Apology Accepted???

offended-angryI’m having a quandary about apologies. It’s not that I have a problem accepting them. It’s not that I am unable to forgive. Sometimes, I am even able to forget.

Rather, my problem is with how to respond to them.

Once upon a time, I could simply say “That’s OK” or “Don’t worry about it.”

I can’t do that as much anymore, particularly in my family life, and that bothers me. I don’t have a good way to respond to an apology from, say, my daughter or wife that I feel both acknowledges my thankfulness to have been apologized to, without letting the other person off the hook.

Let me explain, because my problem is different relative to the two individuals I’ve mentioned (I’ve left out Son of Blue because, frankly, he doesn’t find himself in many positions that require apology, and when he does, they are minor things typically).

Little Girl Blue gave me some serious drama a couple mornings ago, and eventually, she apologized. I said “thank you” because saying “That’s OK” would seem to me to give her the impression that whatever she did to bring on the apology was OK. And I want her to know I appreciate the apology. But I was reminded of how tricky this is for a little girl when I was explaining to her on the way to daycare why what she had been doing was so bothersome. She got tired of listening to me and said, basically, “I said sorry…isn’t it over now?” (3.9 years old going on 16…)

I had to explain to her that the apology is the beginning. The way to really show she’s sorry is to not keep repeating the same tantrum behaviors and other nonsense that cause me to get mad to begin with. And so I still don’t know the best way to let her know apologies are good, and welcome, and desired…but that something more is required on her part than just saying some words.

And then there is Mrs. Blue, whom I love dearly. Who shall never be replaced by anyone. Whom I would catch a chestful of bullets for. She reminds me of the problem of adult apologies, more so than any other adult, because as my spouse she has many more opportunities to do me wrong and treat me badly (and the same goes for me in relation to her…I’m no angel).

There are some recurring patterns that cause her to be unnecessarily mean to me and that cause me to get royally pissed off on a periodic basis. I’m happy to hear an apology from her, in large part because I know she means it more than Little Girl Blue does, but I don’t know how to respond in a way that says, “thanks for saying that, I really do forgive you…however, I might still be a little salty from the leftover stings and the knowledge that this is probably going to happen again in a few days or a couple weeks.” (which is a bit long, you see…)

“Thank you” seems too simple, informal and childish to me somehow, but it’s the best thing I have. In other words, I’m stuck with the same response as with my child, but it doesn’t seem to fit in the adult world, and I don’t have an alterantive.

Because “That’s OK” certainly doesn’t work. What happened wasn’t OK, or I wouldn’t have been upset to begin with.

“Apology accepted” is like some passive-aggressive formal thing. It doesn’t have any emotion or love in it; it’s a rubber stamp from the bureaucracy of the mind.

“Forget about it” certainly doesn’t work because, well, I want the other person to remember not to do that to me again.

And not responding at all verbally to the apology suggests I haven’t accepted it, even if I have.

Basically, I don’t have a point here to make, because I don’t have an answer. But if anyone has any advice, I’d love some. Even if it’s to tell me I’m vastly overthinking things.

19 Responses to “Apology Accepted???”

  1. July 24, 2009 at 11:05 am


    I get what youre saying. One thing that helps me when my wife apologizes(lol, which is rare), is when she accompanies it with, “I will do my best not to do that again”. The two statements combined seem to make it more powerful for me. It then makes it easy for me to say “Thank you” and leave it at that. And with the kids I just like using the line from the comic Russell Peters dad….”Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad”. 😉

  2. 2 32B
    July 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I was just going to say that same thing TitforTat said. Either they reassure you they won’t do it again or you accept their apology with a “thank you” but add “I really hope you learned your lesson and will not do that again”. That sounds like a childish line to direct at Mrs. Blue but for Little Girl Blue it just might work.

    “thanks for saying that, I really do forgive you…however, I might still be a little salty from the leftover stings and the knowledge that this is probably going to happen again in a few days or a couple weeks.” – this is tricky because I know I say and do stuff simply because it’s who I am so it will take awhile to undo being “me” knowing it hurts someone I care about.

    And, “I said sorry…isn’t it over now?” is soooo cute but only because it’s not my child 🙂

  3. July 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I feel you on this. I’ve often had the same problem because many folks feel like “I’m sorry” is a get out of jail free card. It’s a tough one, trying to maintain a Christian attitude but not become a pushover.

