Some things are better left unsaid.
My mother said that once after I made an astute observation about one of my teachers and a friend’s father wearing the same cologne… men’s cologne and the fact that they talked more casually with each other than with the other parents. Apparently mentioning it to my friend and my teacher wasn’t a very good idea.
I’ve always been the type pf person who says the things I think out loud regardless of how it affects the people around me. Most people would consider it a curse. It definitely put strains on the relationships in my life when I was young. However, it made me feel better. Right? Wrong! I learned early on that I can control that urge to tell people exactly what was on my mind. And believe it or not it greatly improved my ability to make friends.
Given that I’ve had my fair share of moments where I say or do the wrong thing and end up ticking someone off. So, you can pretty much bet that I have made my fair share of amends. In fact, I’m kind of a pro at it by now.
Why do we apologize?
Is this a game?
Why would your Ex-Girlfriend Apologize?
Generally, an apology is more self-serving than anything. There are many, many reasons why people apologize, but they all boil down to two objectives. The first is to make themselves feel better. The second is to dissipate any hard feelings from the person they apologize to.
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Well, what would be the first reason she would apologize if you had to guess?
Something She Did
My first call would be guilt. One of the main reasons that people apologize is because they feel guilty. Only you could possibly know what it is that your ex would feel guilty about, whether it was regarding something that happened during the relationship, during the actual breakup, or if she did something after the breakup that she needs to be sorry for.
Whichever it is, if she’s only apologizing because she’s feeling crappy about the situation, proceed carefully. Either she’s feeling lonely or crummy for one reason or another. Whatever it is, she’s just wanting you to absolve her from feeling whatever way she’s feeling right now. Tread softly my friend and keep a close eye on your emotions. Because, if you let her get close with just an I’m sorry then it’s likely that you are going to wind up hurt.
So, if this is the case, your best bet to get out of the situation with your heart intact by treading carefully. She may have good reason behind her apology if this is the case, but I ask you to just be mindful as those good intentions might only benefit her.
Something She Might Have Done
There’s a similar situation if it was you that dumped her. In this situation, she wouldn’t have ever have received an explanation. As you probably well-know, people are likely to fill in the blanks when they don’t have explanations for things that happen. When they don’t necessarily like the way things are going there are two options, either the situation is their fault or someone else’s fault. It must be someone’s fault. Generally, people choose to go with the one that they are most likely to be able to control. That means they are most likely to give into self-blaming. It is likely that they are after some absolution even if they didn’t do anything to actually cause the breakup.
She’ll Figure It Out Once She Has You Talking to Her
Another reason might be that she is looking for a loophole to get back into your life. Chances are she might just be looking to find a way back into your orbit, so to speak. If this is the case, her apology would subconsciously avoid any boundaries that would ever signify boundaries. For example, her apology might become very long and not be very specific about how she intends to fix and issues that might be had. It may seem like she didn’t put any thought into her apology, because she jumped into it simply to gain an audience with you.
She’s Hoping That You’ll Meet Her Halfway
This approach basically means she hopes that things will pans out in a way where she ends up not shouldering all the blame for whatever happened in your relationship. She most likely apologized to you and then look at you with like that look like she’s waiting for you to admit that you made some mistakes too to…. what? Repeat after me…. make herself feel better. She’s most likely considered all the ways she could have possibly contributed to the breakup and now she’s wanting to know how you fed into that.
Time Has Gone By
It’s possible that your ex-girlfriend has matured since the breakup or at least thinks she has. If that is the case, then perhaps she thinks you have matured too, and expects to smooth things over between the two of you.
The Blanket Apology
“I’m sorry for everything.”
This covers just about everything under the sun and generally means that they have no idea what it is they did to cause the breakup. However, they do feel somewhat responsible. So, they are trying to smooth things over with this generalized apology. Why? Well to create a clean slate. There are three reasons someone might use this kind of apology.
- They didn’t really do anything but they want you back in their life, either resuming the relationship or as their friend. Whichever it is, you can bet that their goal here is to start fresh.
- They DID cause the break up, or even initiated it, but they regret it and are trying to create the clean slate, yet again, to resume your previous relationship or start fresh in a friendship.
- It is also possible that they know how they contributed to the breakup specifically and either they think you there’s a possibility you didn’t notice or they are too ashamed to point it out. Whichever it is, you can bet that they are trying to wipe the slate clean either to satiate their own guilt or to bring you back into their life in some capacity.
Words without Action
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
As you well know, people can say they are sorry until they are blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean that they mean it. Unless that someone changes their actions, then you should take their words at face value. It really means nothing aide from they want you to forgive them so they won’t feel guilty.
How to Spot an Insincere Apology
So, now you have a general understanding of why your ex might be apologizing to you, but how do you know if they mean it? I mean, the likeliness that their end goal is simply to make themselves feel better is high.
