Tor Constantino shares a personal screw-up that nearly cost him the love of his life—if not for a genuine apology that saved it.
I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, but one time during my college days I screwed up royally. I was dating a young woman from another school whom I really cared for—in fact I loved her.
We’d been together for more than nine months. During that time, I really wanted to “wow” her by sending her poetry I had written and heartfelt love letters.
I sent her one per week for months.
While I did in fact write each one of those musings, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had “recycled” most of those love letters and poems from another relationship with a young woman who broke up with me previously.
After she dumped me—I had demanded my letters back. I couldn’t bear the thought of her laughing over my words at a dinner party with her girlfriends or over a glass of wine with some other guy.
While those words and letters no longer applied to the girl who broke up with me—they overwhelmingly applied to the new woman in my life.
Since I already had the letters, I didn’t want the words to go to waste.
Needless to say, my new love found the old letters in a desk drawer when she was visiting me one weekend at school—she read through enough of them to know I had thoughtlessly re-purposed those writings to her.
I had inflicted a mortal wound to her heart with my love letters, which had been inspired by another love.
The resulting emotional explosion almost ended our relationship, but it didn’t—and I believe it was due to a truly sincere apology that set the pace for healing in our relationship and the restoration of trust.
If you’ve hurt someone you love, here are seven steps toward a genuine apology that just might convince her to take you back.
1. Apologize first and fast
Don’t wait—initiate it yourself. To my immature 19-year-old brain, I thought it was OK to use the same loving words with two different women—it wasn’t and it never is OK. At that point, it didn’t matter if I felt justified in my actions, I had to apologize first and fast to try and slow her hurtful emotional inertia
2. Ask for forgiveness
When you hurt somebody, they have to decide whether or not to forgive you—you can’t do it for them. Full forgiveness takes time—it’s a fragile process that can’t be rushed or faked. Forgiveness must be nurtured and attended to like a loved one on life support.
But it’s important to let the other person know you want to have a future with them—that’s impossible to achieve without forgiveness and the only thing you can do is humbly ask for it.
That was one of the things I did correctly during this love letter mess.
3. Be unconditional
There cannot be any qualifiers or strings attached to a genuine statement of remorse. It must be freely offered without expecting anything in return.
4. Be specific
You both know what you did, but without a specific delineation of your actions and behaviors—she’ll think you’ll automatically repeat them. Confession is good for the soul—yours and hers—I know this to be true firsthand.
5. Don’t blame anyone else
It would have been easy for me to blame my girlfriend about my recycling of love letters, stating something like, “I had to impress you somehow and you left me no choice.” Obviously that would have been incredibly stupid.
When apologizing, accountability and contrition are perhaps the most important aspects to consider. As such, do NOT say anything remotely close to these blame-laden-non-apologies:
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“If there’s anything I’ve done that might have offended you I’m sorry.”
“While the situation was unfortunate, pointing fingers doesn’t help—we should start fresh.”
None of those statements is an apology, but rather an assemblage of double speak posing as regret. Non-apologies will blow up in your face—don’t ever use them.
6. Accept the consequences
Bad decisions and thoughtless actions have consequences. When you’re apologizing you have NO leverage—so don’t try to weasel out of the outcomes you’ve set in motion.
In my example, she made me drive her home, which took two hours. She didn’t speak with me the entire trip or for the next several days.
I stewed in my own juices of compunction.
When she did start taking my calls, it seemed as if we started at square one—it was work but it was worth it.
7. Change your behaviors.
When she found the stack of letters in my desk drawer, it was horrible.
She was crying and embarrassed—rightly so. I let her vent because there was nothing else I could do.
She then threw the stack of letters at me, and I immediately went to the kitchenette in her full view. I took out a soup pot, put it on the floor and piled all the letters in it—then lit a match to all them right there.
Perhaps it was overly dramatic but I felt as if it was the only way to convince her I would not do it again.
I literally got down on my knees and told her through her sobs, that I would never use false words with her. I would only use authentic, genuine words for as long as we were together—and I kept my word in that regard.
Ultimately, she truly forgave me and we were able to move on. So much so, that I ended up asking her to marry me and this May will mark our 20th anniversary of marriage and our 25th year as a couple.
All because of a genuine apology.
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