  4. July 24, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Why not just say, “I’m grateful for the apology, but still concerned about the behavior?” If you can’t be honest and direct with your spouse, who can you be? That’s what I say to my own husband. “Thank you for expressing your regret. I’m still concerned about the cycle we’re caught in.”

    Sure, it hurts the other person to know that the whole event isn’t glossed over- but marriage isn’t supposed to always be pleasant and saccharine. I think the difficulty found in apologizing and accepting apologies help us learn a lot about God and how we relate to him. It’s a good think to think about.

  5. 5 Deacon Blue
    July 24, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Tit fit Tat,

    Good point. You know, my wife does do that from time to time and you’re right, it makes the “thanks” easier. What’s trickier for me is when she says “sorry” and I know she IS sorry, but it still feels like she’s holding back and then I feel like a jerk for still being kinda salty for a while.

    So, I probably have my own crap to work on, too… 😉



    Little Girl Blue’s comment in the car was cute to me, but more only in retrospect when I related it to my wife and she said, “She really said THAT?”


    Big Man,

    I think sometimes it’s good to remind myself that when I say “sorry” I need to make sure I don’t treat it like a get out of jail free car, now that I think of it. Don’t know that I DO do that, but should make sure I pay more attention in case I might be…



    That’s good advice, and something that does happen when we have a BIG argument or something…which is thankfully rare. I’m thinking more about the stress-induced, exhaustion-induced, sometimes PMS-induced fits of meanness that sometimes go over the line of what I’m willing to brush off. In those cases, it may hurt my feelings or wound me, but it doesn’t quite seem serious enough to call out the “behavior.” It’s a tough call because it’s that balancing act of needing to call each other out on stuff sometimes, as well as being willing to take a few hits for the team. And even after nearly a dozen years married, it’s still a tough juggling act. 😛

  6. 6 G
    July 24, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I can’t help you on the Mrs.Blue thing, you guys have a much more healthy relationship than anything I ever have, BUT as for little girl Blue you can teach her that there are three parts to an apology: 1. I’m sorry, 2. I will do my best not to let this happen again, 3. What can I do to make this better?

    If you don’t offer all three then it’s not a real apology to me. She’s pretty young, so I’m not sure exactly how this would work for you guys, but it’s a thought.

    This – by the way – is why most public apologies are worthless to me, no one ever seems interested in the second or third parts.

    And even though I said I wouldn’t wade into the Mrs.Blue thing – is there anything to the idea of accepting the apology and then asking her (maybe later – after the sting is gone a litte) if there’s anything you can do head off her getting into whatever mood it is that causes her to sting you in the first place? In my house we all learned that there were certain things you just didn’t bring up around the first of the month, you know? Self-preservation – just a thought 🙂

  7. 7 robyn
    July 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    an apology doesn’t count unless it includes the intent to not repeat the behavior and to make whatever amends are possible for the upset [as G above states]

    one of the problems that judaism has at times with christians: we often see them washing away their sins, being forgiven AND THEN REPEATING THE SAME BEHAVIOR! you’ll even hear people say, it’s okay, i’ll just go and say a few hail marys and it’ll be alright.

    well, its not. it lacks sincerity. adults have to learn this.

    little girl blue, remember limited attention span and limited memory. give her credit and don’t beat her over the head with it. btw, 16? expect hell starting at age 12 or 13.

    i started to write about fighting with my ex, but i got sick. physically ill. yeah it’s still that bad. i find conflict painful to this day because i have such a fear of it escalating and getting ugly. i can’t say what would have made me feel better because he NEVER apologized for anything, ever. it was ALWAYS, in ALL WAYS, my fault. everything.

    he’d fight with me about the brand of toothpaste i bought. it was constant mental abuse, but i don’t think you’re talking about that.

    i’ve had lots of exes apologize and then do the same thing the next day.

    deep breath. the gentleman i’ve been seeing for 15 months now, we had a serious falling out a few months ago. he said something that hit every button i have, opened all sorts of old wounds. not intentional, things he doesn’t know about me, that i just want to forget. he drove 2-1/2 hours in the middle of the night so we could talk it out, so he could get me, get us through it. he knew it was a crisis for me and he wanted to know what not to do in the future and what he could do to make it better now.
    yes, he apologized for hurting me. but what made the difference is i know he means it, that he won’t do that again.
    my reply: thank you for understanding. i trust you and i have faith in you not to hurt me. you’ve given me a gift [your intent to not repeat] that i’ll keep close to me. you are helping me to heal.

    flowery? maybe. sincere on both sides? absolutely. we’ve both seen a lot and we treasure what we have, so we care for it, for each other.

    in re petty sniping: sit down when there is no pressure and talk about how it eats at you, that it leaves barbs that fester and you don;t like feeling that way.
    make it how Mrs Blue can help keep you feeling good and NOT that it’s her behavior making you feel lousy. put the onus on yourself because ultimately it IS you who controls your reactions. you can be hurt, you can ignore and [deep breath] you can leave.

