Should You Apologize to an Ex, Even if Years Have Passed?

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Quote on Apologies

While doing my research for this article, I found the general answer to this question was, NO. So in my typical fashion, I’m going to buck the trend and say that, YES, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, you should apologize to an ex. Even if many years have passed.

The following is a list of common arguments against an apology and how I believe they don’t really stand up.

So here we go…

You only want to apologize to ease your own guilt. You were wrong, so deserve to just live with that guilt.

This would have to be the number one sentiment I found. For the most part, it felt like I was viewing a new television game show called “Who Wants to be a Masochist?” So what if the apology rids you of some guilt? If you treated someone poorly and you now see what you did was wrong, you should apologize.

More to the point, it’s ok to acknowledge your progress as a human being, and in doing so, share it with the people you burned along the way. You’re not just ruminating and patting yourself on the back, you’re doing something to remedy the past.

There’s nothing wrong with you getting a payoff from your apology, as long as it’s done with the right intentions.

You might be opening an old wound.

There are two ways to look at this argument. First, you might be opening an old wound, but I doubt it. If what you did truly hurt someone, my guess is if they still harbor bad feelings about what you did, the wound never closed anyway.

Second, though you might open an ‘old’ wound, there’s also a chance you’ll heal an old wound, and your apology may well be what the wronged party needs. Many times when you hurt someone, what they really want is for you to acknowledge the pain caused; when you fail to do that, chances are you’ve caused damage to that person. What you’ve said in the past is, “Your pain doesn’t exist, I didn’t see why I should say sorry.”

By letting that person see you are sorry and that you have also suffered at the hands of your own actions, you are telling them they were not alone in their pain. Do not take this as an invitation to harp on about your suffering, just mention that your self-inflicted regret has affected you and leave it there.

Moreover, the other party may see something good has come from the hurt and your apology may provide a form of absolution. To see that you’ve grown from what has happened, in itself can bring great healing.

couple on beach

Maybe they don’t care anymore and have moved on.

This might be true. Great. In this case, most people, even if they have moved on, will still appreciate your effort. As long as your apology isn’t a veiled excuse to try to get them back and you’re careful not to make it sound like you’re doing them a huge favor by saying sorry. In this instance, it might seem like a redundant apology, but you’re not likely to bruise your ego too much. And at least you’ll find out the damage you caused was not that bad after all.

But it’s a big assumption to think they wouldn’t care. I can promise you, there are a few people I’d love to get an apology from, even if it has been years. The fact is you don’t know what’s going on in another person’s heart, they might want your apology, just as much as you want to give it.

It’s been a long time, why bother?

Because clearly it’s still bothering you, and maybe it’s still bothering them. What does time have to do with it if there’s a chance you can put things right? I say take the chance, it’s never too late to offer peace. The world needs more of it.

You’ll look pathetic, they might react badly.

So what? You did something crappy to another human being, you can afford to lose a little face. Chances are they had their ego dented more than you did.

At the end of the day, you cannot control their reaction, just as much as they couldn’t control yours when you were set on hurting their feelings. If they react badly or call you names, or even worse, ignore your apology altogether; that’s the price you pay for hurting another person. An apology isn’t supposed to be easy, it isn’t supposed to be about you, you’re getting a fair trade.

They might take it as an invitation to come back into your life.

If you’re going to apologize, go to the effort of making your boundaries clear. Even if you would like this person back in your life, an apology is not the time to do it.

Apart from setting boundaries, if they do see your apology as a way back in, with which you’re not comfortable; I suggest using your ability and newfound maturity to let them down gently. Make it clear you’re saying sorry without expecting anything of it and try to distinguish between them wanting back in, versus them wanting some answers. Your apology may instigate some lingering questions, answer them and let the other party have their closure too. An apology isn’t about you unleashing the words ‘I’m sorry’ and wiping your hands clean of the situation.

But I wasn’t the only guilty party.

This may be the case but remember, we’re big kids now. I’ve been in situations where it was obvious I was the wronged party. I’m talking about dating a serial cheater who was emotionally abusive, but you know what, in the end, I still apologized for what I did and the ways I acted out. I had every right to argue his behavior was the reason for my inflicting pain but ultimately I’m a grown woman and I’m the one responsible for how I act. I said sorry and I never got an apology back, but my own apology did help me to close the door on a bad relationship.

Black and white photo of couple

But be warned…

An apology has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the person you hurt. Yes, you might lose some guilt from doing it, but that is not the point. The reason many advice columns say not to apologize is that so many apologies are done incorrectly and for weak reasons.

When giving an apology you should not expect to be forgiven. There’s a chance that what you did hurt your ex bad enough that they are not in a place to give forgiveness. Or maybe life hasn’t given them an opportunity to heal in the same way you have and they can’t find it in their heart to forgive you. That is their prerogative and chances are the hurt you caused is greater than the guilt you feel. But you never know. Saying sorry could be a big step in them finding their healing.

