How to Accept the Apology You Never Received

apology never received

In an ideal world, everyone that causes harm to another, either intentionally or unintentionally, would immediately offer up a genuine apology: accepting responsibility, acknowledging the pain, express empathy and remorse, immediately changing behavior and, if appropriate, making amends for the damage caused. But we know that rarely happens. And it never happens as quickly as we would like.

Instead, we receive a “sorry” tossed out with little thought and nothing to back it up. We hear, “I’ll do better” and better never comes. We may find that in place of an apology, we instead receive blame and misplaced anger as defensiveness leads instead of empathy. The apology may be discounted by the excuses that accompany it. We may see an utter lack of comprehension at the pain that was inflicted. Or we may just be listening to radio silence, waiting for an apology that never comes.

An apology that maybe we don’t even need.

Why do we want apologies?

Children are taught almost as soon as they can talk to say “Please” when they want something, “Thank you” when they receive something and “I’m sorry” when they hurt someone. At the most surface level, we view an apology as a basic ritual of societal order that preserves a sense of fairness and responsibility.

Apologizing has become almost a knee-jerk reaction for many. How often have you bumped into somebody or inadvertently cut someone off with your grocery cart and had the word, “Sorry” out of your mouth without thinking? Even in such a minor interaction without much empathy or remorse behind the word, the apology still carries importance. When it is uttered, it acknowledges the infraction and its impact on the other person. When nothing is said, the other person feels invisible and insignificant.

At its most basic, an apology says, “I see you.”

And a lack of an apology is a passive rejection.

What do we expect from apologies?

Pain wants to be heard; the need for our suffering to be acknowledged drives our need for an apology. And the greater the perceived damage, the greater the perceived need for an apology. We all have an inherent sense of fairness, a balance of how things “should” be. When someone harms us, that balance is disrupted and we presume that an apology will make strides towards correcting that imbalance and restoring a sense of fairness.

We often see an acknowledgement of the slight and remorse for the actions as the keystone in the bridge to healing. As though once that apology is received, the remainder of the recovery follows. And so we wait.

Because we want to be heard. Understood. And the pain keeps screaming until it is recognized.

What are the limitations of apologies?

Apologies can never undo what was done. They are not a magical eraser than removes any harsh words or caustic actions. When we imbue them with these special powers, we increase our expectations to a level that can never be reached.

No apology will ever be good enough to abolish the pain and reverse the damage. Just as you cannot control somebody else’s apology, they cannot mitigate your suffering.

You can’t outsource healing. You have to do it yourself.

Do we need apologies?

An apology or a lack thereof is a reflection of the other person’s character, not your worth.

When somebody causes harm and refuses to accept responsibility, they are telling you who they are, not who you are.

When someone is too cowardly to admit fault, they are showing you their shortcomings, not yours.

And just because somebody displays an utter lack of empathy, it does not mean your pain is not real and valid.

When you wait for an apology, you are allowing the person who harmed you to continue to harm you. You’re letting them decide if you get to be okay again.

And is that really a decision you want to place in the hands of someone who lacks empathy and courage?

If this person is still involved in your life and they are unable or unwilling to authentically apologize, take a good look at your boundaries. Is this someone that you want to remain in your life?

How can you accept the apology you never received?

The most critical component of accepting an apology you never received is to eliminate any magical thinking you have about apologies. They are no holy grail of healing. They do not have the power to erase what has happened. Once you realize that, it becomes easier to let go of the driving need for acknowledgement and amends. An apology is only required if you give it that power.

Your well-being should not hinge on somebody else’s shortcomings.

Their inability to accept responsibility is their problem.

Not yours.

Your healing is your responsibility.

Accept it.

If you’re having trouble accepting an apology you’ve never received, this can help.

Thank you for sharing!

59 thoughts on “How to Accept the Apology You Never Received

  1. triciamoore78 – I am a single mom of two girls. I have a heart for single moms who are less fortunate than me, and I hope to one day be able to give back to them. I have a Masters degree in Education and I love writing. I hope to use this blog to encourage myself and others to be who they are, and enjoy life as they do what they do.
    triciamoore78 says:

    Reblogged this on trimoore78 and commented:
    So true. Great read.

