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Why Can’t I Apologize? The Importance of Saying You’re Sorry

Can’t apologize? Don’t know why it is challenging for you? I hear this compliant a lot in my practice and often times it can cause major implications between partners. Often, I hear my couples complain about their partner not being able to apologize at all, or without a “but” at the end of it. Couples struggle with reconciling conflict and resentment may start to build.

First, it is important to understand what an apology is. An apology serves as healthy validation to your partner’s feelings and their experience. It is an opportunity to take ownership of your behavior (whether or not it was intentional) and work on growing individually, as well as together.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to do this when you don’t agree with your partner’s perspective and this is often when we find ourselves in a power struggle filled with content of who is “right or wrong.”

The reality is, both of you contributed to an ego driven dance when you are both feeling triggered. Both of you are valid for your feelings, even if your perceptions were skewed. It is important to not attack your partner with accusations when you’re explaining your feelings, and if you can achieve this, most likely your partner will hear you with more compassion.

Either way, if you are struggling with apologizing, most likely it is due to:

  • Having a family history of not seeing or experiencing apologies or reconciliation after conflict (or not seeing conflict altogether).

  • Having low self esteem. This causes you to struggle with taking ownership, because you already feel guilt, shame or disappointment in yourself already.

  • Struggle with seeing your partner’s perspective and don’t feel you need to apologize because their perspective isn’t right.

  • Think your partner is too sensitive and doesn’t give you a lot of grace to make mistakes.

  • Feel attacked or criticized often.

  • Don’t want to lose an argument.

  • Have a strong sense of “pride” or is “stubborn.” (aka, this often means you are insecure about something being activated in the relationship that you don’t want to acknowledge about yourself).

  • Aren’t attune to your own emotions, thus it is challenging to see other people’s emotional perspectives.

Generally speaking, these experiences often have an impact on whether or not you can apologize. If you find yourself asking, “Why can’t I apologize?” that is a good indication you are willing to explore your own blocks and barriers. It is a great first step!

An apology isn’t about admitting you were wrong; apologizing is about taking time to understand your partner’s perspective and seeing yourself objectively. An apology is about validating your partner’s feelings.

If you’re wanting to learn how to apologize, it is best to work on your own insecurities and practice self love as often as possible. Practice mindfulness and self- awareness exercises, as well as dive into your past and learned behaviors.

An apology is vulnerable, because it opens us up to being rejected, so maybe you and your partner can also work on building more security within the relationship. The better you become at finding your own humility, the better you will be able to sit with uncomfortable feelings between you and your partner and reconcile disagreements in a healthy way.

*It is important to note, that an apology isn’t always appropriate or needed. The point of this article is to scratch the surface of why it may be challenging for you to apologize if you have noticed yourself struggling with doing it, even when you know you want to. If you feel gaslighted often, find yourself not wanting to apologize because you feel manipulated or threatened in some way, then that may be an indication your relationship is toxic. Seek therapy to better understand your relationship and triggers.


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