  8. 8 Deacon Blue
    July 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm


    Good to hear from you…and I’m still psychically (and prayerfully) pulling for a good relationship in which you and the guy can click on all the levels that matter and steer clear of most of the murky ones.

    Your three-step plan is good, but I think I’ll have to settle for #1 and maybe at times #2 when I’m lucky until she’s a little older. 😉

    On the Mrs. Blue matter, the funny thing is that I DO accept the apology. I know it’s generally sincere and even if I’m still grumpy, that passes fairly quick. But it’s just that when the apology comes, I’m sometimes still too salty at that moment to take it the way I WANT to and send the right vibes to my wife. Probably doesn’t help that more often than not, this will happen in the morning, when she’s already cranky and I have the entire ride to daycare and back to simmer, so by the time I’m back in the house, I’ve been on a low, mid or high simmer for a spell.

    So, in that, there’s probably stuff I need to work on in terms of not muttering to myself about the unfairness of it all as I drive back home from the daycare, thus getting myself into a tizzy or keeping the heat higher than it should be.



    Man, I didn’t know your relationships had been so dramatic. For what it’s worth, my condolences.

    And you’re right, I have to own my reactions and control them as well. Things are not helped when I nurse a hurt more than I should and give it legs to keep carrying the stress forward.

    As for puberty and Little Girl Blue, I’m already having nightmares. The only thing that gives me some solace is that of us two parents, statistics are in my favor that I won’t get us much of the hormonal backlash as my wife will.

    Sadly, Little Girl Blue’s puberty/adolescence will be right around the time of likely onset of my wife’s menopause. If any of y’all want to send me sympathy cards in advance, or maybe take up a collection for mental health counseling for me, don’t let me stop you…

  9. July 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    This is one of those times that NVC (Nonviolent Communication) really helps.

    First, remember: the main point is to connect. That is the heart of every attempt at communication. If connection doesn’t happen, communication doesn’t happen. At least, not in any real, significant way. So, were you connecting with Little Girl Blue when she said, “I said sorry…isn’t it over now?” I’m guessing probably not.

    Second, relate it to feelings and needs. “Thank you. I appreciate your apology, because when you ______________, I felt _________________(sad, hurt, angry, annoyed, whatever) because my need(s) for _________________ (safety, appreciation, peace, whatever) weren’t met.”

    It’s a skill that can be learned, and it works. It can also take a long time, and a lot of words, and a lot of experimenting as some things DON’T work. If it gets too formulaic, you have people complaining that you’re “NVC’ing” them. It all goes back to connection: what is it that will connect? Sometimes it might seem completely off topic. Sometimes it might be a deep exploration. With Little Girl Blue, it’s probably going to be simple and quick. It might also be extremely emotional.

    Remember also, that people never do anything for “no reason,” or nonsense. They do things to meet needs. What need is Little Girl Blue trying to meet when she pulls your trigger/has a tantrum? If you can figure out the need – which can be difficult! – you can usually identify a strategy to fill that need that will work better than throwing a tantrum, or whatever Mrs. Blue does.

    I’ll also take issue with the 3-step apology. It’s a good system, but like any one-size-all system, it doesn’t fit all the time. I’ve had instances where I was really angry, and all I needed was an “I’m sorry” – one that I knew was sincere. Each situation is unique, and every rule has exceptions.

    Good luck!

  10. 10 Deacon Blue
    July 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I say this without rancor or harshness toward my little girl, but the reason she throws tantrums is that she wants to be in control.

    At least that’s in most of the cases, IMHO.

