Similar in concept to a love language, an apology language is how you give and receive an “I’m sorry.” And while you’ve probably never put too much thought into what that looks like for you, how you apologize to your partner is actually extremely important to consider—especially since everyone requires something different in order to move past an argument.
That’s because humans are all wired differently. For you, it might be sufficient to hear the words “I’m sorry, you’re right” after a fight. But for someone else, the words “I’m sorry” could feel empty and like a shallow way of moving past it.
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So let’s break down everything there is to know about apology languages because, as much as I love a good love language, apology languages are high-key just as important. (And as an Aries woman, I obviously simp for a big-ass apology.)
What are the apology languages?
Apology languages became A Thing when Gary Chapman, PhD, wrote about it in his book The Five Languages of Apology with Jennifer Thomas. (And ICYMI: He also wrote The Five Love Languages too). Chapman basically says love languages = how you tell or show a person you love them, and apology languages = how you tell or show a person you’re sorry.
In total, there are five apology languages:
- Expressing regret (“I feel ashamed for how I hurt you.”)
- Accepting responsibility (“I was wrong for doing that to you.”)
- Genuinely repent (“I can only imagine how much pain I caused, I am so sorry. I won’t do that again. Next time, I will do _____ differently.”)
- Making restitution (“This is how I will make it up to you _____.”)
- Requesting forgiveness (“Will you forgive me for letting you down?”)
Why is it important to know your apology language?
Assuming you want your relationship to actually, like, work out, apology languages are everything.
“They allow individuals to strengthen their relationships by improving their ability to facilitate forgiveness,” says psychiatrist Leela R. Magavi, MD. And properly understanding your partner’s apology language will help “individuals apologize in a manner in which all parties feel heard and valued,” she adds.
If the end goal is to move past an argument with your partner—which I’d hope is the case—it wouldn’t make sense to express regret and accept responsibility if your partner needs you to make restitution to feel better about the situation.
“People speak different apology languages and it’s important to understand them to not only gain a deeper understanding of your partner but also to yourself,” says relationship and dating expert Amy Olson. “Misunderstandings may creep in if you and your partner have different apology languages. The only way to avoid them is to know each other’s type and act on it whenever the need arises.”
So what can you do if you have a different apology language than your partner?
Compromise, compromise, compromise. Let’s use love languages as an example for a sec: If you know your partner’s love language is physical touch (despite yours being words of affirmation), you’re still going to give them a hug to make them feel appreciated after a tough day, yeah? And you do that even despite words of affirmation being your love language.
Same applies for apology languages: “Seek to understand and make an intention to practice each other’s apology languages as a means to become closer and heal together,” says certified sex therapist and clinical psychologist Janet Brito. This is super crucial if you want to effectively be able to “make amends, repair the injury, and grow together,” she says.
Even if it may feel unfamiliar to request forgiveness or accept responsibility for something, your partner’s needs should be considered (just as much as your own) when coming down from an argument. And this can be almost entirely figured out via communication, my friends.
Alright, so how can you figure out what your apology language is?
Chapman has an easy quiz you can take on his website right this way. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes and makes kind of a cute date night idea with your person, too.
But in addition to the quiz, Dr. Magavi suggests journaling and/or speaking with a therapist to help you understand your own apology language and what you need from a partner.
Plus, as mentioned before, communication is absolutely key, so ask your partner and loved ones to educate themselves on their apology language—or just take the quiz together. “This knowledge will help prevent relationship discord and heal fractured relationships,” she confirms.
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