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You’ve battled it out – had a knockdown, shoot ‘em up with your partner. How do we fix it after the fight? Repair the damage after the collision? Rockstar psychologist, Harriet Lerner, has so masterfully pointed out in her book, Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts, having the ability to repair when, not if, things go “off the rails” can be the most important saving grace in any important relationship, especially our intimate ones. 

Hmm. So, if relationship success relies on a couple’s capacity to repair, then that means someone has to apologize first. Oof.  

There are a couple of critical facts about apologies I’ve learned over the years that I’m going to tuck in right here, just in case you might need them. First, for an apology to be effective, it can’t include the word “but”; otherwise, it erases the apology. Let me tell you, apologizing without a “but” is sometimes nearly impossible.  

“Honey, I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was just so tired this morning, my bad.” 


“Honey, I’m sorry I yelled at you. But if you would just help with the friggin’ kids and their homework then I wouldn’t be so pissed off.” 

See the difference? 

Here’s the deal: An apology is all about stating what you’re sorry for and not prefacing it. Ever. A “but” erases the apology. Every time. 

And second, an apology also doesn’t sound like this: “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive.” Or, “Sorry, I didn’t know this was going to be such a big deal.” That’s where condescending tones take over and it’s so easy to jump into the realm of shame. Half-hearted apologies, where we’re looking to unload some of the burden, are rarely received well. The importance of expressing regret, accepting responsibility, and making amends is identified as critical in this process.  

Deep breath. I know you’re doing your best. Thanks for being here. And my friends, if you’re feeling stuck, know that you’re not alone. There is no script for this being human thing and especially no script for this being married thing. 

And if you’re looking for more – I talk a lot about relationships, amongst other exciting topics, in my latest book, Feeling Seen, available here!   

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