    My wife has been known to suggest that I micromanage Little Girl Blue, and I may have been guilty of that at times, but overall, I really do let her have opinions and encourage her to express herself/ask questions and I try to work with her to see where there is middle ground between her wants and my rules/expectations/etc. But I have to be honest, and I think Mrs. Blue is beginning to see my perspective on this, my little girl does not budge very often (particularly with me). To her, throwing a tantrum is the first mode she goes to in many cases. Doesn’t matter how calm, soothing, reasonable, etc. I bring something like bedtime, bath time, eating vegetables, etc. … she will move to whining, whimpering, or full-out tantrum right away in probably 25% of cases (maybe more), the moment I suggest that she do one of those three things, or any time that I even suggest to her that something she REALLY wants to do might not be the best thing to do.

    I really am a fan of NVC…but to be honest, Little Girl Blue often won’t even listen to me or be disuaded from an unwise course until my voice gets raised…and that sucks, because I really hate raising my voice and avoid it whenever possible.

    I am relatively sure that her hard-headed streak will serve her well in later life once she has a moral compass and/or honest compassion in her to temper it. But right now, it mostly serves to cause her and me stress whenever she doesn’t like my plan of action or even my suggestions of what might be good courses of action.

  11. July 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Sounds a lot like my eldest! It’s amazing how little it takes to set him off, and after nine years, he’s got the tantrum down pretty well. On the bright side, this last year it has been tempered quite a bit. I’ve also gotten better at dealing with it.

    So she’s got a need for autonomy. Of course it isn’t met when you tell her she’s got to do something else! The question is, what strategy will meet BOTH your needs? One thing that helped with our boys was to let them wear the clothes they want to wear the next day to bed – no PJ’s. Try explaining what need you’re trying to meet by having her take her bath, etc. – safety (hygiene), and so on. Recognize her need for self-determination/autonomy. Ask her for ideas about ways that she can meet her need and yours, too. Try parenting with, instead of parenting over. And don’t expect it’s going to change much right away – we’re still dealing with it after using NVC for four years. But it has gotten a hell of a lot better.

  12. 12 Deacon Blue
    July 27, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I actually do try to find middle ground but let me give you an example.

    It’s bathtime.

    Lately, she hasn’t wanted to take long baths or play in the bath after washing up. So I just wash her face and hair, hand her the soapy washcloth and then tell her I’ll be back in five minutes to take her.

    I let he know that bathtime in happening in 15 minutes. I give her a 10-minute warning. I give her a five-minute warning.

    “Ok, time for your bath, sweetie.”

    Whining ensues. “I don’t wanna take a bath.”

    “You need to sweetie. But we’ll just do a short…”

    Tantrum begins. Crying and half-incoherent statements about “I don’t want to take a long bath. I don’t want to play”

    Now I am trying to calmly tell her that I’m NOT giving her a long bath. It’s going to just be a quick wash.

    Crying and carrying on continues.

    She doesn’t stop until either me or Mrs. Blue finally puts an edge into our voice and starts counting or talking about Spongebob DVDs going bye-bye for a while.

    Then she mopes and mumbles all the way up the stairs about how she doesn’t want a long bath, as I calmly explain to her that she’s not taking a long bath. Complaining continues. She complains that she doesn’t need to use the potty, even though she was doing the “I need to pee dance” not long before I announced bathtime. So she sits on top of the potty lid with her pants still up. So we have to argue about her going to the bathroom before she wets herself. We have to argue about the teeth brushing.

    Throughout most of this, I’m calm and I’m also explaining that if someone wouldn’t keep arguing with me, someone would already be in the tub and be five minutes away from getting out.

    Basically, even when I offer her what I know she wants, or close to it, she resists it.

    Quite frustrating. Good thing I love her dearly because it’s the only thing that keeps me sane through such exchanges.

  13. 13 32B
    July 27, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    “Sadly, Little Girl Blue’s puberty/adolescence will be right around the time of likely onset of my wife’s menopause. If any of y’all want to send me sympathy cards in advance, or maybe take up a collection for mental health counseling for me, don’t let me stop you…” (Deac)

    Hilarious!! 😀

  14. 14 Black Diaspora
    July 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    “I say this without rancor or harshness toward my little girl, but the reason she throws tantrums is that she wants to be in control.” Deac

    I don’t know if this has been suggested before, because I quickly read the posts, but if Little Girl Blue is clamoring for “control,” well, give it to her. And I don’t mean a spanking!

    Give her two or three choices, options, from which to choose–choices you can live with. That’ll empower her.

