empty apology

4 Examples of What a Genuine “I’m Sorry” Looks Like

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Nothing is worse than a fake apology. 

Except perhaps being in a relationship with someone whose apologies have become absurd…laughable, even.  You know what I mean, those fake apologies that either serve as a layer of spackle, enforce gaslighting, or are a haughty and blatant justification of someone’s wrongdoing. 

It’s all surface-level hoopla that lacks the substance and specifics you really need.

A real apology involves an acknowledgment of the wrongdoing, a confession of guilt, and an expression of regret.  A real apology, with its subsequent amends, eventually reinstates trust and has the potential to make you and the offender closer than before.

Fake apologies, on the other hand, cause you to loathe yourself as the offender again runs off to commit more relationship crimes, knowing they can use their “get out of jail free” card whenever necessary.

So, what does a genuine apology look like?  Maybe you don’t even know anymore.  If you’re struggling to recognize what constitutes a true apology, here are four examples of offending behaviors and their corresponding, genuine admissions of guilt and acts of contrition.

Let’s jump in…

1 – You discover your partner has been watching porn for hours a day behind your back when you’ve made it clear that it bothers you.

Genuine apology: “I am sorry that I hurt you.  My actions were selfish and I have no intention of defending them.  I was wrong.  I apologize and I will respect your boundaries.” 

After the incident, you find no more evidence of their watching porn behind your back or, at the very least, there is a true and concerted effort to stop, even if it involves getting professional help. 

Fake apology: “I’m sorry you’re offended, but everybody does it so it’s no big deal.  Wouldn’t you rather I do this than cheat on you?  Besides, why are you taking it so personally?  It has nothing to do with you.”

When it comes to relationships, intimate or otherwise, if there’s something you have to hide, you shouldn’t be doing it. 

If you consider porn viewing to be a form of infidelity, yet your partner shows no signs of stopping, this is not the relationship for you, especially if you suspect your partner to be a narcissist because the betrayals and sense of not being good enough will only worsen over time.

2 – You make plans for dinner or coffee with a partner or friend, and you’re stood up for the 2nd time in a month.

Genuine apology: “I’m sorry I’ve not respected the importance of your time.  I’ve been unorganized and inconsiderate.  I’ll try to do better.  I hope you’ll give me another chance”. 

Afterward, they show up on time to your planned events, perhaps arriving a few minutes early.  They share that they’ve begun reminding themselves about your get-togethers using the ‘reminder’ feature on their cell phone.  As a result, you feel important to them and hope things continue to improve.

Fake apology: “You know my life is hectic and I never know what my schedule will look like.  I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient, but if you want to continue this relationship, you’ll need to accept that these things will happen from time to time.”

The second approach shows no remorse and no appreciation of the fact that your time is just as important as theirs.  Everyone has 24 hours in a day and everyone’s time is equally valuable.  A person who cares about you as an individual who deserves consideration will understand this.  On the other hand, a person who doesn’t care will continue to place themselves first, flaking out on many of your engagements.

3 – While chilling with your boo, they get up to go to the bathroom.  A sext comes in on their cell phone and you pick it up to check it out.  You uncover that it’s been going on for several weeks.

There really aren’t many scenarios where an apology would help in this situation.  Sure, your partner may come up with some excuses such as, “I met them the last time we broke up and they won’t leave me alone” or “I just haven’t felt that you’ve been taking our relationship seriously”, but really…these are lame justifications for their systematically lying to your face while pretending the two of you are exclusive.

If you choose to forgive your partner for this, that’s certainly your prerogative, but don’t be surprised when, later down the road, you find yourself overlooking all forms of bad behavior – verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and yes, even cheating. 

Relationships that involve numerous break-ups and make-ups with one partner immediately hooking up with other people while being apart are a sign that the transgressor has no interest in being part of a committed relationship.

4 – Your partner cheated on you and, as a result, you feel pulled to check up on them.  One evening, as you’re snooping on their cell phone, they bust you in the middle of your probe.

Genuine apology: “I know I hurt you, and you have every right not to trust me.  I hope I can gain your trust again.  You’re free to check my phone whenever you wish.  I want you to see you have nothing to worry about.”

Over the next several months, you have no reason to suspect your partner of cheating.  There aren’t any strange disappearances, no random texts in the middle of the night, and no incidents of being stood up at dinner.  Your partner is understanding of your insecurities and helps you gain a sense of normalcy again because they care about you and the future of the relationship.