  2. Very tough… hard to do.

      1. Very true… I wish more would forgive.

          1. Good most days! Moving forward… Felt honestly like a relief or closure.

  3. Jennifer – Albuquerque, New Mexico – First off, I am not very funny. Secondly, I am a full-blown geek; I like chess (it is my favorite game), I enjoyed writing research papers in college, I enjoyed statistics and any other kind of math. But, in my old age (47), I have learned to own my geekdom, it is uniquely mine. Third, I have manic-depressive illness which can make life a bit rocky sometimes, like when the medications are not strong enough to treat the illness, then it bites me in the ass…..hard. Most of the time, though, I ride the sine wave that are normal moods. It is an interesting disease to have though. You do a lot of self reflecting and exploration which can be rough, but you can see where you have made mistakes and you can take action to prevent that behavior in the future. Fourth, I have learned how not to settle for anything; bad medical care, toxic and angry people, bad food, bad relationships. I just will not settle anymore. I have already been there and done that. Fifth, I have learned over the years it is not cool to puke through your nose because you drank too much at a party or a bar. Sixth, I love to read everything from fiction to non-fiction to school textbooks. I do not remember learning to read. My mom says when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I picked up National Geographic and began to read it. Who knew? Seventh, and possibly last, I love music of all types except Rap. My favorite music to relax to is classical preferably of the Baroque period like Amadeus Mozart and Beethoven. I love going to the movies by myself. If you go on a Monday afternoon matinée, there is usually no one there so it is like having your own private theater. I am also a Nichiren Buddhist by way of spiritual belief. I am basically just a normal person who happens to be not funny :) .
    songtothesirens says:

    “The most critical component of accepting an apology you never received is to eliminate any magical thinking you have about apologies. They are no holy grail of healing. They do not have the power to erase what has happened. ”

    I received a “pseudo-apology” from my ex. He finally owned up to the fact that he has a problem with an addiction that could only come via the Internet, free porn. However, he continued the behavior long after his “aha” moment that his actions for about 3 of the 4 years that we were married (I finally put my foot down when I realized he was never going to change, I was in agony and I divorced him). So, his “apology” came with a caveat. Therefore, I do not view it as an apology since he did not acknowledge the pain he had caused me through his little habit. I had to take what he gave, and realize this is not my problem anymore. It is very hard sometimes to undo what has been done. Your analogy of the plate is perfect.

    I always enjoy reading your blog. It helps me realize that regardless the reason for the marriage ending, be it addiction to porn or an affair, there are lessons to be learned from endings if you just look for them. These “found” lessons may be painful, but who ever said that learning was always fun.

  4. Absolutely. I learned a long time ago I was never going to receive an apology. And I’m OK with that. If I were to receive one from my (ex) husband, it would be an empty one anyway!

  5. livebysurprise – Liv is the pseudonym reformed divorcee and single mom - now married, coparenting and working mother of three. She's been featured on ScaryMommy, HuffPost Divorce, The Mid and More at
    Liv says:

    You’re absolutely right. You need to let it go if it’s limiting you.

  6. Jeff Schrembs – God, Family, Health and Country...everything else is fleeting. Love, thank God for, think of, prayer for, miss, etc. all of my children each of which are truly a blessing from God. Elvis Presley Expert, Collector, Historian and Author. Cancer survivor (thus far thank God)
    Jeff Schrembs says:

    I enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing your passions, opinions, and life with all of us.

  7. It was 2 years that I suffered in silence as my narcisstic ex lived his happy life (from what I saw). He made no effort to seek me out to apologize or befriend me despite how much I put into his life (and that was more than I’ve ever done for anyone) but I just couldn’t move on despite this article I still felt I NEEDED that apology from him to move on, to feel validated, accepted and to stop feeling small and ignored. I just couldn’t understand (and still can’t) why was I being ignored when he hurt me?

    So a couple of weeks back, not long after reading this article, I stupidly sought him out. In the past 2 years I worked so hard on my body to make sure I looked amazing because I knew it was his soft soft. We met up and I received the apology that only he would take as an apology and he likely only ever apologized just to soften me up to sleep with me.

    You know I didn’t feel validated and none of the pain disappeared despite recognizing a man like him finds it very difficult to accept blame. What I did realize is that maybe even a Walt Disney apology with effort, actions and a full 2 hour movie of romance would have sufficed and nothing less and that’s just not realistic. His few words made me realize that I wasted two years suffering.

    I wasted so much time waiting for it, crying about it, visualizing myself as the victim and him running to me and crying about how sorry he was. The need for that scenario kept raising it’s ugly head but seeking him out only made me lose even more self dignity and self respect. I wish I had never sought him out. He hasn’t changed and he is still a loser and I don’t need validation from someone “below” me. I just couldn’t understand how someone with so many problems didn’t want me accept for possibly sex (which he never got).

