Love means saying you’re sorry.

In the movie Love Story, Ali MacGraw advises Ryan O’Neal that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The movie was good, but that’s terrible advice!

Apologies strengthen romantic love.

Missteps and misunderstandings will inevitably occur between any two people who spend much time together. Partners in a committed intimate relationship are bound to hurt each other now and then. Well, apologies are necessary to repair that pain, so that you can move forward in love as a happy couple.

To use them wisely, think of apologies as gifts.

For apologies to work their magic, you must know how to give them—and just as importantly, how to receive them. Either way, it will help to understand that any genuine apology is a gift. In that spirit, it’s easy to remember these…

Two Apology Principles:

1.) Give Gladly

2.) Appreciate & Reciprocate

Recently my man and I were in a distressed state. He apologized to me, and because we both followed those two principles, the process repaired any damage and deepened our love. I’ll share that story in a minute, but first let’s explore the principles.

1.) As the giver, Give Gladly.

Has anyone ever told you they were sorry for something, but you knew by their sour tone that they weren’t sorry at all?

Remember, a true apology is a gift. That means it must be offered generously, from the heart.

If you know you should apologize to your partner for something but don’t feel like it, then pause to get in touch with your love for them first. (You may need to wait a minute—or even several days—depending on your emotional state.) Focus on your desire to take away their pain, and on the power of your apology to heal their wound. This will enable you to give gladly.

2.) As the recipient, Appreciate & Reciprocate.

Have you ever apologized to someone, only to have them hold it against you as evidence that they were “right”?—Or even worse, simply turn their back and ignore your contrition?

Giving an apology takes courage because it makes the giver vulnerable. Even if you think you’re entitled to one, honor your partner’s vulnerability by accepting their apology as a gift. No matter what else is going on, allow yourself to feel grateful for the apology itself; say thank you.

And, when appropriate, extend an apology of your own. It always takes two to tango, and you’ve no doubt contributed some part to any relationship conflict.

Engage in a “gift economy.”

By reciprocating, you create what anthropologists call a gift economy between you and your mate.

Instead of score-keeping—which destroys love—a gift economy is, to quote Wikipedia, “a mode of exchange where valuables are not sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards.”

In short, gift economies revolve around trust. When you and your partner get into the habit of giving each other sincere apologies, you generate deeper and deeper trust over time.

Here’s how it worked between me & my man:

The other night my partner apologized for having pulled out into crowded traffic so fast that it frightened me. He’s an excellent driver but I’m wimpy about cars and get scared easily.

He also knows that growing up, I had regularly endured the terrifying experience of riding in a vehicle driven by my drunk father.

When my partner zoomed into tight traffic, he saw me cringe with fright. What made things worse was that we’d just had a difficult discussion, without time to reach resolution, and so were both tense.

Apologies are a way of watching out for each other.

Later, he thought about this incident, realized he wanted to protect me from fearful experiences, and so he lovingly apologized, promising never to pull into traffic so fast again (or at least, not when I’m in the car).

The truth is, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He’s an excellent driver and an alpha male who likes to drive fast. Nevertheless, he said he was sorry in a warm tone, without caveats or making any demands. “I never want to see you scared,” he explained.

A good apology instantly sparks good will.

His apology softened my heart so that it was easy for me to say thank you. His apology also helped me let my own guard down, so that suddenly I realized that I had been harsh with him back during our difficult discussion.

So at once I was able to offer a sincere apology of my own. This back-and-forth made us each feel respected, appreciated and loved. Our relationship grew stronger.

People often make apology mistakes.

Why doesn’t such a gift economy always occur? Because we’re imperfect, that’s why! Here are the 3 most common errors you want to avoid, when it comes to apologies:

1.) Insincerity. Saying “sorry” in a disingenuous tone, adding a qualifying “but,” making excuses, or otherwise acting in some manner which contradicts the apology itself.

“I apologize for having flirted with your best friend, but you’ve been mean to me lately and you made me feel lonely.” That’s not a real apology; it’s a pathetic attempt to shirk responsibility.

2.) Bartering. Trying to trade an apology for a particular reaction, such as instant forgiveness.

“I’m sorry I forgot to do the favor I promised you. Now, would you stop holding it against me?” That’s not a genuine gift. It’s a selfish request for a free misbehavior pass.

3.) Rejecting the gift. Coldly dismissing a sincere apology as if were merely an admission of guilt deserving punishment.

“I’m certainly glad to hear you’re sorry that you’re late, because it was thoughtless and inconsiderate of you.” Ouch!

Remember, a genuine apology is a gift.

Any real apology deserves to be met with gratitude. That’s true even in cases when immediate forgiveness isn’t possible. You can always say, “Thank you for the apology. I really appreciate it, even if I’m not able to fully let go of my anger right now.”

The apologies that my man and I exchanged effectively healed our wounds, strengthened our mutual trust, and brought us closer. We’ll never be perfect, so you could say that apologies help us to make the most of our imperfections. 🙂

To say you’re sorry, helps create a lasting love story.

By recognizing that apologies are gifts, you can use them to continually improve your own romantic relationship, producing a real-life love story that outshines and outlasts any movie.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any apology-related tips or tales to share? Please comment below. And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please kindly click Like. Thank you!