An insincere apology will include one or several of the following telltale signs.
- “…it wasn’t just me” – Shifting the blame to other people that were involved or around at the time. My mom used to babysit a ton of kids when I was little and there were these sisters who, any time they got in trouble, would say that their sister did it too, as if that might lessen their time-out sentence. She’s probably hoping you won’t be as upset at a group as you might be if it were just her. But, in my opinion, jumping in just because a group is doesn’t make it right.
- “You are to blame too.” – Turning the tables is not uncommon. In fact, there are many, many ways to go about this. While it is highly unlikely, this is an attempt to get you to admit to wrong doing too.
- “What about how you never/always did…” – Turning the Tables (see above)
- “You owe me an apology as well.” – Outright asking for an apology means she feels as if she was wronged at some point during the relationship. As a matter of fact, this undermines any apology she may make sincerely, because she has other motivation to apologize.
- “My life isn’t worth living anymore.” – Seeking empathy is another way to make you feel bad. If you did nothing wrong, she’s wanting you to feel bad for how she felt after the break up. If you have done nothing to deserve this, then that is not your fault. It’s just a good old-fashioned guilt trip. However, if you feel like your ex is considering harming herself. It is best to give her the information of people who can help her and to let her know that, even if you are still hurt or you aren’t ready to reestablish a relationship, you
- ” I’m sorry, but…” – Excuses, excuses, excuses. Anytime an apology includes ample explanations, then she’s just looking for you to say that you understand why she did what she did or acted the way she acted.
- “I accept responsibility for (trivial thing), (trivial thing), (actual issue and kind of a big deal), and (another trivial thing).” – Burying responsibility for something that is a big deal in with lots of little things that didn’t really matter, may be simply because she’s not sure which caused the issues. Or, she is trying to hide it because she’s not sure if you realized she did it.
- “Clearly (this), (this), (this), and (this) contributed to our breakup.” – Describing wrongs without apologizing makes you feel like you were apologized to, but she never admits her part in it. You feel better. And she doesn’t have to worry about an issue with you.
- “I’m sorry, but…” no buts… EVER in an apology.
- Baiting you into starting an argument. – Another example of shifting the blame. Now she can at least say she tried to apologize, but you started a fight. She feels better and you are now the bad guy. If she can’t get sympathy from you, then someone else might take pity on her.
- Transitioning into other topics – This is her way of avoiding any continued discussion on the topic. She’ll talk about literally anything else as soon as she’s said what she had to say.
- “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry.” – Sometimes this plays out to be just another to-do on her to do list. But sometimes, she just got to a point where other things aren’t working out the way she wanted them to. Perhaps she tried dating other people, perhaps she tried going it alone, but in the end, she realized she was lonely and opted to just go back to something she found familiar, you.
- If she is overly defensive or angry while she is apologizing. – This is another one of those cases where she is most likely trying to bait you into being the bad guy. But if you tend to have a temper of your own, she might just be trying to beat you to being angry. This isn’t how anger works, but it is a knee jerk reaction when dealing with someone with a temper. She may not have planned to do it at all.
Identifying a Sincere Apology
A sincere apology comes equipped with one thing, an apology.
If it requires anything more than an,
“I really appreciate you saying that.”
And that should be all that is required. If you feel like there are some things on your end that you need to explain, apologize for, or just get out there in the open, then that is your prerogative. It’s all up to you. But, it can be as simple as you are willing to make it. If you just say “I appreciate that,” then there is no reason for any of that. It’s all up to you.
You can handle this any way you want. The best thing to remember here is to stay calm and not to let your emotions take over.
If your ex is sincere about your apology, and you feel that it deserves more of a response, then she should be open to letting you have time to process what she’s said. If she has truly matured since the breakup, then she won’t expect anything even forgiveness. Simply appreciating the gesture should be enough for her.
In that case, congratulations! Feel free to jump up and down and squeal with joy.
How to Move Forward After an Ex Apologizes
First you have to take into consideration your ex and what you know of her. Is she likely to want to reconcile, or is she just wanting peace between the two of you? You know her better than we ever would. You know what is more likely and the circumstances of your breakup.
That being said, you need to take a step back and look at the situation as an outsider who happens to know everything about the situation your in. Take emotions and the way you feel out of it.
Now, having decided what it is your ex might be aiming for with her apology, whether it be reconciliation, friendship, or just to wash away her guilt, you need to decide what you want.
The reason I tell you to subtract your feelings is because they tend to color how you see circumstances. Knowing what you want should be easy if you take into account how you first saw your ex’s apology.
Have you ever used a coin toss to make a decision?
