Because your apologies suck.

“You’re kidding, right?”

Nope. And you’re in good company. In over 30 years as a marriage counselor, I’ve only heard a handful of effective apologies. If apologizing 100 times hasn’t worked, you’re definitely missing something. Here are 5 examples of common ineffective apologies. After each one, I’ll explain why it failed:

  1. “I get why you’re mad, and I’m really sorry.” An apology isn’t about telling her you understand. It’s about making sure  she feels understood.
  2. “I’m sorry I screwed up, but you leave stuff around all the time!” An effective apology never includes the words “but you…” The words “but you…” nullify any sorry that preceded them. (If you have a complaint, bring it up another time.)
  3. “I’m sorry I’m such a terrible person. You probably should be with someone else.” This isn’t an apology. It’s a whiny attempt to hide your shame and get her to take care of you. Your sorry should be about her, not you.
  4. “I’m sorry you didn’t like my joke.” Putting the words “I’m sorry” in a sentence doesn’t make it an apology. If you offend or embarrass your partner, own it. Don’t blame her for being over-sensitive.
  5. “If you won’t accept my apology, that’s your problem.” Assume that if your partner hasn’t accepted your apology, it’s because she’s still hurt, either because what you did was really horrible, or because she doesn’t feel like you really understand why she still hurts so much.

It’s important to remember:

  • Apologies  aren’t Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards. They require genuine humility and patience.
  • If your apology includes sarcasm, blame, or self-pity, it will only make matters worse.
  • An apology isn’t a light switch. Neither is forgiveness.
  • Healing begins with a heartfelt Sorry, and includes a promise–and a plan–to do things different next time.

If you want help constructing an effective apology, download my free communication app at the App Store, and fill out a Sorry card. Once you do, all this will make perfect sense. You’ll get to experience what it’s like to apologize effectively, and you can send your apology directly from the app.

Here’s an example of the first part of a completed Sorry Ecard. Next to it is most of the finished card. The actual checklists have dozens of choices. The example only shows a few, just to give you an idea of how the cards work:

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