How to Overcome Apology-Phobia

Are you an apology-phobic? Telltale sign: You shrank your wife’s favorite cashmere sweater in the wash (though, yes — for the record, you were trying to help with the laundry) and didn’t notice her new haircut (because to you, your wife always looks gorgeous), but when she brings these facts to your attention and it’s time to utter those two little words that would fix everything, you suffer from lock-jaw. No key in sight. Except when she gets upset at you for not apologizing and then you mysteriously and conveniently find the missing key and run your mouth making the situation worse by saying things like, “Why does it matter so much to you? Why is everything always my fault?” Or the last ditch: “Well, look at the bright side, now the sweater fits the dog.” So intractable is apology-phobia that sufferers are known to say anything in their entire vocabulary except for the right thing. This disorder does not just strike men. Women can be afflicted too, but I’ll leave it to my husband to write his, I mean, that side of the story.

Let’s admit it: There’s nothing quite like those heartfelt apologies. But let’s admit something else: We’re just not very good at giving them.

Interpreting the Love Story dictum a little too literally we translate “love means never having to say you’re sorry” into an excuse to refuse to ‘fess up to our transgressions, or even just our blunders. All the while knowing deep down that love is exactly the place to apologize — early, often and even first.

What are we afraid of? Too much love, appreciation, and the enviable consequence of getting closer to those we care about the most?

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Photo by DaPuglet on / CC BY-SA

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tamar chansky phd

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