Lastly, the keystone to a great apology is to stick to apologizing for what YOU did. Make a list of what you did wrong, under each of these list how you believe the other person was likely made to feel. Do not make excuses for why you did what you did. No one cares why, even if they are the ones asking. The main point is you’ve grown and you’re owning up to it.

But remember, in the end, your words mean little if your actions don’t reflect what you say. If you claim to have learned your lessons, be sure that your behavior in life correlates to that and you are not just repeating old mistakes. Otherwise, it’s better your apology is left unsaid.

P.S. Here is an article on how to write a good apology. And whatever you do, do not say “I’m sorry you were hurt”, no one wants to hear you apologize for how they feel.

P.P.S. The one exception to all I’ve said is this: If an ex has in the past outright asked you to leave them alone and/or never contact them again, PLEASE respect their wishes. Don’t ever contact someone who has been clear with their boundaries.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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      • Andrew emil
        May 19, 2017 - 7:08 am · Reply

        Just wanted to say that this is one of the very few articles online that actually kinda answers the question based on real understanding of the different scenarios or feelings associated. Is it possible to write you an email with a question?

      • Janie Noles
        December 21, 2017 - 12:23 pm · Reply

        Thanks so much for the article. I was married for 50 years, he was a good man but I just had so much on me. I had everything to do with no help and I had an affair, which I am not proud of, I got caught and rushed and got a divorce without giving it enough thought. I am so sorry and ashamed of what I did. I have met someone but still feel so sorry for my ex husband. I know he wants me to come home. I miss him a lot and our family, grown sons and grandchildren. I am so ashamed, I wish I was still with him. Any advice would help. Thank you.

        • Thomas
          March 20, 2020 - 10:14 pm · Reply

          I just want to say that I understand some of your situation. After 50 years it must feel like a part of you is missing. I am in a similar situation. My issue in apologizing is the reason why; Am I doing it for me, or am I doing it for her?

  • suzie
    March 26, 2015 - 8:25 am · Reply

    An ex is in the midst of apologizing to me (via text). First, however, he thanked me for not lashing out at him right after our break up and said that showed character. I’m guessing he’s just been through another breakup and she DID lash out. Part of me feels like he wants me back in his life, which I could consider, but I’m also seeing all kinds of red flags.

      • Katerina Simms
        March 29, 2015 - 10:12 am · Reply

        Maybe in his case it took a bad experience to appreciate that he had a good thing with you? Also account for the fact that in hindsight many people romanticise their ex and dumb-down the negatives from their past relationship – that means both you and him.

        Personally, I’d ask him to meet in person, for no other reason than apologies always mean more and require more risk when delivered that way than via text. It’s also easier to manipulate conversation via text as there’s time to think of replies and room for misinterpretation when you can’t see how someone’s sentiments are being delivered.

        Despite popular opinion, I don’t subscribe to the old ‘once an ex always an ex’ tribe. It’s Okay for you to consider taking him back, HOWEVER there’s a reason (or maybe many reasons) you two broke up. Whatever the reasons are, something needs to have changed for your future to work. Other couples have done it, but the odds aren’t in your favour. As long as you’re aware of that, just be cautious and see where this goes.

    • Lisa
      February 17, 2023 - 12:34 am · Reply

      Nah, I don’t want any apologies from anyone that hurt me.
      It’s for them not me..
      And I’m certainty not trying to make them feel better. Not my responsibility. They usually dont go on to live great lives. God will balance the scales and theyll get back what they dished out. My only job is to forgive myself and heal myself. I don’t need them for that. Make no mistake about it. The best thing a person can do who’s hurt someone is move on. And leave the other person alone. Trying to relieve guilty feelings is again being selfish. We’re not here for your healing but our own.

      • Katerina Simms
        February 18, 2023 - 10:02 pm · Reply

        Completely fair and valid point, one should especially not wait around hoping for an apology, before getting on with their life. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a few apologies, but I’m not sure I could give certain instances any forgiveness in return. It’s not something you can demand just because you’re ready.

  • A.A
    May 29, 2015 - 1:49 pm · Reply

    Hi. This was really helpful in clearing out alot of my fears. Yes I want closure. Yes I want to feel a little less guilty. And yes I am afraid he may have moved on or I would reopen his wounds. but your arguments make so much sense that my months of fretting are over! 🙂

    I have been living with so much guilt for almost 5 and a half years now because it all ended so spontaneously. We didn’t even get a chance to share how we felt about each other. I lost my patience with his ’emotional unavailability’ and aloofness I guess. It started feeling so onesided at some point. I didn’t know how to show him that except with silent treatment..he thought I had broken up with him (I was young and stupid-17 yrs to be precise). If only he had asked. What’s worse is that his friends led him to believe that I had cheated on him and left him for another guy who was actually my bestfriend.
    As years go by, I realize I had truly loved this guy and I still care even though there is no part of him left in my present.
    For all these years I have wanted to tell him that I never meant for it to end that way and that I never left him for another guy. Even if he doesn’t wish to give ‘us’ another chance I still want to get this overdued message/apology across.. I know I left him hurting terribly. For the first two years he probably still believed there was hope but after that he removed me from his contacts and lists which was really the only way to contact him cause he had relocated to another continent right after I ‘left’ him (for his undergrad that I hadn’t known about either at that time).