    I look on the bright side, that suffering made me also work so hard to lose 60 pounds and that anger was my best friend. In hindsight, that anger was my motivation and that victim mentality was what held me back.

    1. So sorry you had that experience. I hope you find some peace with it behind you. And I love your good attitude about the benefits of the changes you have made. Look and feel amazing for you! Nevermind him.

    2. I love that you sought him out! It took courage and even if you feel in hindsight it was for the wrong reasons, now, you can move on! Imagine if you hadn’t confronted him – you’d still be pining instead of recognizing your need to let it (and him) go.

  8. Rhodes to Wellness – Canada – Hello!! I am so grateful that you are here. My name is Janet Rhodes and I am a Trauma Professional and Coach. I help clients find wholeness following trauma. I understand trauma from my own first hand experiences but also from studying the effects of trauma on our brain and body, traumatology, NLP and Psychology. I am aware how the traumas we encounter in our lives change who we are right down to our cellular level.
    FreedomWithin: My Journey through Domestic Violence and PTSD says:

    Reblogged this on freedomwithinme's Blog and commented:
    Reloading another writers great insight on how to accept the apology you never got.

    I know myself I used to wish for an apology from my ex. Somehow believing that if he apologized all would be vindicated. But would it really? No probably not. I had to realise that I could heal without the apology I never got.

  9. Tessa – United States – My name is Tessa Dean and I am an author and blogger. My writing styles vary and I love writing using prompts. I am also writing my first book, a Memoir entitled "Government Property - A Memoir of a Military Wife".  This is being published on the blog rather than the traditional way. I am putting up chapters as I go along. I keep my blog filled with useful content, stories, and poems. Plenty to keep you busy. I have also been interviewed by blogs and had other posts published on many different blogs. I also wrote a series of articles on Bipolar Disorder for IBPF (International Bipolar Foundation). I am in my 60’s and disabled which allows me plenty of time to write to my heart’s content. I live in southern New Jersey and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. My oldest grandchild is a Sargent in the United States Marine Corps.
    Tessa says:

    Reblogged this on Tessa Can Do IT! and commented:
    I have been suffering over something for most of my adult life and it all hinges on an apology for me to forgive and I am the one who is sufferring. I hope I can follow this through.

  10. Thank you for your support of my blog. I desperately needed to read this as I am still waiting for my soon to be ex husband to offer an apology for his actions. Sadly, previous apologises were immediately followed by countless other hurts and finger pointing. But I will work on moving on without waiting for him to acknowledge the devastation he has caused.

    1. So sorry to hear you’re in that position. It’s so hard to be hurt by one we love and then have it compounded by their unwillingness or inability to take responsibility. It stinks. It’s not fair. And it’s also not a reason to put your life on hold. Hugs, lady. You’ll be okay. No, scratch that. You’re gonna be great!:)

  11. Reblogged this on Chipping Away the Fat… and commented:
    I desperately needed to read this as I am still waiting for my soon to be ex husband to offer a genuine apology for his actions. Sadly, previous apologises were immediately followed by countless other incomprehensible actions, hurts and finger pointing. It is pointless to apologise and then do worse things that the crap previously apologised for.

    I will work on moving on without waiting for him to acknowledge the devastation, hurt and heartbreak he has continued to cause.

  12. I’m going through a divorce. My wife cheated, and left me with 5 children, It devastated me. 20 years, and she decides that she wanted to be 18 again. I’m three months in, and I still cry, and miss her. I stumbled upon this blog, and it changed my way of thinking. Thank you so much. Better days are ahead.

    1. Better days are certainly ahead. After all, they can’t get much worse, can they? Of course you’re still crying at three months in. You’re still coming out of the shock. Take it one day at a time, remember what really matters and have where you want to be firmly seated in your mind. You’ll get there:)

