I’ll have to admit that these so-called apologies saddened me. Saying “If” or “But” are conditional words, dependent upon the other victim and what they have done. It would be equivalent to me being in a turning lane about to make a left and a distracted driver swerves into my turning lane and hits me and then blames me for being in the turning lane. “I’m sorry I hit you, but you shouldn’t have been there.” What?? Just like one shouldn’t say, “I love you but…” The words ‘if’ and/or ‘but’ discounts the person’s pain. They are not repairing and reconnecting words. They’re justification words, glossing over and claiming no ownership of one’s poor word choice, bad behavior, or unacceptable timing. When a spouse says, “Your name calling hurts my feelings”, acknowledge it. When she says, “It frightens me when you raise your voice in an argument”, own it. As he says, “I feel like I don’t matter when you give me the silent treatment”, address it. ‘Ifs’ and ‘but’s’ have a place, but not in an authentic apology where hearts need to start healing and relationships need to be mended.
We’re constantly modeling for our kids too. They need to see us apologize to our partner and hear apologies from us. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. You don’t deserve to be spoken to like that.” Period. Leave “but you need to…or you should have done…” out of the apology. Explaining why behavior needs to change comes later. If you must, do the mantra, “I must be more emotionally mature than my 3-year-old” or however old your child(ren) are. We all have reasons to be angry, and some are very understandable! Repeating ourselves repeatedly, something gets broken, sleep deprivation, etc. Nevertheless, their behavior should not dictate how we own our poor behavior and apologize. They are kids. And we are the adults.
What do you do when you find yourself stuck or unable to apologize for something you’ve done or said that has hurt someone else?
Own your part. It might help to ask yourself, “If someone had done this to me or spoken to me like this, would it be hurtful?”
Talk with the person whom you’ve hurt. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling or going through.
Seek help. Having a therapist help you see different perspectives of a situation could enlighten you and not just in this situation, but in others as well.