    So now the only way to reach him would be a facebook private message. :/Do you think that’s a bad idea?
    Are my reasons right enough to resurface in his life out nowhere? (I know for myself they are but are they for him?)
    I am also afraid that what if he wants me back but realizes I am not the same person he fell in love with? I have gone through so many downfalls in these years. I am not the same person I know because I have lost so many friends since then because of my damaged personality.. Is there also a concept of apologizing ‘at the right time’? Should I wait till when I get myself back together (the reason why I’ve been waiting fr these past years)?

      • Katerina Simms
        May 31, 2015 - 11:00 pm · Reply

        Hi, thanks for your message. I’m glad you found my post helpful!

        My advice, first and foremost––> DON’T get your friend to talk for you. This apology needs to come 100% from you. You seem to hold a lot of doubts, I think the best way to deal with those is to do as my post states––go into this apology expecting absolutely nothing back. And I mean NOTHING, not even a reply. That way, whatever happens, you can’t be disappointed.

        I want to also address this phrase from you, “It started feeling so onesided at some point. I didn’t know how to show him that except with silent treatment..he thought I had broken up with him (I was young and stupid-17 yrs to be precise). If only he had asked. DO NOT even mention this if you apologise, otherwise you risk looking like you’re placing blame on him. You were both young, and made mistakes––own up to yours, which was not to talk to him. Whether or not he wants to take ownership over not asking you is his business, and not your place to dictate. I would however mention to him that his friend’s claims about you cheating are not true.

        “I am also afraid that what if he wants me back but realizes I am not the same person he fell in love with?” You seem to be going into this apology with a sense of hope that he WILL take you back. As I mention in my post, don’t go into this with ANY preconception of anything happening, ESPECIALLY if you feel your life isn’t in the right place for a relationship. Apologise because it’s the right thing to do––without any other reason behind it. The relationship stuff I would leave up to fate. Of course both of you have changed. Have you ever thought that maybe he might have also changed in a way that is no longer compatible with who you are? Take one day at a time, keep this apology simple by addressing what YOU did wrong, and don’t make this bigger than it needs to be.

        • A.A
          June 1, 2015 - 10:30 pm · Reply

          Thank you, Katerina! 🙂 I was waiting eagerly for this reply. You’re right, I must do this only because this is the right thing to do (exactly why it’s been on my mind for months). Irrespective of whether I get a reply or not, delivering the apology should be my prime focus. It might just help liberate me from the guilt and help me to move on.

  • S.J
    June 9, 2015 - 11:11 pm · Reply

    Hi Katerina,

    I’m glad I’ve found this article… I need a little advice, if you read this in time!

    I broke up with my ex a couple of months ago (don’t want to go into great detail, but basically it’s because I was confused/unsure as it was my first serious relationship so had no clue), but now I really regret it.

    I still care for him, a lot. I’m scared I’ll always just think of him and nobody else. We work together so it makes it even harder to deal with. I’ve wanted to apologise for hurting him and explain. I told him “I need to talk to you” (out of nerves, I would have worded it a lot better but I’m a bit rubbish when confrontation and it was in passing… I know, that was stupid). I really do want to apologise to him, for him. I would like to be friends again but I know that there is a possibility that he has moved on completely and it won’t be an option… which absolutely kills me… But it’s my fault.

    I was wondering, am I doing the right thing? I get some answers of “yes” and some of “NO! Why would you do that?!” and now I’m worried about what to say… but it feels like I need to do this so he knows that I didn’t break up with him in the spur of a moment thing… if that makes sense? I’m seeing him some time this week so I’m trying to find the words to write down so I can do this properly and make sure that he knows that I’m not just doing this for me. There’s no way out of this either way I guess as I said that I need to talk to him. I’m so confused this has been on my mind for so long 🙁

    • Katerina Simms
      June 10, 2015 - 11:18 am · Reply

      Hi S.J,

      Thank you for contacting me. I guess whether or not you apologise comes down to whether saving face is more important to you than perhaps giving yourself (and hopefully him) some closure. Personally, I’d go for the apology. As mentioned in my article, I’ve apologised for my mistakes even when I was the lesser of two evils––it really did help me let go of a lot––but not everything. You might also like this article I wrote: http://katerinasimms.com/how-to-forget-a-past-love/ essentially, you very well may always think of him, many of us do think of partners years and decades after a breakup. And it’s not always a bad thing or a sign you need to be with that person, it just is what it is.