  13. My husband of 20 years just left out of the blue.. the day starts off like any other day.. my husband waves good bye to our son and I as we leave for the day… I take our son to school and I have doctor appointments. .. last June I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and getting it under control has not been easy. .. my husband shows up at our son school during his lunch hour and tells him that he has moved out and is divorcing me…of course my son is devastated and he spends the rest of the day crying at school in his counselors office. I return to school to pick up our son at the end of the day… not knowing what has happened. ..I walk to his classroom and our son runs up to me crying. .saying dads gone…I say what..he says mom! Dad moved out and he is leaving … this is not a joke… another mom see’s my shock and disbelief. ..and notices that I’m about to faint.. and I just sobbed and said what is going on…this is not happening.. and I have been in hell ever since. My husband had his family move his stuff out of our home and move items out of the house while I was gone! Not only do I feel betrayed by my husband but I feel betrayed by his family. They knew and they planned this behind my back.. until that moment my husband and I have lived as man and wife… and we just had a family dinner at his family’s house… I feel so betrayed by everyone. husband already had a house ready to move into…was hiding money. ..and has had someone on the side ..

          1. Still not breathing! I don’t have time. I stay positive in front if my son and stay busy with his activities. …but when everyone is gone and my son is with his father…I have a hard time

              1. All this happened on September 24th of this year. I m served with paper’s 2 days later. Before this happened I have never been away from my family.

    1. I have no words after reading this. How absolutely SUB human of him to do this to you. WHAT drives people to hurt others in this manner? Be a MAN and own up is what I wish I could scream at him for you. Praying you can put the pieces back together!

      1. Thank you for your comment. I am still dealing with the narcissist on a daily basis. Even though I have a restating order in place. I had no choice but to move out of the home. Things were getting really creepy and felt unsafe. I now have a and stay with family until things get settled. Which is taking so much longer than expected. After being away from him and getting the help and support that I really needed I am learning that I never should have accepted this toxic behavior and I am worth so much more.

    1. I’m getting the jeckel and Hyde from the ex… being a bully and being manipulative. ..he has been called in by my attorney for a deposition. . I think Im making steps..and progressing then I’m hit with something unexpectedly and l get knocked down …

      1. I know I will never ever get an apology. .he couldn’t even acknowledge any wrong doing during our marriage. If he doesn’t admit or …acknowledge. . In his mind the action didn’t exist!.. I feel sorry… he will forever make the same mistakes. ..with or without me!.. or his girlfriend! !

    2. Dealing with my first holiday “alone” was … extremely ..emotionally and physically. ..exhausting I knew that I had to face family, acknowledge the divorce, being without someone that loved me and by my side dealing with family and friends asking where is your husband. .. what I really wanted to say was… probably screwing his girlfriend you nosey cow! As I hold it together for the sake of my son as I’m dying inside…. I didn’t want to celebrate thanksgiving. ..I didn’t want to be around anyone. .. I didn’t want to bake all the desserts like I always have…. my son and I put on our happy faces we hung out with family and we faced it…. thanksgiving down and Christmas. go…

  14. struth71 – New Zealand – Mum of 3 beautiful kids. Coming up 2 years separated. Still on the roller coaster. A strong-minded, typical Taurean. I don't try to hide what I am - at my age, I'm not going to change the fundamentals. But I am still willing to learn and to 'smooth the edges'. Two years on, still got lots of hurt and anger - struggle to 'let go'. Hoping that this year will be the one where that just happens overnight.
    struth71 says:

    Reblogged this on separation tears and commented:
    I need to learn from this! It’s very wise words ☺

  15. vtaluna – Lived in 10 states from coast to coast. Mom to two teen boys. Marketer by day, blogger and novelist by night. Eavesdrop for dialogue :)
    vtaluna says:

    This was so great and I wish I had seen it back in 2008. I am the recipient of the insincere “I’m sorry” from my ex so frequently I no longer hear him. It’s lip service. I finally reached a place where I no longer expect him to have an epiphany (okay a teeny tiny part still hopes so) about his narcissism and lack of parenting.

  16. WOW..genuinely thank you..having the fortunate opportunity to read this has changed my perspective, my sense of wellbeing, my life for the better. Me & my life in general have been for far too long stuck in this intense horrible suffering over someone I deeply loved but could not somehow find the strength to move on from or be ok over ALL because of the intense level of resent and memories of all I had done to care about, to commit to, & love this person. Talk about such a stifling poison in my life. Regardless of any changes either this person or I made going forward, I could still somehow not let go of that intense need for an apology so deeply rooted in all the aspects you described. The increasingly devestating part that kept me trapped in that was made worse by knowing that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever receive it let alone to the level I needed. Reading this genuinely lifted my heart, soul, & consciousness to a level of understanding & truth they so desperately needed…THANK YOU

