Everything Marriage · Personal

Marriage Planning 3: Apology Language Profile

Scott and I finally finished that online counseling thing that I talked about before, and as I already mentioned, I will talk about what I (or we) think about it in another post. I just squeezed this one in because the session today was really…woah. So I talked about the love language profile, which was something that I was familiar with. This apology language profile was something I have not heard before, but I think it makes sense, and it’s useful, and I’m glad to have come across it.

The  apology language is about how you give and receive an apology. The whole thing is explained by Gray Chapman and Jennifer Thomas in their book  “When Sorry isn’t Enough.” I have not read the book, so I don’t know if I’ll agree with it in its entirety. I only took the online quiz and read the descriptions of the results. Anyway, they say there are five ways by which we say sorry:

  1. Express regret – It’s when you say “I am sorry.” 
  2. Request forgiveness – It’s when you say “Please forgive me.” 
  3. Genuinely repent – It’s when you say “I won’t do it again.” 
  4. Accept responsibility – It’s when you say “It’s my fault.” 
  5. Make restitution – It’s when you say “I will make it up to you.”

These are not mutually exclusive. An apology can go something like this: “I was wrong, it’s my fault. I am sorry, please forgive me. I won’t do it again. What can I do to make up for this?” This is a very straightforward apology, and it’s good because it covers everything.

The awareness of these different elements is helpful when you come to a deadlock in your conflict resolution because you expect something that you’re not getting.

“Why can’t you just say sorry? I just need you to say sorry.”

“Simply saying sorry is not enough.”

In the first one, the offended party is seeking an expression of regret and a request for forgiveness. In the second one, they’re asking for genuine repentance and/or restitution.

All of these are definitely useful information, but I have to say that the quiz did not accurately reflect my apology language profile. Or maybe that it can’t. Because I think this is very case dependent. If a waiter spills wine on my dress, I would expect that I will not have to pay for my food, maybe they’ll give a gift cheque for my next visit, or offer to pay for dry cleaning. But that doesn’t mean I’ll always ask for restitution. If my partner is always late for our meet-up, giving me chocolates won’t make me feel better. I would prefer an assurance from him that it won’t happen again. So in this case, I want repentance, not restitution. In the same manner, the way I give an apology would also depend on the situation, and on whether it’s a person you won’t see again or it’s someone you will have to live with for the rest of your life.

I find this useful because in conflict resolution, you’re only able to move forward if you feel that both parties are sincere. And as the offended one, you will only feel that if the offending party apologizes in the manner that you interpret as sincere.

And with that, I leave you with a quote from Ruth Bell Graham that goes…


What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree/disagree? Do you think it’s helpful? How do you say sorry to your partner? How do you expect to hear sorry from them?


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