by Dyanne Bresler, LCPC, RN


Ok, so you’ve realized you made a mistake and that it has had an undesired effect on a relationship. You want to get past it. You need to get past it.  Here are some helpful steps:

1. Take time to think about what your loved one experienced with the event. Review your    behavior. Own to yourself what you did, said, or didn’t do that you should have done.

Make notes, because you’re going to say these things out loud when you’re ready.

Ask yourself: what did I say or do that was hurtful?  Be as specific as you can. This is what you’re apologizing for. What is the background of the person whom I hurt?  How did that person’s history contribute to that person’s reaction? (Imagine if you slapped someone who has a history of abuse or threatened to leave someone who has a history of abandonment?)

How do you think the person felt when the event occurred?  Use words to describe feelings. Sad, Angry, Hurt, Violated, Lonely, Abandoned, Insulted are a few examples.

How so you suppose your behavior has impacted on others?  And how have your behavior and feelings about it impacted you?

2. Prepare yourself for making a sincere and heartfelt apology only if you are ready to take steps to stop the behavior, and to let that person know what those steps will be.

3. If you created some damage, think about what you can do to “clean up” the mess. Be specific. If you lied, tell the truth. If you took something that doesn’t belong to you, give it back. If you broke trust, think about what you can do to earn it back and do it. Consistently.

4. If what you’ve done is hurtful behavior that you are repeating you need to consider what makes it different now. 

This is a big deal to consider, and it makes sense to approach a behavior change with the respect it deserves.  It can get complicated, and may have roots that go into family of origin issues, depression, feelings of abandonment,  anger, substance abuse, anxiety and fear. Get help from a psychotherapist if you feel stuck on any part of this. This is exactly what they do best.

5. If the other person has been hurtful to you too, now is not the time to recount that person’s responsibility. You deserve your own time to talk about your hurts, and the person who hurt you deserves time to think about making amends to you. Do not make the amends process into a recounting of the other person’s faults or contributions. This is about what YOU did and it needs to be addressed by you.


When you feel ready, make an appointment with the person who will receive the apology.

You can say something like, “I would like to make an apology to you. Would you be willing to hear it tonight at 7:00?”

1. Bring your notes. It’s okay to refer to them if you need to. Make eye contact when you offer your apology and ask for forgiveness. Say why you want forgiveness (e.g., “I miss the good times we have had and I would like to have a good relationship with you” or “I am saddened to know that you have felt hurt/angry/disappointed, and I would like a chance to repair our relationship”).

2. Ask for forgiveness, but be aware that it may not come immediately. Sometimes people need to digest the apology, to wrestle with their own demon of wanting to hurt back. It’s okay to tell them you’re prepared to wait for them to consider forgiveness BUT that does not mean forever.

Feeling guilt about a wrong you’ve done feels like an emotional prison, and if you’ve done the work of making full amends, set yourself free.


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