Or, maybe you do.... There seems to be two types of people when it comes to apologizing; those who avoid accountability for their actions at all cost, all the while minimizing how they act and impact others. These types of folks tend to blame everyone and everything for their struggle regardless of whether or not they are the one's responsible. Then there are those people who apologize for other people's actions, thoughts, and feelings, regardless of whether or not they had any part in it. Some might call this type of apologizer a martyr; I avoid that label and believe this person more likely has an anxious attachment style and is insecure in their relationship with themself and others.
Which type of apologizer are you? Are you someone who struggles to take any accountability? Or, are you someone who takes on the entire load of responsibility for other people? If you are unsure about the former, you may want to ask your partner or loved ones for honest feedback. It may also serve your relationships to take a self inventory and accurately look at where you can and need to be more accountable in your life, especially if you tend to lose friendships and relationships based on this type of behavior.
Here is a little insight into the person who lacks the ability to apologize: Blamers tend to be shamers and while they have both of this internal dynamic going on, it still impacts those around them. People who blame others for everything often do so because of their own deep-seated self loathing and shame. They cannot fathom another person (especially someone they love and trust) calling them on something that deep down they know is true and in which they beat themselves up for daily. So they put it back on the other person; this type of finger pointing is a defense mechanism and while it doesn't work in the long run it is indeed a maladaptive coping skill that seems to be on auto-repeat most of the time.
Many relationships have dynamics that involve an over-apologizer and an under-apologizer. This is particularly prevalent in addiction scenarios. One person in the relationship will have a primary issue that has caused significant damage to the relationship such as an addiction. The other person, the partner, is validly traumatized and angry, hurt, confused, sad, etc. After so long in recovery, however, oftentimes the addict, though they may be demonstrating lasting, consistent, positive change and health on multiple levels, continues to take all the blame for everything going wrong currently in the relationship.This is not healthy and in fact can lead the relationship down another long and challenging road; if not cause it's demise (as it can cause damaging contempt). This is why it is essential for both individuals in a couple-ship to look at their styles of communication and coping, particularly since the relationship is a system with it's own cycles that involve adaptive and maladaptive response patterns.
It is important to acknowledge that it is common for individuals in their addiction(s) to use "I am sorry" as a form of manipulation at times but also because they feel guilty for their behavior. An apology is often used and abused to the point where the partner doesn't believe the addict anymore and the word "sorry" invokes anger. Once the addict and partner enter recovery and the addict demonstrates consistent and lasting change in all areas of their life, the hope is that the partner can begin to trust the addict again, including an apology. It is also important to note that this type of apologizing is not just used in relationships where addiction is present.The typical relationship can entail a partner who uses and abuses apologies to the point where their partner resents them.
Some relationships entail a partner who over-apologizes and one who not only under-apologizes but doesn't accept the over-apologizer's apologies. This can add fuel to the fire for the over-apologizer causing them to feel resentful and resulting in them taking on the role of the under-apologizer; they stop apologizing for anything. Both parties in this case end up presenting as stubborn and entitled to their feelings, all the while waiting to see which one will "cave" with the first apology....not helpful in the relationship.
Many people learn this type of over/under apologizing behavior during their upbringing, and no matter how often people want to deny that their childhood (birth-18) impacted them as an adult, research continues to show that it does. We are not robots. We are sensitive human beings having a divine experience in this life. We learn, feel, sense, and respond based on what we see as around us when we are innocent children. Then we repeat it as best as we can as adults until someone teaches us otherwise.
This type of coping, under vs. over apologizing, is learned. It is not something we are born with; we watch our parents and other adults demonstrate it and we adopt certain behaviors based on what we see and experience. We also learn it throughout our lives as experiences are repeated and hurt and trauma gets embedded in our brains. For some, the entire experience of apologizing (saying or hearing it) can be traumatic, annoying, and angering based on past betrayal and hurt.
If we can put our egos aside and take a deeper look at the act of apologizing from a vulnerable, honest, and authentic space, it can be a really beautiful and healing experience for both people- not just for the apologizer but for the one receiving it. This takes work and practice on both parties in the relationship but is possible if both are willing to change and do the work.
For the over-apologizer, it is important to begin to only apologize for things that are yours. For the under-apologizer, it is important to look at why you under-apologize, how you can heal whatever is beneath your reasons, and explore ways that you too can be equally accountable in and for your relationship-since it takes the two of you in a relationship to either make it work or make it crumble.
Relationships with no accountability or too much accountability by one or the other person are destined for struggle. Maybe it is time for you to only own your part, or create more equanimity in your relationship(s) by owning what part IS yours.
Isn't it comforting to know that change is ALWAYS possible if we choose it and that we can really choose easier than we have been choosing?
Always important to remember, dear ones, that you are worth it!
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