      As to what to tell him, I like what you wrote here:
      I told him “I need to talk to you” (out of nerves, I would have worded it a lot better but I’m a bit rubbish when confrontation and it was in passing… I know, that was stupid). I really do want to apologise to him, for him. I would like to be friends again but I know that there is a possibility that he has moved on completely and it won’t be an option… which absolutely kills me… But it’s my fault.

      Tell him some variation of this, be open and honest––for two reasons––so he has all the information and so you don’t walk away wishing you’d said something but didn’t say it. I’m not sure if this will be helpful to you, but I also came across this video this week. It’s a little too ‘new age’ for what I’d say (please don’t start talking about a vortex), but the core message of feeling separated from ourselves within a relationship is well described https://www.facebook.com/monique.vandervleuten.7/videos/vb.100001720568878/161043580629660/?type=2&theater. Perhaps if this applies to your reasons for ending the relationship, you come come up with a variation of these words to explain.

  • Mike
    June 17, 2015 - 7:41 pm · Reply

    this is a very helpful article but I still need a little help. I hurt an ex almost 16 years ago and while we have both gone our separate ways, I still feel terrible. We were only together for a short time but had some good times. I was 18 and the jealous type and acted poorly. I never ever intended to treat her bad or make her cry and to this day it makes me upset on how i made her feel. It’s been bothering me lately and It is not that I’m looking to get anything from it, but I feel compelled to apologize. We were young and I was stupid for making stupid mistakes at that age. Our last conversation was over 16 yeas ago and since then we both have got married and had kids and grown up. Over the years I think about how I was then and how poorly I treated her. I highly doubt she cares about how bad I feel, and I don’t want to upset her or her family. I have had dreams about her being angry or upset with me and I wake up wanting to message her online to say my peace, but I’m not sure if it is the right thing to do. I wish her well and don’t expect a response, but my soul needs to make amends. I feel lIke it is wOrth it sometimes and others I feel like all I would do is upset her or anger her family. I have grown up and realized that I was immature then, and have realized the faults I have made. I want to say how sorry I am for being that guy back then. It may be the past but it haunts my future. Any advice?

    • Believe
      June 3, 2016 - 5:07 pm · Reply

      Obviously she meant a lot to you and you made a mistake leaving her. I would reach out to her and have that closure.

    • Katerina Simms
      March 27, 2017 - 8:29 pm · Reply

      My advice, Mike, is that you’ve laid the situation and your feeling out pretty well already in this comment. Provided you weren’t out and out abusive back in the day, use some of what you’ve written here and contact her. Your reasoning sounds understandable enough. It’s been a very long time, chances are she’s healed from those days and won’t mind you explaining and apologizing. As long as you don’t expect anything from her, I don’t see why her or her family should be angry at you. For every story of an ex’s contact upsetting someone, there’s another story of the contact being healing – you really can only roll the dice and see how this plays out.

    • CC
      June 2, 2020 - 10:17 pm · Reply

      I just stumbled upon this article and it’s really amazing to hear from people and how much they have changed for the better. I was recently thinking about an ex. He actually hurt me more than I did him. It was a really bad experience for me. But since him I’ve gotten in other relationships and one in particular was actually a lot emotionally worse with a lot of deceit and immaturity. I don’t know if I had to experience a worse situation to realize that we fought over stupid stuff. I had drunk texted him or one of his family members two weeks ago. I freaked out and changed my phone number. But he still lives near our hometown. I don’t want to establish a relationship with him again but I feel that I need to make amends with him. I feel like he did genuinely cared about me and I did too but he had anger problems and other unresolved problems which is why I had left the relationship.

  • angel
    July 26, 2015 - 5:19 am · Reply

    hi katerina
    should i talk to my ex lover wife and ask firgiveness because until now she is upset to me.

  • Yvonne
    November 12, 2015 - 3:41 am · Reply

    Hi, there!
    I’m absolutely so thankful of this article!

    Just a few days ago, something happened between this boy and I. We weren’t actually in a relationship yet but we were exclusively dating. You see, I’ve been living with clinical depression and anxiety for a few years now, and although I know its not right to base your happiness from someone else other than yourself, he became such a breath of fresh air from a long time of being suffocated in darkness. I was so happy and I started to feel like my old self again when my anxiety just kept nudging me that this guy just isn’t right. It bothered me to a point where my thoughts pretty much obsessed with knowing the reason why this great guy would want to be with me. I started asking about him to people who knew him they said a lot of things but what really got me scared was that he’s sort of a playboy.

