It can be tricky to find the right path ahead after you and your significant other have called it quits. One of the most important questions people ask themselves is whether they should apologize to their former partner. The answer to this is contingent on a number factors, all of which you should consider before making such an important decision.
- Who dumped whom? If you dumped your partner then you retain the upper hand in your relationship. If you wish to lower your position to the level of your ex and relinquish the advantage then you should consider apologizing to your ex. Unfortunately, this also puts you at risk of being rejected. Therefore, you should only pursue this option if you are desperate to reunite with your ex or if you are certain that they will accept your words.
- What are you apologizing for? If your apology is a general one, lamenting the demise of your relationship, perhaps in order to win back your ex’s good will, you can probably risk it. However, the more specific you become, the more you open yourself up to personal attack. You don’t want to dig yourself into a deeper hole if your partner already believes the worst about you and your actions. In some cases it is better to wrestle with your conscience in private or with a third party rather than inflame an already wounded relationship.
- How long has it been? The longer you wait to apologize the greater the risk that it will reopen emotional wounds. If you feel compelled to apologize to your ex, then you should do so as soon as possible. Since the relationship is already dead, piling on one more reason isn’t going to significantly hurt it. If you wait for weeks or months there is an increased possibility that your ex has already laid to rest most of the hurtful issues in the relationship. A belated apology is only going to stir up those latent feelings, and your ex will resent you more for it.
- What medium will you use to apologize? A texted apology, a letter or a personal confrontation will all have different emotional impacts, so choose the most appropriate methods. A text or email will appear impersonal and distant. I recommend this if you have no further stake in this relationship, and merely wish to unburden your conscience. A face to face talk is best if you are hoping for some reconciliation. Showing your ex how much regret your mistakes is best done in person.
- What is your endgame? An apology merely for the sake of relieving personal guilt is best if you feel that the relationship is unsalvageable. If you don’t feel a friendship or a romance is possible, you obviously have nothing to lose by diminishing yourself in your ex’s eyes. However, if your ultimate desire is to patch things up between the two of you, you must seriously ponder the implications of a guilty admission of wrongdoing. In most cases, unless the error is virtually unforgiveable like cheating, a rash apology will do more harm than good. It is better to repair the relationship first, before discussing your mistakes, as they are more likely to be forgiving.
- Are you willing to make up for your mistakes? If you are willing to accompany your admission of guilt with an act of penance, it may soften the blow. For instance if you have been unfaithful, are you willing to give up certain freedoms like free time after work or use of your cell phone. A willingness to submit to your partner’s demands may convince them that you are not only sincere in your apology but heavily invested in making your relationship work.
- How much does your partner have to apologize for? If both parties have committed sins and appear equally at fault for the demise of the relationship, your willingness to initiate a dialogue on these issues can be healthy and beneficial. You should be careful that your partner also recognized that he/she is also at fault before beginning a unilateral apology. After all, you don’t want to be labeled the villain in the relationship. So consider how honest your partner is willing to be with you and themselves.