Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Two Little Words

There have been a couple of stories in the news recently about public figures who’ve apologized for things they’ve said and done in the past.  I’m not going to get into who or what (I don’t DO celebrity gossip or current events, presidential elections excluded.).  I find these types of stories fascinating.  I think they speak to something kind of profound - the amazing power of those two little words, “I’m ”.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that when someone hurts me a heartfelt  can actually lesson the pain.  When I hear someone say, “I’m sorry I hurt you,” and I believe they mean it, I start to feel better.  Now, there’s a formula to this.  If they wait before apologizing, maybe to see if they’re going to be “in trouble” and then use the “I’m sorry” as a get-out-of-jail-free card then it’s going to mean less.  And yet it won’t be completely meaningless.  That’s just how powerful those words are.  A delayed is still better than no at all.

In fact, with me, I’d say it’s never too late to say I’m sorry.   Those words never really become worthless.

Unless, of course, someone doesn’t mean them at all.  Which I know happens sometimes.  Sometimes people just apologize to get over. Say what they think they have to say.  And then we get into the post apology analysis.  Did he mean?  Was he sincere?  Would he have waited for so long if he really was sorry?

Every situation is different.  Every person is different.  Here’s one thing I know to be true.  People are idiots.  All of us.  Idiots.  We all do incredibly stupid things sometimes.  We all hurt other people, usually those we care about the most.  And sometimes, even though we should, we fail to apologize.  Maybe because we didn’t intend to cause the pain, or because we’re hurting too. Or because we’re just acting like idiots.  And I know that men, for whatever reason, are especially loathe to apologize.

Or maybe sometimes, they’re just outright fearful.  I’m reminded of this boyfriend I had in college.  He was a sweet guy.  He knew the name of every kid in his building and volunteered at a nursing home on weekends.  He was also a womanizing asshole, but as we all know, I used to have a thing for those.  Anyway, we had plans to go away for the weekend.  He was supposed to pick me up right after work on Friday (I was in college, he’d graduated years earlier).  I was all packed and ready to go.  I sat in my apartment and waited for him.  And waited.  Hour after hour.  Finally he called, sometime after 9pm.  By then I was on the phone with a friend, crying and cursing.

I don’t remember the details but basically he’d started talking with the guys from work and before he knew it it was 6 and then 6:30 and it was already too late for us to go and he was afraid to call and tell me.  So when they suggested going out for drinks he figured, why not.  Then he waited until he was drunk to call and tell me we weren’t going and that he was sorry because he was afraid to do it sober.  Now, what he was afraid of, I have no idea.  He was a foot  taller than me and I’d never shown him any sign of my admittedly formidable temper.

I ended up forgiving him and we went away the next weekend.  And I broke up with him months later for some equally boneheaded thing.  Whatever.  The point is, he really was afraid to just pick up the phone and say, “Hey babe, I’m sorry I lost track of time and now it looks like it’s too late for us to go.  Please forgive me.”  I’ll never understand why.  Just like I’ll never understand why other men I’ve known will parse facts and deflect blame so that they feel they don’t owe me an apology when sometimes (maybe a lot of the times) an apology isn’t about fault.  It’s about letting the other person know you care about their feelings and wishing that you could turn back time and undo the thing that’s making them hurt.  Regardless of who’s at fault or why it happened.

At least that’s my take on it.


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7 to “Two Little Words”


  1. bobbyjensen says:

    Hmm I can’t comment on this firsthand because I have always said sorry when I needed to. There really isn’t much to it, but I also believe it must be sincere. I don’t think 90% of the “sorry’s” are sincere.

  2. jenmata says:

    I totally agree, an apology can make anything better. There have been times when I know if the guy just said he was sorry and truly meant it, I would have nothing to be mad at and the whole discussion would be over. But they just seem to not be able to understand that. It beats me really, I have no clue why it’s so hard for them to own up or just show a little remorse and truly repent, or what they are so afraid of, as you say it’s not like we can beat them up. Sorry does get you a long way, at least in my book.

  3. SINgleGIRL says:

    -jenmata
    First, welcome to the site! I would love for a man to explain this to us. I was hoping one would, but this just didn’t seem to be a topic that attracted much attention. I’d like to explore it further in future posts as I think so many of my relationships might have gone differently if only the guys could have understood how meaningful an apology could be.

  4. bobbyjensen says:

    I can try. Although I never had a hard time saying sorry, with sincerity, some hesitation might come from 1) Ego. 2) Past experiences (not being believed and argued with anyway). 3) Ego. 4) Not realizing that one is actually wrong, or the importance of saying sorry. 5) Ego.

  5. SINgleGIRL says:

    -bobbyjensen
    Thank you. I kind of always knew ego was at the heart of it. Which pisses me off even more.

  6. cjw666 says:

    I’m sure you’re all right about ego and so on with guys, but when it comes to corporations, government and their bureaucracy and similar organisations, that’s all most people really want when they screw up – a simple “we got it wrong and we’re sorry” (and mean it, of course). Sadly, todays, blame and litigation culture prevents or inhibits that and I think that spills over into our personal lives. It’s an attitude of mind and it stinks!

  7. SINgleGIRL says:

    -cjw66
    I buy that govt’s and corporations have something to fear when admitting fault (although this is quite recent and very “Western”, the norm in other cultures is to immediately admit fault). But, I’m not quite sure I can see how that carries over to interpersonal relationships.