Almost everyone these days knows what a love language is; if you don’t, it’s the way in which you best express and receive love within your relationships. Some people may show their affection through gifts, acts of service (like cleaning the house or taking your partner’s car in to get their oil changed for them), words of affirmation, quality time, or physical touch. For many couples, each person will have their own way in which they want to be loved. And how they best express their love, and more frequently than not, you have to adjust your expectations and your expressions of love to best fit your partner’s needs. But while love language is more often talked through, not many of us know our apology language, and it shows. If you go around campus and ask anyone, single or not, they will probably say the biggest issue in relationships is communication. While we communicate our love quite well, for the most part, a lot of us struggle with struggle.
So apology languages: what are they? Well, let’s start out with their genesis: Gary Chapman, Ph.D. Dr. Chapman wrote the book The Five Languages of Apology in 2006, and since then apology language has been talked about, but never really blown up to the conversational scale that love languages have. When you boil the book down to its bones, you’ll find that apology languages are ways of saying “I’m sorry” or “Let’s fix this”, and they are extremely important to understand and talk about in your relationships (romantic or otherwise) because it will tell you how to effectively communicate through issues big and small. There’s even an official 5 Love Languages Quiz if you’re stuck on what your apology language might be, but if you don’t have time for a quiz, I’ll break each down for you. But please, keep in mind that apology languages translate to any kind of relationship, not just sexual/romantic ones. I suggest using this information to get you to know yourself better so your friendships, romances, and familial attachments can thrive.
Apology language 1: Expressing regret
This apology centralizes emotional hurt. It is the admission of guilt and reproach in oneself for causing another distress. For those who wish to hear expressions of regret, something as simple as “I’m sorry” may be sufficient without the need for reparations or explanations on why the apologizing party did the things they did. This apology language gets right to the point, and the apologizing party, above all, takes personal responsibility and provides an apology that comes from the heart. This apology language banks on the intent of the apologist to repair or rebuild their relationship with the wronged party in order to move on from the issue.
Apology language 2: Accepting responsibility
We all know that it can be difficult to admit your shortcomings, especially during times of strife. Admitting you are wrong can make you doubt yourself or your worth in relationships, but for many, this vulnerability will show the wronged party that you are able to accept responsibility for your actions. For many, overcoming one’s ego and showing maturity in a difficult situation is indeed difficult, which is why this apology is so meaningful to those who speak this language.
Apology language 3: Genuinely repent
According to the quiz, repentance is “the convincing factor” in an apology. This means that if an apology is given without a person’s desire to change their behavior in similar circumstances in the future, you may not view the apology as sincere or heartfelt. In this, the apologizing party creates an air of vulnerability by admitting their faults and verbalizing their desire to modify their behavior to better navigate situations as to not hurt the other party. Important factors to understand when taking this approach is to actively work on the behavior. Making a decision plan for change and taking steps of action, either alone or with the help of the wronged person, will ensure the promised change comes to fruition.
However, it is important to remember that change is long-term, and can be difficult. You will need to keep in mind that results are not immediate and that the apologizing party may repeat their actions, but the idea is to see a palpable change in their behavior and how they carry themselves after they have wronged you. A false apologist will promise these things and continue with their behavior, oftentimes giving you a facsimile apology after each offense.
Apology language 4: Making restitution
This is an act of justice, where the apologizing party is sincere through the demonstration of their redress. This apology language specifically goes hand in hand with love language, since it uses the wronged party’s love language to apologize to them; this could mean that after an argument, a partner will gift you things, or carry out acts of service in order to earn back your favor.
For someone whose primary apology language is restitution, no amount of verbalized repentance will seem sincere, as it is the tangible effort that the wronged person values. This is not to say that these apologies shouldn’t be paired with verbal apologies, but it is to say that restitution should be accompanied by genuine assurance that the apologist desires to right their wrongs. Without the change in future behavior or acknowledgment of their fault, restitution apologies may be a form of Loan-Sharking, or a manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships where a gift is given in order to receive something from the wronged party, and when it isn’t given, the abusive party uses that against the wronged party. It could also be a form of Love Bombing, a manipulative tactic in which the manipulator uses attention and affection in order to influence the wronged party to change their behavior towards the manipulator and become dependent and obligated to them.
If you are in an abusive relationship (romantic or otherwise) please reach out to your safe, social net (friends, family, mentors, peers) or contact an emotional abuse hotline (Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.)
Apology language 5: Requesting forgiveness
Some people want the apologist to ask for forgiveness, as it shows they recognize they have done something wrong and that they are willing to put the relationship’s future in the hands of the wronged party. This apology language is not easy, because it may result in rejection, and many fear losing their relationships or admitting they are in the wrong. The best thing to do with someone whose apology language is requesting forgiveness is to realize that all of mankind has made mistakes and that this is a universal phenomenon of vulnerability; apologizing and repairing the relationships you have is by far more important and beneficial than being stubborn. However, there is a world of difference between leaving forgiveness in the hands of the wronged party and demanding forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice left in the hands of the offended, to give or to withhold. Demanding forgiveness takes away from the sincerity of requesting it in the first place.
And now that you know the five languages of apologies, I hope you can take this information and have those heart-to-heart conversations with your friends, partners, and family when you find yourself in the thick of it. — Haley Berger