There’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when you know you've crossed a line, said something hurtful, or betrayed someone's trust — especially when you've done it to your partner. And although you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself (everyone makes mistakes, after all) these kinds of situations usually call for a more in-depth apology than a simple “I’m sorry.” Those aren’t always easy to make.
Now, an in-person apology is usually preferred, but a texted apology can work, too. If you’re in a position where you can’t drop everything to say sorry in person, sending an apology text can let your SO know that you know you messed up and that you want to start making amends ASAP. Fair enough, but the question of how to say sorry to your boyfriend in a text or how to apologize to your girlfriend over iMessage in a genuinely remorseful way remains. Fortunately, Chris Armstrong, the founder of relationship coaching company Maze of Love, and Hillary McBride, registered clinical counselor, helped clarify things.
In a previous conversation with Elite Daily, Armstrong suggested sending a quick preface to set up an effective apology text. “Start with a couple of phrases, [like] ‘I would much rather have this conversation in person, but…' and, 'I realize that some of what I'm sharing is one-sided or through my lens, and I'd love to understand yours,’” Armstrong recommended.
It’s also important to recognize that a genuine apology will likely require more than one message — no matter how perfect your original text may be, a good apology usually sparks a more in-depth, back-and-forth conversation. “The apology means nothing if you haven't listened to what the other person said,” McBride told Bustle. A huge part of apologizing is listening, or, in this case, reading.
In fact, taking the time to take in your partner’s response is what makes any apology (virtual or IRL) legit. Listening shows that you care about how your mistake affected your SO. It also makes it easier to ensure you won’t make the same mistake again. (FYI, if you aren’t paying attention, it’s a lot harder to know where exactly you went wrong.) “It's OK to pause, to consider how that impacted them and what it might be like if you were in their shoes,” McBride explained. “Think for a second about what it would be like if you experienced what they experienced.” Checks out.
How to apologize to your boyfriend for hurting his feelings or how to make amends with your girlfriend for making her upset varies depending on your personalities. Whatever route you take, it should feel authentic to the way you typically communicate. But at the end of the day, every method should have the same basic components. A good apology will acknowledge what you did and reaffirm that your partner has the right to be angry with you. It should also include your concrete action plan to alter the behavior that made the apology necessary. You might not be able to take back what you did or said, but you can pledge to do better in the future. All of this might seem like a lot to get into one text, but it is doable (and you don’t need to write a novel for it, either). Here are some examples of what that apology text could look like.
- I’ve been thinking a lot about what I said last night and I really crossed the line. You have every right to be offended and hurt, and I'm truly sorry. I'm going to spend some serious time working on understanding why I lash out and change my behavior.
- Hey babe. I'm really ashamed of how I behaved yesterday. The worst part about it all is how I made you feel. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment. I promise you it won't happen again.
- Hi. First and foremost, I just wanted to text you to tell you I know I really blew it. I heard what you said and how it made you feel. I apologize from the bottom of my heart.
- I’ve had some time to cool down and really consider my behavior. I now realize I was totally out of line. I hurt you and feel horrible about it. Take whatever time you need to process your feelings, and when you're ready I’d love to apologize again face-to-face.
- I feel absolutely terrible about our fight. I really let you down. You deserve better and if you are willing to forgive me, I'm ready to be better for you.
- I should never have done/said that. It was totally out of line. I'm so sorry that I hurt you and I'm going to work hard to never be so careless again.
- You are such an incredible partner and I love you so much. I feel awful that I ever let you down like this. I'm asking for your forgiveness and I promise to do better going forward.
- Hey babe, I totally lost my temper last night and I'm so sorry. It doesn’t justify what I said or did. I just want you to know that I know I messed up and I'm going to talk to a professional about it so it never happens again.
- I woke up feeling absolutely terrible about our fight last night. I'm so sorry for how I acted and I really regret hurting you. Can we meet up later to talk about it?
- I really blew it. I owe you a thousand apologies. Here's the first one: I'm so sorry for how I acted yesterday. You didn't deserve it and I wish I could take it back. I can’t, so instead I'm promising it will never happen again. One apology down, 999 to go!
- I'm so sorry for blowing up like that. It's not OK and you deserve better. Here's my promise to you: I'm going to get professional help to learn how to process my anger and frustration better so I don't end up taking it out on you.
- I feel like such a fool today. I'm so sorry for what I said. I should have heard you out instead of losing my temper. I promise to do better.
- I really messed up. Whenever you feel ready I'd love to meet face-to-face. I promise to just listen this time.
- That sucked. I hate fighting with you in general, but especially when I know my actions caused it, and that I caused you pain. It’s not OK and I'm so sorry.
- Hey. I just want to let you know how much you mean to me. I'm so ashamed of how I behaved and the way I made you feel. Please forgive me. I promise I'll do whatever it takes to never do that again.
- I am so sorry for how things went down yesterday. I know I took it too far, and I hate that I made you feel anything other than loved and appreciated. I’m going to do better and make it up to you. Promise.
- I hate what I did, and I hate how it made you feel even more. You have every right to be upset with me, and I want you to take as long as you need, but I want you to know that I won’t make that mistake again.
- I’d love to apologize in person whenever you’re ready. For now, though, please know that I’m sorry for everything. I wish I could take it back. I know I can’t, but I promise I’ll work on doing better for you and for us.
- What I said was unacceptable, and I’m so sorry. I want you to know I’ll never treat you that way again. Is there anything I can do to earn your forgiveness?
- You are so important to me, and I hate that I made you doubt that. I am so sorry. What can I do to make us OK again?
Apologizing can be a tough pill to swallow, even when you know you were in the wrong. It’s tricky any time you have to face up to hurting someone you care about. But there are benefits to showing true remorse that go beyond salvaging your relationship. Even through text, a sincere apology can be a real opportunity for personal growth and self reflection.
Although it's a great first step, an apology text cannot stand on its own. Part of a strong apology text is making a plan to follow through with an in-person conversation. It may be intimidating, but a face-to-face apology can be a chance to forge better communication between you and your partner. Who doesn’t want that?
Chris Armstrong, founder of relationship coaching company Maze of Love
Hillary McBride, registered clinical counselor and author of Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are
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