A Meaningful Apology to your Ex-Spouse is the First Step toward Healing

By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, MSW, LCSW

By the time divorce occurs, the emotional wounds can seem impossible to heal. Whether the offenses were intentional or not, it’s important to start with how the injured party feels. If you feel immobilized by the prospect of making amends to your ex-partner, here are some tips to help get started.

Avoid the pitfalls that contradict your apology. These include justifying, blaming, making excuses, or minimizing your hurtful words or actions. The most eloquent words of apology will fall on deaf ears and sound insincere if you say anything other than “I’m sorry”.

Depending on your situation, you can make your apology face-to-face or in a letter. The personal approach is always preferred but if there is so much miscommunication, blame, or anger, consider a carefully edited, hand-written letter to express yourself. Make sure that you use “I” statements and do not mention your ex’s flaws. The purpose of an apology is to specifically address the harm caused by what did or said.

Try the ‘6Rs’ approach to guide you towards an apology that helps heal.


Expressing remorse for past words and behaviors that have caused hurt demonstrates goodwill and empathy for the pain you have caused. Without empathy for the hurt you have caused, your apology will be empty.


This requires a fearless look at yourself (not the faults of your ex) and a willingness to “fall on your sword.” No excuses or blame. No “buts.” Simply put: “I was wrong.”


Having a willingness to make changes to ensure it will not happen again. What can I do to make amends? ”Sacrifice is at the heart of repentance. Without deeds, your apology is worthless”-Bryan Davis, author.


Saying the words “I’m sorry” is very important. Saying the words “Will you please forgive me?” focuses more on the injured party, which is the purpose of a heartfelt apology.


Showing through words and deeds that you intend to demonstrate respect for your former spouse may be the only way to make amends especially in cases of betrayal.


It may not be realistic to expect that you and your former spouse will be great friends moving forward. However, your remorse and repentance make it more probable that you will be able to create a civil relationship. This is especially important in cooperative co-parenting going forward.

Here are some phrases that may assist you in making your apology.

“I’m sorry. You have every right to be angry with me. I should not have…..”

“I’m sorry for the pain I caused you. What I did/said was wrong and I hope you can forgive me.”

“I deeply regret…….I am going to therapy so I can understand myself and why I act that way so that it doesn’t happen again.”

“I’m sorry I talked to you that way. There is no excuse and I regret the pain I caused you.”

One of the most important elements of a sincere apology is to “stay in your own lane” by addressing only your own behavior without criticism of your former spouse. If you stick to remorse and ownership of your own behaviors, you will be awed by the potentially miraculous healing that can occur.

©2015 Alpha Resource Center


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