    1. Wow! What an amazing reply. I am SO happy to hear that you’ve been lifted and reached a place of understanding and acceptance. You are too beautiful to let this person dictate your worth:)

  17. Suman Bhattarai – Adelaide, Australia – I am a 20 year old student from Adelaide, Australia with a heavy love for food. I am a mega foodie and I like to try different recipes from all over the globe so why not write about it? I was born in Nepal and lived there for 14 years. Coming from a different culture i have been gifted with the knowledge of different kind of cuisines and I would like to share my knowledge with the world. In my blog i will be writing about Food, Culture and lifestyle.
    Suman Bhattarai says:

    I was in a relationship for 3 years and he left me at the end of it saying he didn’t love me anymore. He was cheating on me via Internet and it really hurt me. Today after a year of our breakup I heard from a friend that he had told them that he stopped loving me two years ago. I was devastated to hear this. All this time when I was supporting him. I loved him a lot. I am
    Not coping very well. It’s like facing betrayal all over again and the worst part is my friend told me that he doesn’t care about me at all neither does he care what I do. He has clearly moved on ages ago because he has dated people after me. Somehow he knows I haven’t moved on and he thinks I am being childish. All I think I need is an apology which I don’t think I will ever get. I am heartbroken even after a year of not being with him. I don’t know what to do.

  18. I wish it were that simple. This article gave me so much to ponder on. I need to let go. Worse it’s a trail of events. It is not my fault that he is like that. I need to focus on me & the children. Thank God they are the ones who keep me going.

  19. crazybutttricia – I'm not as crazy as the name implies, but trying to set up an email account over 10 years ago drove me to the brink of insanity, so I ended up with this name. This is my first attempt at blogging and I am still trying to figure it all out and make it look right. Any suggestions are welcome, really.
    crazybutttricia says:

    If only I could cut him out of my life that would be the best solution for me, but I can’t because we have three children. Tough to do under those circumstances. I realized that he has no intention of apologizing or taking responsibility for the end of our marriage (or the way he created the void in our relationship to begin with) when he basically said exactly that in a text exchange early on. When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.

  20. I think this is a very important article. My ex never has and probably never apologize to me and finding a way through that has been a big hurdle in my path the healing. Thank you for this post. It’s helped.

  21. A thing I’ve struggled with: I wasn’t allowed to talk to friends about the cheating that my then-partner was doing, because my then-partner was certain that other people would judge him. And I certainly wasn’t feeling heard at home. I was so hungry for understanding and support, and so cut off from it (because I didn’t want to out him), and so confused that someone who purported to love me kept repeatedly hurting me in the same way, while getting upset when I wouldn’t wipe the slate clean every time there was a new transgression and trying to persuade me to believe him instead of my own eyes and ears.

    He wouldn’t hear my anger and hurt when we were together, and he certainly wouldn’t hear it after he left. I had four years of therapy, six years (two of them while we were still together) of serious journaling, as much exercise as possible, trying to rebuild friendships with people I’d been isolated from and meet new friends, prayer and spiritual practice. And I’m still PISSED– not all the time, but I’ve got a number of triggers that I trip over and fall into fury. I don’t know if it’s because I had to keep my emotions and worries bottled up for a couple of years or what, but I feel like I am never going to get out of the anger phase.

    Every time I sit down to try a forgiveness meditation / exercise, my throat closes up. I think, I wasn’t allowed to talk about my feelings. I barely felt allowed to *have* feelings. I don’t feel ready to give my feelings up. My feelings really don’t want to be given up– they tried for so long to protect me, and I ignored them until they went away, and I need them to be able to trust that I’ll listen to them. Also, they and my notebook are the only record of what happened.

    I see him once a year (at a Thanksgiving party put on by friends who I am not giving up), and I’m not in danger of acting out of vindictiveness, but when I work on trying to forgive him, to ease the anger and the suffering it prolongs, my body and brain clang shut.

    1. Sounds like a difficult place to be in. You’ve done a great job of trying many great tools to mitigate the anger. I wonder if there is a specific stumbling block – or blocks- holding onto the anger. For me, I couldn’t let go until I had paid off the debt he left and rebuilt some financial cushion. Only then was I ready to release that rage.

      You’re doing the right stuff. Don’t give up.

  22. I’ve just discovered this blog and it is really helpful. I can tell that you understand psychology well and I find some solace in knowing that others have gone through this incredibly difficult journey and come out stronger. Thank you.

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