    Say: Do you want to take your bath now, or in 10 minutes? Would you like a long bath or a short bath? Would you like a bubble bath, or no bubbles at all? Would you like your rubber ducky, or your rubber frog?

    The idea: Give her choices.

  15. 15 Deacon Blue
    July 27, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Oh, believe me, Black Diaspora, I give choices. But she’s hard-wired to give me drama half the time (at least) even when I do. It may not sound like it from some of the things I’ve complained about here, but I do seek to empower her and give her a hand in decisions. (And for the record, she doesn’t get spanked…not saying she never will, but we’ve avoided it thus far)I also give her room to question me. But she’s a little control freak, I tell you. Dr. Evil in a pint-sized package sometimes, but way cuter and more charming. 😉

  16. 16 robyn
    July 28, 2009 at 1:57 am

    umm… did it occur to anyone to let little girl blue TAKE A SHOWER????

    my kids ONLY took baths when we had a jacuzzi going full of bubbles. offer them a shower and it’s a struggle to get them out of the stall, singing, dancing, shampooed, washed, rinsed. not always as fast as i’d like it [they’d get me soapy again when i was already rinsed] but i always allowed extra time. they’re all morning shower kids, too.

    there’s a story about these identical twins, adopted by different parents. when they meet up about 12 years later, the parents talk to the agency:
    parents of A: OMG, he is a PAIN! he is SO recalcitrant, everything is a struggle. like food: he won’t eat a thing unless we douse it in cinnamon. it is such a horror eating out.
    parents of B: he’s a kid. no, no food issues. we carry this cinnamon shaker, sprinkle a bit on and he eats ANYTHING. even brussel sprouts. it makes traveling a delight.

    every power struggle removed notches the others down.

    btw, menarche and menopause hand-in-hand? i’m living it, as my girls are 19, 16 and 8 and i am 50! [yay, me! and i did 60 miles on the bike yesterday and could have clocked more] it’s not so bad. offer lots of hugs, but figure half the time you’ll just get glared at. not nearly as bad as the 4 year breakdown my ex had, starting when he was 47. male menopause is MUCH uglier than female.

    my GP: robyn, i think you should drink more, a glass or two of wine every night. it’s good for the heart and it’ll cheer you up. and if it doesn’t cheer you up, at least you won’t give a damn.

    you could try that deke. a glass for you, a glass for mrs. blue. if you’re teetotalers, a nice mug of tea, herbal, fruity, spiced chai also works wonders.

  17. 17 Deacon Blue
    July 28, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Great suggestion, robyn. The thing with my particular little girl though is that she’s a little too fearless. Put her in a shower situation and she’d probably dance her way to a head injury. Restraint of movement isn’t her style…LOL.

    Right now, it looks more likely that we might be able to move the “vegetable eating” problem off the list…or the “going to bed” problem…long before the bath problem will get pushed down (or off) the list.

    Not a teatotaller, but I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. So, whenever I’m in parenting mode, I don’t like to be drinking even a small amount. It’s not a control or inebriation issue. It’s more like I fear I may have to drive somewhere at any friggin moment. So, generally speaking I don’t drink much, though I do like beer and wine. My wife’s a tea person, and has her Sleepytime tea from Celestial Seasonings every night…but that’s not my cup of…er…tea I guess. 😛

  18. July 28, 2009 at 5:26 pm


    You know I have 2-year old son, so I feel your pain, man. I appreciate the folks who go the non-violent route, but that ain’t how I do it.

    I use a mixture of tactics, but the main thing I’m trying to teach my son is about choices and consequences. Also, I want him to learn that obedience to me is not optional.

  19. 19 Deacon Blue
    July 28, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Most in the non-violent camp would qualify many of my action as violent, actually.

    I do raise my voice, I do put a nasty edge on it sometimes…and I even sometimes yell. I also have been known to throw an item or two of hers out, permanently and visibly. As these aren’t gentle tactics, the would still keep me from getting a membership card to the non-violent parenting club. 😉

Comments are currently closed.

Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.



You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.



For my public profile, click here.


Tales of the Whethermen

My superhero fiction blog, click here


Raising the Goddess

My parenting blog, click here

Copyright Info and Images

For more about images used on this site, and copyrights regarding them, as well as usage/copyright information about my own writing as posted here, click here.

Deac Tweets


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 833 other followers
July 2009

%d bloggers like this: