to your partner

5 steps on how to apologize sincerely to your partner

If you’re genuinely sorry for something you’ve done, you want to apologize sincerely and effectively. Are you unsure of how to go about it? Let’s take a look at what an apology should include, according to the experts:

A sincere apology typically includes the acknowledgment of wrongdoing, the acceptance of responsibility, the expression of remorse, the offer of compensation, and the communication not to commit the same mistake again in the future. 1

Keeping that in mind, here are 5 steps on how to apologize sincerely and repair some of the damage that’s been done in your relationship:

1. Acknowledge the wrongdoing and take responsibility for your actions

Apologizing effectively begins with taking responsibility for your actions and acknowledging that you have done something wrong. It’s important to avoid making excuses or blaming others for your behavior. By taking ownership of your actions, you show that you understand the impact you had on your partner and are committed to making things right. 1

When you apologize, be specific about what you’re apologizing for. Avoid making vague apologies like “I’m sorry for everything.” Instead, identify the specific behavior that caused harm. This helps the other person understand that you recognize the true impact of your actions.

For example, let’s say that you forgot an important event that was meaningful to your partner. Instead of making excuses or blaming them for not reminding you, taking responsibility and acknowledging your mistake is the right thing to do. It will show your partner that you understand that you made a mistake and hurt the feelings of your partner.

2. Express remorse and empathy

Apologizing with genuine remorse and empathy can be a powerful tool for reducing negative consequences and facilitating forgiveness. 1 7 By expressing empathy and understanding of how your actions have impacted your partner, it will show them that you are genuinely sorry and care about their feelings.

So, how can you express empathy? Start by considering how the other person must be feeling by trying to look at the situation from their perspective. Once you’ve done that, it will be easier for you to express your remorse.

Let’s stick to the example of forgetting an important event. In addition to acknowledging and taking responsibility for your mistakes, you could say something like: “I know how much that day means to you, and I can only imagine how disappointed and hurt you must have felt.”

If you’re having a hard time finding the right words, check out our step-by-step guide on how to say sorry to your partner.

3. Make amends

Making amends is an attempt to right the wrong that you’ve done. Even though it won’t undo the harm that’s been done, making amends can demonstrate your commitment to repairing the relationship.

Depending on the severity of the mistake, it could come in many forms, such as flowers or even trying to make up for the lost time by being more present and engaged in each other’s lives.

When making amends, consider what would be most meaningful to your partner - and if they even want anything at all. Be mindful of their feelings and be open to hearing their suggestions.

4. Assure your partner that it won’t happen again

When someone has been wronged, they want to feel confident that the person who hurt them has learned from their mistake and won’t do it again. 1 By assuring your partner that you will do better in the future you will show them that you truly want to make things right and are committed to being a better partner.

However, it’s important to avoid making promises that you cannot keep. If you’re not sure that you can prevent the same behavior from happening again, it’s better to be honest about this than to make empty promises. In this case, instead of saying, “I promise it won’t happen again,” tell them that you will work on yourself and try your best not to do it again.

5. Follow through on your promises

It’s one thing to apologize and promise to do better, but it’s another thing to follow through on those promises. When you promise to change your behavior, it’s important to take concrete steps to make sure that you are holding yourself accountable and taking the necessary actions to prevent future harm.

Let’s say your partner feels unappreciated, so you promise them to show your appreciation more often. Make sure to actually follow through on this promise by taking actions like saying “Thank you” more often, giving compliments, and doing nice things for them.

Change takes time, but if you’re committed to making things better, it will be worth the effort.

FAQ about apologizing

1. How do you apologize to someone you still love?

When apologizing to someone you love, it’s important to be sincere and honest. Start by acknowledging your mistake and expressing remorse for the pain that your actions have caused. Show empathy for how they must be feeling and explain what you will do differently in the future. Finally, make sure to follow through on any promises that you make so that they know they can trust you.

This kind of apology will demonstrate that you are genuinely sorry and care about them and their feelings.

2. Is it healthy to apologize in relationships?

Yes, it is healthy and necessary to apologize in relationships - especially after big fights. If you want to know how to effectively apologize after a big fight, check out this article.