You know, they say that in that moment, when the coin is in the air…
…That moment is what some would call a moment of clarity, when you know what you truly want the outcome to be. So take that imaginary coin and toss it in the air and take that moment to ponder on what it is you truly want. And then act accordingly.
It’s not as easy as a 50/50 decision. There are four possibilities for you to choose from. However, there is not guarantee that you will get what you want. I’d like to lay out a course of action for each desired outcome that, while it won’t guarantee that outcome, it WILL make it much more likely to happen.
- You want to get back together
- You want to find a way to coexist without getting back together.
- You want to go your separate ways amicably
- You want to act as if nothing happened.
Option 1: Get Back Together
When your ex comes to you with an apology, whether she did something or not, your best bet is to hear her out.
She says some variation of,
“I’m sorry for the way things turned out between us.”
“I’m sorry for what I did.”
You should respond with something along the lines of,
“I appreciate the gesture, I’m sure that the blame can not rest solely on you. Either way, I do not want to dwell on the past. I really do appreciate that you came to me with this and I hope you and I can remain on good terms.”
I realize that inside you are probably fighting every urge to say, “It’s okay! I forgive you! Want to get back together?!” But, that is exactly why you are to keep your emotions at bay. If you extend the offer to accept her apology and leave all of the issues of the past in the past, then it is more likely that things will resolve and progress amicably.
Remember, be as honest as possible without being confrontational. It’s the only way to keep unpleasant things from coming up later.
Option 2: Coexist as Friends
If you are leaning toward coexisting in each other’s lives, it’s best to hear her out, just like the other situations.
So, when she says,
“I’m sorry for the way things turned out between us.”
“I’m sorry for what I did.”
Your response should still be something to the effect of,
“I appreciate you saying that. It means a lot to me. I’m sure there are plenty of things we could both apologize for. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to leave the past in the past and find a way to be okay with being in each others lives. Do you think we could do that?”
The idea here is to avoid any negative responses that might come naturally while attempting to establish some good will. This will help to build a friendship if you know that the two of you will be running into each other or have the same group of friends.
The goal here is to ACTUALLY leave any wrongs in the past. So, if you are still harboring any grudges, it is best to let them go.
Option 3: End Things on Good Terms
This circumstance is almost exactly like the one where you try to stay friends, except you don’t have to be overly friendly, you don’t have to sort anything out necessarily. You just need to tell her that you appreciate the gesture and that you hope to stay on good terms. Then, to calm the waters between the two of you, you simply have to wish her well.
There isn’t really a need to divulge your own quilt regarding the breakup. Keeping things simple is your best bet if you don’t plan on being in each other’s lives. It might make you feel better for a second. It might make her feel better, knowing that you felt bad, but it won’t change anything. And I assure you that, while you might feel better for a mere moment, she will be sitting exactly where you are now, wondering if your apology means something more.
So, say what needs to be said, then state your intention. That you want there to be no ill will between you.
Then go your separate ways, on good terms.
Option 4: Move on With Life
“I’m sorry that things played out the way they did between us.”
Repeat after me,
“I hear what you’re saying and I appreciate you saying so.”
If she presses for more, which I am guessing she might, your best bet is to hear her out and express your desire to go your separate ways. If necessary, accept her apology. Forgive her if you need to. But be honest about your intentions. There’s no need to give her the impression that you will be reconciling or being friendly if you intend to go your own way and leave the broken relationship in your past. But if you are here, I’m guessing that going your own way isn’t on the docket. But if you do intend to, being up front about it is your best bet.
But, what if I want to get everything out and in the open? Would that be for the best?
So many people these days would rather tell someone what they they want to hear rather than the truth. It’s easier to just disappear with no explanation. However, with social media and hearsay the way they are these days, a woman WILL find out the truth. So, say you tell her you want to focus on work or school and that that is why you don’t want to get back together, I assure you she’ll find out the truth eventually. The way things are going these days, it is likely that she will lash out in an attempt to hurt you or will confront you about it anyways.
It’s better to be up front about things now, than to carry the issues of the past forward with you.
What you should take from reading this is simple.
After your ex approached you it’s likely that your focus settled on what your ex could possibly be after. In fact, you have probably spent quite a bit of time being confused.
That is completely understandable. When you spend even a short mount of time being close to someone and then they are no longer in your life, it can be hard to know what they are thinking. It’s easy to get caught up in that way of thinking.
But in this case, spending a lot of time trying to guess what your ex wants is not the way to go about things. You should spend your time deciding what you want moving forward. If you decide that you want to keep her in your life in any capacity, then your goal should be to keep the peace and avoiding arguing. If you intend to try and get back together, then honesty is the way to go. However, tread lightly. Any perceived rudeness or arguing about wrongs in the past might end up ruining any chances of reconciliation. So be careful how you go about it.
As a good friend of mine always says, it’s all about intention. Know what you want going in and act accordingly.