    I was absolutely scared to be toyed with, I guess everyone is. But he’s the first guy I’d ever allowed myself to date and even kiss for the first time (I’m 21 and he’s 25). So he learned about how I kept asking about him and I stopped contacting him for a while. Then when I came back to my senses, I realized that what I did wasn’t really fair for him. I completely judged him based on the opinions of others. So when I tried to contact him, he didn’t really want to have to do anything with me anymore. I guess that kinda stung, but we agreed to meet up and talk but that never happened. He wouldn’t talk or want to see me anymore.

    I guess I don’t really want us getting back together, but I’d just really wanted to explain myself on why I acted that way. I really want to apologize and I really want to tell him how important he was to me and in my recovery. I never got to tell him that I had depression. I’m giving him space but it only happened very recently. I just really want to apologize, but I guess I can’t right now. We’d make really great friends too and I wouldn’t be awkward about it, I still sort of want to keep him in my life, but not in any romantic way.

    I was just sort of wondering if I’m doing the right thing? I’ll wait for the right time to apologize if I have to but when will I know if its the right time?

    • Katerina Simms
      November 13, 2015 - 1:04 pm · Reply

      You sound really self aware and I like that, I’m glad you’re able to see what motivated you in this relationship. Personally, I’d write him a letter/email detailing your apology, but don’t include anything about wanting anything from him–including friendship–that can come later if he’s receptive. Chances are he’ll still ignore you, but it’ll make you feel better to at least know that he knows. Mind you, don’t put this guy on a pedestal. Sometimes when we are depressed we can fall for people who are not 100% brilliant themselves, sometimes there IS value in considering someone’s reputation. I don’t think you were entirely wrong in stepping back. You might like to read my article on why we choose to love bad people, it might not apply completely to your situation, but it might bring up some questions as to why and if you should push any kind of relationship with this guy.

  • Onze
    December 31, 2015 - 9:24 am · Reply

    This is amazing. I have someone I have wanted to apologize to 17 years, but every friend I talk to about it says no way! He was my boyfriend in a difficult time in my life and I took out my pain on him; he is the only person I have ever been truly unkind to and completely selfish with. I think about him all the time. I feel terrible for breaking his heart, for keeping him hanging, for lying about my feelings for him- I was mean and I want him to know that it wasn’t anything he did that made me so awful, and that I’m not actually an awful person. I am married and living hundreds of miles away, but I fantasize about sending him a letter. Would I get the results I am hoping for? Would it just make him angry? Would I be betraying my husband to reach out (non-romantically) to an ex? I am so torn…

  • Sharyn
    March 25, 2016 - 4:20 pm · Reply

    Thank you for your post… I just wrote an email to my ex whom I broke up almost 10 years ago. I did write that i wanted to write him for a long time but didn’t know if it was aporopriate and also that I didn’t expect him to reply to me. I just want a better closure because he deserves it and it would also help me as well. It really helps me lift a heavy burden off my chest. Being married really puts the past in perspective and make me feel like a lot of what we said and do were childish and immature…. Arguing over little minute things.

  • Caution
    May 3, 2016 - 4:24 am · Reply

    Where was this article a month ago!! LOL! Everyone speaks as though doing this is such a horrible thing. I said to hell with it and wrote the dude a letter. After 17 agonizing years, I finally tied up my loose ends. I didn’t do it for anyone else but ME because I deserve to have peace too.
    And who knows, maybe he finally has his too.
    Sometimes, we do have to throw caution in the wind. Otherwise, we will look back and ask ourselves why we never did. We almost always regret the things we don’t do.

    Go for it.

    • Katerina Simms
      May 3, 2016 - 10:48 am · Reply

      Thank you, I’m glad we share a viewpoint on this topic. I also like that you’ve taken a light-hearted approach to the apology process. There’s nothing wrong with tying up loose ends and trying to make good for the past. Life is a process of learning––if you’re doing it right that is. 😀

  • Xavier
    August 15, 2016 - 2:44 am · Reply

    Hi, thank you for the article it was the most logical article I’ve come across. I’d like some advice as my situation is a bit different ( very few situations are identical ) I’ve broken up with a girl a few months ago and feel like I should apologize