But even for smaller arguments, it is still important to apologize when you have done something wrong in order to keep the relationship healthy. Apologizing is an essential part of healthy communication, and it can help to repair damaged relationships and prevent further harm.

However, it’s important to note that apologies must be genuine and heartfelt for them to be effective at improving the relationship’s well-being. 8 Instead of simply saying “I’m sorry,” you should take responsibility for your mistakes, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, make amends, and assure your partner that it won’t happen again.

It’s also important to follow through on promises and show that you are committed to making positive changes in order for the apology to be more than just words.

3. How do you apologize to someone deeply?

Acknowledging responsibility for your mistakes is the most important step when apologizing to someone. 8 Admitting that you have made a mistake can be difficult, but it is essential for apologies to be accepted.

Expressing genuine remorse is another important aspect of a sincere apology. Show that you truly understand the impact your actions had on the other person and express sincere regret for any harm caused. This can go a long way in repairing the damage done. You can also share how you plan to make things better moving forward, which can help to reassure the other person that you are committed to repairing the relationship.

By approaching the situation with empathy and sincerity, you can demonstrate your commitment to making things right and create a foundation for a healthier and more fulfilling relationship moving forward.

4. What is the most sincere apology?

The most sincere apology is one that comes from the heart and is accompanied by genuine actions to make things right. One important aspect of a sincere apology is taking full responsibility for your actions. This means acknowledging the harm caused and expressing genuine remorse for any pain or suffering you may have caused.

It’s important to be specific about what you are sorry for and to show that you truly understand the impact of your actions on the other person. Here are some great ways to say sorry and make it meaningful.

Additionally, actions speak louder than words, so it’s important to follow through on your promises and take concrete steps to prevent future harm. This could mean making changes in your behavior or taking steps to improve communication.

In summary, there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to apologizing, but it’s important to make sure that your apology is authentic and heartfelt. If you are truly sorry for your actions and take responsibility for them, this sincerity will show in your words and tone of voice.

5. Why does my partner never apologize?

There could be a number of reasons why your partner does not apologize. It could be that they don’t recognize their mistakes or feel like apologizing is admitting weakness. It could also be that they are the type of person who finds it difficult to express emotions. Here are more possible reasons why your partner refuses to apologize.

Apologies play a crucial role in maintaining healthy relationships by helping repair any damage caused and preventing future harm. Honesty and sincerity in your apology can demonstrate your commitment to making things right, creating a foundation for a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Check out our comprehensive guide for more valuable tips on effective communication in relationships.

  1. Lewis, J. T., Parra, G. R., & Cohen, R. M. (2015). Apologies in Close Relationships: A Review of Theory and Research. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 7(1), 47–61. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Ferrin, D. L., Kim, P. H., Cooper, C. D., and Dirks, K. T. (2007). Silence speaks volumes: the effectiveness of reticence in comparison to apology and denial for responding to integrity-and competence-based trust violations. J. Appl. Psychol. 92, 893–908. ↩︎

  3. Forster, D. E., Billingsley, J., Burnette, J. L., Lieberman, D., Ohtsubo, Y., & McCullough, M. E. (2021). Experimental evidence that apologies promote forgiveness by communicating relationship value. Scientific Reports, 11(1). ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Jeffries, V. (2010). Handbook of public sociology. Choice Reviews Online, 47(09), 47–5351. ↩︎ ↩︎

  5. Darby, B. W., and Schlenker, B. R. (1982). Children’s reactions to apologies. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 43, 742–753. ↩︎

  6. Brooks, A. W., Dai, H., and Schweitzer, M. E. (2014). I’m sorry about the rain! Superfluous apologies demonstrate empathic concern and increase trust. Soc. Psychol. Pers. Sci. 5, 467–474. ↩︎

  7. Davis, J., & Gold, G. J. (2011). An examination of emotional empathy, attributions of stability, and the link between perceived remorse and forgiveness. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(3), 392–397. ↩︎

  8. Schumann, K. (2012). Does love mean never having to say you’re sorry? Associations between relationship satisfaction, perceived apology sincerity, and forgiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29(7), 997–1010. ↩︎ ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

Read full bio

Get the official app 😍

PumPum® app icon


For iPhone & Android
Browse all articles