(This scenario is a bit tricky.  Narcissists and other manipulators may go so far as to give you their passwords, but they usually have created a new email by then or have gotten a backup cell phone without your knowledge.  In this case, be on the lookout for “late nights at work”, sudden emergencies that need their attention (on a regular basis), and other dubious behaviors).

Fake apology: “I’m sorry that mistakes were made, but you need to get over it already.  I feel like I can’t even breathe without your implementing a full-on search mission.  If you can’t let it go, I don’t see how this relationship can last.”

The next several weeks consist of their becoming more and more impatient when you ask questions.  They punish you with a few Silent Treatments, telling you it’s your fault that the relationship isn’t progressing…and that it’s all due to your suspicious nature.  Signs of their continued cheating pop up, but you’re too afraid to say anything. 

In the end, you feel like they’re cheating on you on the regular, and the only thing you can think of to make them happy is to be more relaxed and forgiving around them, all while they continue their affairs on the side.

Genuine Apologies Always Contain These Three Elements

If a person is truly sorry for a betrayal or something they did that hurt you, they won’t try to justify it or make you feel self-conscious for not being able to trust them. 

Instead, they will 1) admit their mistake and the negative impact it had on the relationship, 2) make things right (which includes not doing the thing(s) that hurt you again), and 3) navigate #1 and #2 with patience for as long as it takes.

If a person in your life truly wants to make up for wrongdoing, they will do so with humility, not dismissive anger.  They won’t point the finger at you or bring up their family of origin issues as a pathetic get-out-of-jail-free card. 

To be clear, we’re not talking about leaving the cap off of the toothpaste or shoving another pair of dirty socks under the couch.  This is all about whether someone cares about you enough to respect your relationship boundaries and be faithful and committed to you.

So, what now?

Decide if your relationship has a strong foundation or is a crumbling, chaotic mess.

Are you willing to trade your dignity for it? Or are you willing to trade your future?

Can you imagine what it would feel like to reclaim your life?⁠

Suffering from emotional abuse and manipulation when everything you’ve tried just isn’t working can leave you feeling hopeless, but Break Free can be the catalyst to….

✅ the end of being mistreated and abused

✅ no more lies and broken promises

✅ feeling hopeful and resilient instead of hopeless and depressed

✅ having healthy self-worth instead of crippling shame and guilt

✅ feeling powerful instead of defeated

✅ no longer betraying yourself in the face of continued conflicts

Just click the link below to join:

I Want to Heal My Life!

It’s the first step to a better life. That one simple decision.

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Leave a Comment:

Carla Moss says March 14, 2024

When someone says “I’m sorry and it won’t happen again, I promise” but it DOES happen again, then another apology, etc. etc. What would my response be? It seems there is no solution to this . BTW I’m married and these are fairly minor things that keep happening. It’s getting so ridiculous! Thank you.

    Kim Saeed says March 15, 2024

    Hi Carla,

    To be honest, there is no effective response to someone who keeps breaking their promises, whether it’s something big or small. At the very least, the person is showing you they cannot be trusted and have no integrity. There are really no witty quips or secret comebacks for this situation. Wish I had better news.


John Johnstone says January 13, 2023

The best apology is changed behaviour doesn’t seem to have an author. Insincere apology’s are like salt in the wound, but is there anyone there who find’s personal change easy? I don’t.

JJ says January 12, 2023

These perpetrators will also hide things with the Hidden Apps function on their phone so you don’t see the apps they are hooked on. When you look at their phone it appears ok, but really isn’t. 2nd phones for themselves and others is quite common.

Marti says January 14, 2022

Wonderful validating article Kim! My ex, who I’m pretty certain was a narc w/ antisocial tendencies. When he made sure that I found out he was cheating & he threatened to hit our daughter…..I said I was not going to live like this anymore and either we go get help or our marriage is over. This was how his “apology” went….”ok, if I move back home I don’t want to hear you bringing all this up constantly and throwing it in my face.” Nothing about, not wanting to “lose me or the kids or I’ll do whatever I need to do to keep our family together.” He went to one therapy session and that was it. Somehow, thank God I had clarity of mind to know I was done! His “apology” spoke volumes to me and I was able to see there was something very wrong with him. He was a licensed alcohol & drug counselor by profession. I was fooled that he was this wise therapist, so empathetic with his clients etc. I could not have been more wrong about him. We did divorce and I established no contact w/ modifications. It has been a process forgiving myself for believing and loving a person who never really existed. Your articles have been so helpful! May God continue to bless this critically important work you do❣️

Receive my eternal gratitude,
Marti D.