    I’ll try to summarize the details. I have had one relationship before the first ‘relationship’ with the girl(I’ll refer to her as Priya to maintain anonymity) I want to apologize to, this first relationship ended with the other girl cheating, then I entered into to an unofficial relationship with Priya, after a year I cut off contact with Priya for no reason whatsoever and entered into another relationship with someone else and got cheated on,which I ended when I found out and then entered into a 4th relationship with another girl, during this relationship I got back into contact with Priya and we became best friends(I had not cheated on my girlfriend with Priya). She had forgiven me for disappearing. After a year and a half in this 4th relationship, my girlfriend at that time had cheated on me and I had also ended that relationship upon discovering this. Priya and I were now best friends and I was obviously in a bad place but she took care of everything and made this time really easy for me. Our feelings resurfaced and we entered into an official relationship for about a year and then I became really close to another girl and started developing feelings for her so I ended my relationship with Priya(with the fear that I might have cheated on her if I continued with the relationship). After a month I entered into a relationship the girl I developed feelings for and she is currently my girlfriend. I don’t want to hurt my current girlfriend either. I haven’t spoken to Priya for 2 months. Her friends are also very angry(which is understandable) with me. Priya does not know why I broke up with her or that I’m already in a relationship. I don’t want to enter her life again because I’ll end up hurting her again. I’ve cut off contact with almost everyone so I’m currently not sure if Priya has found out that I’m in a relationship. She is a very sweet girl but I don’t know if she will want an apology especially considering this is the second time I’ve done this… The guilt is a bit unbearable but if the apology is not something she would want then I would not want to force it on her just to ease my own guilt … please let me know what I should do

  • M..
    August 29, 2016 - 4:47 pm · Reply

    Your article really helped me to to apologize to my ex.
    I now known that she has moved on and is happy in her life which I’m glad for her.
    Thank you.

  • Adam
    October 22, 2016 - 3:39 am · Reply

    Katerina, I really enjoyed your video, and I think this is wonderful advice. Although, I have some grey areas I thought you could possibly shed some light on for me (if you don’t mind). I have apologized in the past and for all the wrong reasons. That was many years ago and I finally feel the need to apologize wholeheartedly. Is it acceptable to do this? I feel as though I may come across sounding like a broken record. The thing is I can tell when an apology is not met with sincerity, as I’m sure she could too. I just don’t know how to handle this kind of case.

  • P P
    November 10, 2016 - 8:03 am · Reply

    Hi I’ve been reading your comments and they seem very sensible therefore can you help as I’m thinking of apologising but not sure?

    I met a woman 2yrs ago and we got on so well it was a bit scary, she was scared that we got so clos so soon, we spoke all the time, she would always call over for hugs etc and said she’s not letting go of me and that she wished she met me years ago, the only bad thing was that she is a bit childish,

    Anyway we argued one night of which she apologised and said she missed me a few days later. She said she was free all weekend but I had plans to go out with some mates which she didn’t like but I offered to cancel so I could see her she said that I’ve made plans I should stick to them, so I went out then that night she text me to say we’re finished!!

    Anyway she wouldn’t talk to me and told her friends I wanted to much to soon, when her friends told me this I showed them the text and they said “Oh it’s not just me its her to” I guess she did t like being proven wrong

    She met somebody else very soon but was having problems with him, she then came near my place of work so we started talking again and she was reminiscing over old times this went on for a few months then she went back to her other man, when I put a post on Facebook a few months later she commented on it, I then put a video post on Facebook about some cooking and she got her friend to comment and basically asked to taste my food??

    I later found out that they had argued about me because the man she was with was very very jealous or threatened by me even though I had never met him??

    So we haven’t spoken again for a while because spilt from him and got a new man but has been staring at me when we drive past each other also a friend picked her up in his taxi a while ago and he said when they drove past the shop I work at she was staring at the shop??

    The last time we spoke via text she said I have caused her problems so even though she wanted to be friends she said we can’t, but then a few days later she went to the shop next to where I work as she knows I always buy food there and I was in there but I ignored here.

    I just don’t know if I should apologise to her, I just don’t want to argue with her anymore as we live near each other so will continue to bump into each other, I’m not perfect but I would rather say hi when we bump into each other because I get the feeling she would like the same.

    Apologies for the long message

  • budster
    February 9, 2017 - 8:19 am · Reply

    If it has been a great deal of time since the breakup like a year(s) than don’t do it. Chances are they won’t care anymore and at best you will get a “thanks, gotta go now” followed by an eye roll when they hangup.

  • Chole
    March 27, 2017 - 9:02 am · Reply

    Hey Katrina,
    I left my boyfriend twice. And it was both times because he was emotionally unstable and so was I so we were not a healthy match. Now after a few months of ‘ghosting’ him, ignoring all his texts and leaving him on read, he has stopped even trying with me. I feel like I have really hurt him. He didn’t know about my own emotional instability and would really like to explain myself with him and maybe get back together because I miss him a lot. I love him and I know he loved me, we just had our issues. I don’t want him thinking I didn’t love him and that he wasn’t enough for me. I need to explain myself. I’m just not sure if I try to text him if he will retaliate in anger or not. Or if it will hurt him and delay his own healing process. I really don’t know what to do. I once read that ‘just because your unsure of your feelings, that doesn’t mean you should screw with mine’, I feel like that’s what I’m doing now and should maybe just let it be but at the same time, I feel like we both deserve more.

