Saying you’re sorry can be hard enough, but it can be even more challenging when the person you’re trying to reach out to won’t let you speak. You may feel guilty about your part in how your relationship ended or how you treated your ex while you were together. Apologize in a sincere way, taking responsibility for your behavior and acknowledging the ways you have hurt your former partner, but remember that your ex may not want to accept your apology.
Prepare what you wish to say in your apology in advance. Regardless of the form your apology takes, it should be made up of three parts: expressing remorse, taking responsibility for your wrongdoings and seeking a way to make it right, says psychotherapist Beverly Engel in "How To Give a Meaningful Apology" on the UMass Amherst Family Business Center website. Be conscious of your tone and wording. Your apology should not include excuses or cast blame elsewhere.
Write a heartfelt letter to your ex on paper, through e-mail or via private social media message. If your ex refuses to see you in person or won’t pick up your calls, a written letter or e-mail may be the way to go. An apology letter can put less pressure on both people. You don’t have to deal with on-the-spot pressure to perfect your apology in person, while your ex is relieved of the pressure to forgive you in the moment. At the end of the letter or e-mail, let him know that you are open to asking for forgiveness in person or on the phone when he is ready.
Wait and edit your apology before sending it. Read over your letter through your ex’s eyes, suggests couple’s counselor Elly Prior in her blog post “Ways to Offer a Genuine Apology” on Professional-Counselling.com. Make sure you are conveying your genuine feelings of remorse and that you are clear in your apology so extra misunderstandings won't occur.
Send a thoughtful gift with the letter. If your ex responded positively to apology gifts during the relationship, sending one final apology gift may let her know how genuinely sorry you are. Common apology gifts are flowers, chocolates and candy, but you can get more personal and send things like movie tickets or a book by her favorite author to accompany your apology.
Be patient and put yourself in your ex’s shoes. Forgiveness often takes time, according to “The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships” by marriage counselor Gary D. Chapman and psychologist Jennifer M. Thomas. Understand that there are a number of reasons why it may be hard for your ex to accept your apology. He may not be ready to forgive you, especially if the consequences of your actions were more than just emotional.
Accept that you may have to give up and respect your ex’s denial of forgiveness. If you haven’t heard back from your ex after extending a written apology, it is time to let go and move on. Acknowledge that although you did all you could, your ex still has the choice not to accept your apology. At this stage, it is important to forgive yourself. Chapman and Thomas suggest writing an apology letter to yourself and then responding with a statement saying that you have accepted your apology and have forgiven yourself to help you move forward in your own life.
- Keep a copy of the letter or e-mail you sent so you can refer back to it if and when your ex is ready to talk about your apology.
- Don't force your ex to see you in person. Refrain from showing up unannounced at his or her workplace.
- After the initial apology, don't bombard your ex with phone calls, e-mails, texts or gifts.