In the months leading up to our nuptials, all the married people we knew were offering up advice.
Much of it didn’t apply to us (“When you have children, make sure…”), a lot of it contradicted each other (“Never go to bed angry.” vs. “Never fight when you’re tired.”), and some of it was so specific that it could only apply to the person giving it (“If you wind up directing your wife in a play…”).
It seems that everyone and their sister are getting married these days, so it’s time for us to give out advice.
One of the hardest things to say in a relationship of any sort is “I’m sorry”, but it is even harder to respond to. Believe me, if you’re married you’re going to be apologizing a lot. Sometimes because you messed up and you want to admit it, sometimes because something happened to your spouse that is out of your control, and sometimes because you don’t know exactly what is wrong or what caused it.
…so what do you say to “I’m sorry”?
“That’s okay” is tempting, but often not right, because most likely whatever they did was not okay…otherwise they wouldn’t be apologizing. Don’t forgive something unless you really mean it. A false forgiveness is as bad as a false apology.
Sometimes it’s not right to forgive someone just because they apologize, but “That doesn’t make it better” doesn’t seem right either.
It’s true that most apologies don’t really make up for the act, but saying this has the subtext of “Don’t apologize” and will just make the person less likely to apologize in the future.
To confuse the issue more some apologies are not admitting fault. Instead it is an expression of empathy. In these cases it’s easy to say, “It’s not your fault” since often people say they are sorry because something unfortunate has happened to you.
This doesn’t always have the subtext of “Don’t apologize”, but it often does.
No matter the case, you don’t want to discourage the person from apologizing. Apologizing is at least some positive act in a negative time, and there’s never a time we don’t need positivity along with whatever else is happening.
What is the proper response to I’m sorry? Is there one regardless of who was at fault and if anything is going to be forgiven or if it’s possible to make the situation better? Yes!
The proper response to “I’m sorry” is always “Thank you.”
And I mean always without exception.
Any time anyone says “I’m sorry” thank them.
All an apology is…is an expression of sorrow, and that is all it should be.
When someone says “I’m sorry” they are expressing sorrow because of your state.
It’s not necessarily a comment on blame or the possibility of making things better. It means this person cares about you so much that they become sad when something bad happens to you. Cherish people who feel sorrow at your misfortune, because there are plenty of people in the world that rejoice at the misfortunes of others. If you find that person who becomes sad when things aren’t right in your life, hold them close…literally and figuratively. A hug isn’t going to hurt…and it might make you both feel better.