When is it comfortable for you to apologize? Or are you one who never uses this form of communication? Do you think you are never wrong? Or are you the one who apologizes at every turn?

Humans being the imperfect creatures that we are, we all make mistakes that unintentionally offend others, cause hurt feelings that may trigger anger and resentment. Some of us internalize these and then the negativity festers. Others express the reaction and may engender further conflict. In a relationship, these kind of interactions can lead to a healthy resolution and consequently, to growth, but it is also possible that one ends up with destructive patterns of behavior.

When you know that you have offended your partner, what do you do? Shrug it off as it will blow over and tomorrow is another day? Say “I am sorry” kind of offhandedly and then move on? Think your partner is being too emotional or thin-skinned? All of the previous responses convey the message that you are not taking the event seriously and perhaps think you are right. But let’s consider the case of wanting to make amends for whatever you have caused. Being wrong or offending a person you love does not mean you are a bad person, but a human being who can make mistakes. One of the most soothing questions I have ever heard is: “How can I make it up to you?” That remark almost makes it irrelevant as to who is right and who is wrong. It recognizes the hurt/anger in a caring way and opens up the path to healing.

I cannot imagine any adult who as a child was not reprimanded or scolded for making a mistake or doing what is not acceptable. So, we grow up with that baggage haunting us each time we do something wrong. I am not suggesting that boundaries should not be taught and certainly not condoning hurtful behavior. I am however advocating that as adults, we have the option to right wrongs we may have committed. When one gets a parking ticket, it is because we violated a rule. By paying the fine, we pay the price for that violation. But we do not have to apologize to the officer who wrote the ticket. In a relationship, if we want to maintain the connection, we have to accept responsibility for our actions and ease the adverse consequences that the partner experiences. This is what love is about.

I believe forgiveness is the best form of love in any relationship. It takes a strong person to say they’re sorry and an even stronger person to forgive. – Yolanda Hadid

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Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577