    • Katerina Simms
      March 27, 2017 - 8:12 pm · Reply

      I can only speak from my own experience as someone who’s been ghosted. I would have, and still would, like to know the truth behind what happened. I’m not sure I would respond back – as you said – it’d feel like opening old wounds. But I’d still appreciate knowing.

      When you say you fear your ex will retaliate in anger, if you mean literally try to hurt or damage you, then please do not contact him. If you mean he’ll likely just send a peeved email – well, maybe it’s still worth pursuing. You have to weigh up what the worse case scenario is and if you can handle that. I wouldn’t go in right away trying to rekindle things. Best to see what emotional state you’re both in and if enough has changed and will be different this next time around for this to perhaps go differently. Otherwise you’ll just be playing the same old broken record.

      • Anne
        August 1, 2017 - 4:41 pm · Reply

        Awesome article Katerina!

        I’m thinking of apologizing to ex after long 12 years. Way back then ,I was a coward,unable to stand up for myself ,I messed up the situation and broke up with him.Even after ages, I’m still ashamed of my awful behavior. As I progressed as human, I really feel that I should send a wholehearted apology to him , not just for my self but he too deserves it.Don’t know how I’m going to do thia.As both of us have moved on and are happy with our current situation, I’m not sure how he’s going to react.

  • Zmob
    April 24, 2017 - 8:27 am · Reply

    Okay so I have childhood ex that I havent seen for about 5 years now because me and my family decided to move somewhat far away at the time… Only temporary though .. 4 years was the plan, but now it’s been extended to 6 years. The thing is I have been the biggest jerk to her in these 5 years. While she tried hard to keep the contact with me, I have mainly replied in short ways as if I wasn’t interested in keeping the contact at all. I am not sure why I have been acting this way. Maybe it’s because I knew that I would move back there one day. In all these years she told me things like “you can’t imagine how much I miss you.. I have a picture of you on my wall” or “you keep appearing in my dreams but I am beginning to realize it’s not real” .. You have no idea how shameful I feel when I read these messages today .. She is the person that I see most in my dreams, but I never told her. Actually, whenever I wake up from a dream she appeared in, I feel that we have a special connection that I have felt no one else.. It took me 5 years to realize just how important she is to me, and now I would like to apologize in the best possible way. The last message she wrote, was that she had a dream about me, that I had become a criminal and that being the reason that I could not come back to her.. Two days after that, she got in a relationship.. .. So I really want some advice on what to do. I will be moving back soon and I want her back in my life even though if it’s just as a friend.

  • Dan
    October 8, 2017 - 1:56 pm · Reply

    Thank you for this article. You have said what I initially believed but started doubting myself. After 30 years I found some letters from a girlfriend whom I have never truly forgotten. After reading those letters and reflecting on what I remember of how the relationship ended it dawned on me about how she may have been hurt. Also having seen my own daughters experience breakups I am more aware of how females view things. I am truly heart broken and I so want to apologize. I have been searching for her every day in the evenings for some time now but it is like she lives off of the grid. What I really want to know and hope is that is that she found someone who deserves to be with her; someone better than I. That she found someone to love her and whom she loves. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever discover the answer. Again, thank you for writing exactly what I believe.

    • Katerina Simms
      October 8, 2017 - 6:39 pm · Reply

      Hello Dan,

      Thank you for your lovely message. I’m so glad you’ve come to the realisations you have, even if you can’t make that apology. The fact you’ve grown and learned from the experience means that it wasn’t all for nothing. I believe we are on this earth to learn and love, and learn about love. So perhaps your experience was meant to happen so you could both progress in some way.

  • Mike
    October 26, 2017 - 12:51 pm · Reply

    Hi Katerina! I came across this recently and I’m in the process of writing an apology letter to my. If I sent it to you, would you be willing to take a look and tell me your thoughts? I’m concerned that it might come off as self-serving or I’m making excuses.

    Thank you,


  • bluehairedgirl
    December 23, 2017 - 11:02 am · Reply

    I want to apologise more than anything. The guilt of hurting someone so badly is ruining my day to day life months later and it feels like it wont end. I guess this is a selfish reason for an apology but I also want them to know how sorry I am because I think they’d trust love in future. And trust what we had more, as a better memory. The issue is, I’m fucking terrified. Like actually terrified. I don’t know how to approach the situation. I’ve been trying to ignore it because I can’t solve it.

  • Liam
    March 30, 2018 - 4:53 am · Reply

    Hi Katerina,

    Thanks so much for the post. I have been dealing with guilt and regret for hurting my 1st love about 14 years ago. Due to moving out of the country with my parents, at the age of 19, our relationship became long distance.

