Whoever said that – love means never having to say you’re sorry – has obviously never been in a serious relationship. They’re either reading the wrong self-help books or living with someone from the town of Stepford. But the character in the other movie who did say that was dying, so let’s cut her some slack and get real. Relationships are all about the art of apology, and, when forgotten or mangled, an apology can be the straw that breaks the counselor’s back and detonates the whole thing. If you want your lover back, and if the breakup has something to do with you – versus your partner simply falling out of love, or worse, falling for someone else – then issuing an apology that works is a mandatory step in the groveling process.
Philosophers like to say that what will be has already been written, and in the case of your chances of turning this thing around, this may be true. If the point of no return has truly been reached, then the best apology for the right reasons might be accepted with the most gracious sincerity and humility, and the forgiver might still head for the exit. Nothing you can do in that case. But if what happens next – even if your departed lover doesn’t know it yet – depends on how well you dance under the spotlight of your effort to reconcile, then it is wise to master the art of the apology and become its Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire.
Three variables determine the success of an apology. First, it must be sincere. There is no “but” at the end of the apology sentence, and there is no part of it that tries to justify. Explanations are fine, if handled with kid gloves, but excuses are like acid on an apology. If any anger or resentment finds its way into your apology, kiss it and you lover goodbye for a second time. Next, the apology must focus on the right thing. If the apology is too obviously an ante-in for a second chance, nothing will have been achieved. If it is remotely obligatory or forced, if it even has the slightest trace of triangulation to it – yeah, okay, you’re wrong, but he’s even worse on about other things – it won’t fly. And neither will the reconciliation. And finally, the apology must open the door to a new approach, it must create the context for change, it must shine a light on a new you, someone who has learned from this experience.
Be warned, the perfect apology may not win you back your lover. If that’s the only reason you’re doing it, go ahead – it’s probably warranted – but don’t expect the second coming of your romance. More often a sincere apology is an important step in a process of growth, and growth is the hormone the fuels the resurrection of relationships. Nothing real and enduring will happen without it. The seed of growth is that perfect apology, so plant yours with love, and just as importantly, with thought.