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You May Be Hurting Your Relationship By Not Knowing Your Apology Language

Article By Melanie A. Davis
~ August, 2021 ~ By now, you’ve likely heard about the five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Love languages are how we receive and show our love.

But do you know your apology language? Arguably even more important than our love languages, an apology language is how we express and receive apologies.

No relationship is perfect. Conflicts of some kind are bound to arise. It’s how you handle those conflicts that can make or break you and your person.

So, which apology language do you use? What about your partner?

Knowing Your Apology Language

Expressing Regret

Out of all of the apology languages, this is perhaps the most straightforward. Expressing regret sounds like, “I am sorry. I apologize for doing what I did. I feel ashamed for hurting you.”

Expressing regret gets right to the point. One partner’s feelings were hurt, and the other partner acknowledges that and shows remorse.

There is no deflected blame, bargaining or asking for forgiveness. Rather, the person apologizing recognizes the damage they’ve caused and communicates their regret.

Accepting Responsibility

Accepting responsibility requires three words many of us don’t like saying: I was wrong. It’s never easy to admit our wrongdoings, especially when guilt or insecurity is involved.

But fully accepting responsibility means letting go of the ego. Indeed, you might be at fault. However, that doesn’t mean you are doomed to fail for the rest of your life.

Separating your self-worth from making a mistake is crucial for this language. Those who speak it prefer to hear apologies like, “I was wrong for doing that. I made a mistake. This is my fault.”

Genuinely Repenting

Where accepting responsibility ends, genuinely repenting begins. For those who speak this apology language, simply admitting fault won’t do the trick.

Rather, genuinely repenting involves verbalizing clear ways the party at fault can change. An apology in this language could sound like, “I am ashamed I hurt you by doing that. This is how I’m going to prevent that from happening again in the future.”

Of course, repentance is not a guarantee that the guilty party will never slip up again. But it should mean that they’re actively working on improving themselves and your relationship.

Image of couple holding hands.
(Fizkes / Shutterstock)

Making Restitutions

In this language, a partner doesn’t just say they’ll make amends—they do it. For those who speak this language, no amount of sorrys or “it won’t happen agains” will get the point across.

Instead, get to know your partner’s love language. Then, cater to it to make restitution. For example, an act of service restitution could look like taking care of household chores for the rest of the week. A receiving gifts restitution could look like a beautiful “I’m sorry” bouquet.

For the apology to be effective, the partner at fault needs to find an expression of love their mate understands the most.

Requesting Forgiveness

Too often, people assume an apology guarantees forgiveness. But for those who speak this final language, they prefer to hear their partner explicitly ask for it.

This can be difficult for those sensitive to rejection, as it places the relationship’s future in the other person’s hands. What if they say no? What if they don’t accept the apology and forgive?

And while this is scary, it’s an unavoidable consequence of conflict. The offended party has every right to give (or withhold) their forgiveness. And unless their partner asks for it, they’ll likely not feel inclined to do the former.

Why It Matters

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman wrote “The 5 Love Languages” in 1992. Ten years later, and in collaboration with Jennifer M. Thomas, he published “The Five Languages of Apology.”

Both books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and it’s no surprise why. Relationships can be complicated. These love and apology languages help couples communicate and overcome obstacles more effectively.

What happens if your partner has a different love or apology language than you? If you want to make it work, then you compromise.

“Seek to understand and make an intention to practice each other’s apology languages as a means to become closer and heal together,” psychologist Janet Brito told Cosmopolitan. Only then can you and your partner “make amends, repair the injury and grow together.”

Still Don’t Know Your Language?

Still not sure which apology language you speak? This handy quiz can help you find out.

Throughout the quiz, you read several scenarios where someone close to you needs to apologize. This includes romantic partners, family members, friends and coworkers.

By selecting your preferred apology, the quiz determines and offers greater insight into your specific apology language. (Mine is “accepting responsibility.”)

A version of this article originally appeared here on


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