[email protected] says January 15, 2018

No, I’m not willing to trade my dignity for it, but at the moment I feel as if I have no dignity.

    Jen says February 11, 2018

    I feel you. this site has really opened my eyes

Deana Scot says October 20, 2017

I don’t know how iv trained myself to let things go or forget the things that i have been hurt by actions or by his words but i do reading what u have said about appologies i hardly ever do get one but i do hear how it’s my fault I’m pushing him away cuz I’m to jealous I’m always calling him out on things i don’t care what he says i just want him to be aware i now what he is doing just last week i threatened to go into his work to see just how he carrys on at work with his coworkers whom he claims to keep it on a professional level but i don’t believe so when i made the threat he got very mad even threatened to quit he said it was over and he didn’t want to see me again whom is my husband i felt this set off a red flag i can go on and on with so much i feel it’s strange he will not clean up for me on his days off but before he goes to work he will i won’t touch him if he don’t shower due to uti issues i have so i feel he does this on purpose he stay in out room 24/7 unless he needs something or a friend comes over to see h the only time he communicates I’d when he wants a ride i feel so dead it’s very hard for me to feel happiness with Jim i just don’t know

Ramona Audette says October 18, 2017

Hello Kim, All fours non- genuine apologies is exactly what I encountered. I just couldn’t trust him anymore. Everything was always my fault and I felt like I was going crazy for not trusting him. I had proof of his lies but he continued to lie. He told me he was going to continue seeing and talking to the other women. It was my issue not his. He told me he did nothing wrong, I wasn’t going to control him.

Anonymous says October 18, 2017

Apologies from my narc MIL: First time ever in a letter and it started like this: “I’m sorry for whatever you think I’ve done….”. Talk about infuriating! Second apology was after a confrontation in person and she was talking in “word salads” and i became more confused and feeling inferior because I couldn’t keep her on point of the issue and she said in a self righteous, haughty and saracastic manner: “I’m sorry. Now can we move past this?”

What I’ve discovered is you cannot reason with someone who is unreasonable and irrational. I’ve always tried to respect and understand my elders. The second epiphany I had was that she truly has a childish mentality and that she treats my husband and I like children. Understanding these two awakenings has helped navigate interactions with her and now we barely interact or speak to her.

Last Christmas helped us make a decision to go almost no contact. I worked two moths ahead with her planning a week of Christmas activities. Our son wasvominh home with his foster son for the first time. I gave this woman Christmas cookies at her house one day and Christmas morning and lunch at her house.

Our youngest daughter (18) passed out the Christmas presents for her/us. All were passed out and our daughter was looking puzzled because there wasn’t anything for me. You guessed it! There wasn’t! My MIL promptly stated, “Since you didn’t give me any ideas, you have nothing to open.” To which I replied, “I asked you for ideas more than once and you didn’t give me any but I gave you s gift.” Oh, and she had my family open gifts BEFORE her daughter and family arrived which was not normal. But you see, this way, they don’t know what happened.

We haven’t been back to her house and this Christmas will not be….probably ever again.

    Chip says October 19, 2017

    Wow that’s terrible.

Kelly Domyan says October 17, 2017

Me and mine got in an argument this morning cuz i told him it said he was online all night last night. But he claims he was sleeping. I told him his profile says when hes online or how long ago he was online. So then he makes fun of me for internet stalking him. And claims it doesnt do that. So tonight i take a screen shot of what it looks like when it says hes online and sent it to him. His response?… “i dont know babe”. And then wont talk about it

Shirley Akpelu says October 17, 2017

Great advice once again. If someone is deliberately offending you and then expect you not to be offended, and they do this to you quite often and tell you to get over it–this person is not for you but against you. Envy, strife, jealousy are what they really feel about you but they smile that fake smile and pretend like the hypocrite they are.

I hate fake,phony people and fake, phony people hate the real deal–the real McCoy, genuine diamond character because they know they are demons disguising themselves as angels of light. My narc radar is loud and clear because now I trust my gut. When someone shows me who they are, I believe them. They are no good for me. They are toxic, hostile, abusive, jealous, critical and negative. I cut them loose. I am not gon waste any more precious time trying to befriend a demon.

    Kelly Domyan says October 17, 2017

    I feel all these “demon” characteristics fit my bf. Yet somehow he dupes me into staying always. I almost feel like i cant live without him. Iv tried cuttinf it off with no contact a few times. But he shows up at my house and begs for forgiveness

      Kim Saeed says October 18, 2017

      Hi Kelly,

      Mine used to do that, too. I finally stopped opening the door for him. I also posted ‘No Trespassing’ signs outside my door.

      June says November 23, 2017

      I am interested in your comment, particularly the part about you cant live without him. I used to feel the same, and sometimes still do, I have come to the conclusion that I am like a drug addict and even although he treated me badly with psychological abuse, I was still addicted to that way of connecting as it was better than no connection or in some way filled the void from his lack of intimacy. I am now working on my childhood traumas which left me feeling unloved, abandoned and with low self esteem.. I want to recognise the triggers which attract me to someone like him so that it wont happen again. Matrix reimprinting gave me such clarity that after one session, I decided I had to get away from him or I would become ill. I hope you can love yourself enough to get away from this person and wish you lots of happiness for the future, it is within your reach!
      Warm wishes,

Jo says October 17, 2017

its the “What Do You Want Me to Say?” phrase that he tried to pass as his meaningful apology at the end of our 2.5 year relationship that finally gave me the wake up call I needed. That, against a huge transgression I had “outed” him on. I’d been forgiving, naive and hopeful until that point. I loved that man dearly and unconditionally. In that sole and very trite phrase there was no emotional capacity despite a non-hostile end. That phrase cured me – mercifully – in that moment. A year later, even now,when I doubt, miss his presence, wonder and suffer nostalgic reflection, I replay that one phrase in my mind. And know reassuringly it’s over and I’m glad I ended it – finally. In my mind, heart and spirit.

Anonymous says October 17, 2017

Thank you

Valerie says October 17, 2017

I am no longer willing to settle for anything that comprises my dignity. But first, I had to claim my dignity. You help. Articles like this help. Everyday is better. And stronger. As the lies and bad behavior and the narcissistic crap unravels and dissolves. And I forgive me, everyday – more and more and love me, every day – more and more. I know more about narcissism that anyone ever should have to. You are doing a good thing. For all os us. Thank you. Bless you. Bless us all.

Chip says October 17, 2017

This is a real eye-opener. I’ve dealt with non-apologies like ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way’ for way too long and now I’m getting out of this relationship.

    Kim Saeed says October 18, 2017

    Good for you, Chip!

Michelle says October 17, 2017

Wow. I feel so dumb and gullible now. I am glad you pointed it out. The porn senerio was almost word for word as the conversation was with my boyfriend 5 years ago. He still watches it. I moved out 2 years ago. We are trying to see if we can negotiate and actually accept each other, or if we really can’t compromise enough to make it work.

    Sheila Irwin says October 18, 2017

    Stay away from him. If he he not changed in 5 years, he will NOT change. He just wants to toy with you. Cut hiM out of your life permanently!!! I have been there and done that after 10 years of insanity…..

    FlowerGirl says October 21, 2017

    That’s a tough one, Michelle…. I lost 14 years due to constantly giving the porn-using-and-hiding-it ex. I spent so much money on his porn addiction (or so I thought) recovery and our “couples therapy” that I could have bought an island in the Caribbean.. Seriously.

    The number it did on me will take years to overcome, probably….

    I believe I deserved fidelity and to know he wanted to “spend” his erotic energy with me, not with “hot teens” on porn sites. Ugh. I know nowadays just about every single guy uses porn, but I’d rather be alone than try to make peace with his needing other women in that way. Especially as we’re getting older, it messes with one’s ability to age gracefully. Instead I found myself fighting with my every line or wrinkle forming, every ounce of cellulite or saggy part….

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll arrive at what’s right for you, but please don’t let too many years go by thinking you can love him out of it…I’ve never seen that work on anyone. Maybe you are different and will learn to just ignore it all. I couldn’t. Now, 3 years hence him doing phase 3 of “idealize, devalue and discard”, I can finally breathe again. It’s tough but I was worth it.

    Sending you strength and courage to make the right choice for you!

Nadine says October 17, 2017

Amazing that the FAKE APOLOGIES are verbatim how my EX-so-called-Partner spoke. That’s him, exactly! Can’t work with that mindset; no future in it.

I refused his offer of an after-breakup friendship, and instead, invoked at permanent restraining order through the courts and signed by a judge to ensure NO CONTACT.

And do you know how I feel about that: SAFE!

Finally, he can not come near enough to hurt me physically or verbally, again.

    Kim Saeed says October 18, 2017

    Way to go, Nadine. Very brave. I had to do that, too. It felt awful filing it, but the safety and peace afterward were worth it!


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