    At first things were going well although we were miles apart. He was a really nice and loved me like crazy. However, after few months, my mom found out about us and started to emotionally torture me and watching my each steps (she wanted me to marry someone else). Around the same time, I found out that my ex lied to me about stopping his smoking habit. He previously promised me and said that he was not smoking any more which was a lie. I got really mad and stopped calling him/emailing him and told him that I won’t talk to him until he stops smoking. He was just not ready to quit. I remember being very mean to him those days. I would not call him like I did before, I would not email him like I did before. He was also not communicating as much as he did before. Only once a month he would call me and yell at me saying that I have changed so much, and that I don’t care about him anymore. In response I used to talk to him very rudely and said very hurtful things. Now, I realize that I should not have cut our communication just because of his smoking. He was a chain smoker. It was actually hard for him to quit.

    Few months later, my mom’s emotional blackmail raised to its peak. She started to threat me that she will die/commit suicide if I keep this relationship. I just could not take all these pressure anymore besides our communication also fell apart so much that one day I just sent him an email and broke up with him. He called me immediately and asked me if he could still talk to me time to time. Then to make sure that he does not call me anymore, I told him a lie “I can not talk to you anymore cause one of my guy friend will not like that”. I wanted him to think that I was with some other guy (and told him the name of a friend of mine) so that he would stop calling me completely. I really pissed him off and he stopped all of his communication with me. I was severely depressed afterwards. That friend of mine asked me out a month or so later. I did not really have any feelings for this friend (plus he was a player kind of guy, so i knew this would never work), plus my mom started to warn me about this friend. Then to take revenge on my mom, I started dating this rebound guy which lasted only one month. At this point of my life, I just did not care anymore about what my mother wanted/thought, so I reached out to my first love again as I had strong feelings for him. But it was too late and I could tell he really hated me at that point cause he thought I left him for another guy. Maybe 2 months later before visiting my home country, I chatted with my first bf and he asked me if we could meet once. I tried to contact him one more time a month later when I was visiting my home country, but sadly he said he does not want to talk to me any more. That was the last time we ever contacted each other.

    Now I am married, have kid. He also got married few years ago. I am happy with my life but I often think about him and think what I did wrong. I can’t believe how stupid I was. How could I hurt a person like that? How could I be so cruel? I just can’t believe that I did such inhuman things to the person I loved. I hurt him pretty bad. I broke our promises. I left him alone with all the wounds. I have been thinking a lot about apologizing to him, although I highly doubt he cares anymore. Reading your article, I feel like I should send him an apology letter. Do you think it will be appropriate to send him a letter to his home? Or should I send him an email? Please let me know. I want to send him a true apology, not expecting anything back and bring a real closure to the relationship.


  • Anony
    April 12, 2019 - 6:57 am · Reply

    Hello and the post you made was something. I prefer not to have people apologize to me as I believe actions speaks louder than words. So basically I hear empty words and I’ll be like, whatever as it doesn’t do anything to me. If you feel like saying sorry and feel sorry for yourself and change, don’t tell me anything, work on yourself! By then I’ll see if you changed or not. That’s it.

    • Anony
      April 12, 2019 - 8:05 am · Reply

      Not to mention, if you apologize and they say nasty things to you after, then it’s they who should to apologize. I would rather say something nasty back to them. Like I said, I prefer actions over words.

  • Bo
    April 14, 2019 - 12:27 am · Reply


    I wouldn’t apologize. That person more than likely forgot about it. More than ever, I wouldn’t accept an apology from others as they mean nothing to me. Actions seems to work over this kind of matter. Write a letter, stating why you should apologize and your feelings then burn it. I heard this works. That’s it.

  • Anony
    April 25, 2019 - 4:39 am · Reply

    I wouldn’t apologize because that shows empty words. I was given sorries from people by only saying “I’m sorry” and that didn’t work. They used over forms of words and that still doesn’t work. I say use action over words works best. Mainly because if you apologize, to someone like me for example, it will sound cheap. Talk is cheap. I will then tell that person to change by action, not words so by saying or working up an apology won’t work for me. Change your behavior and I want proof, otherwise your wasting your time.

  • Sandy
    July 11, 2019 - 3:16 pm · Reply

    I had this really crazy relationship with this guy a long time ago and it ended really badly. We both treated each other bad. But in 2003 right before I was about to go overseas into the combat zone I sat down and wrote him a long apology/forgivness letter even though our brief relationship had ended years before. I sent it to his parents house and I don’t even know if he ever read it and if he did I doubt he cared. But the thought that I could die without taking responsibility for the way I had treated him was just not something I could do. I had another boyfriend who had been murdered shortly before that and there was so much that I never was able to say to him. So I also felt I needed this guy to know that I didn’t harbor any malice towards him in case I died. I know people roll their eyes over closure apology letters but once you understand how it feels to lose people without it, you never want anyone to feel that, esp someone you once loved. If your intentions are really about forgiveness and not about manipulation, I think you should absolutely write the letter and if the person who receives it doesn’t understand then that is okay bc at least somewhere inside them there is a weight removed whether it be hurt feelings or regret.

  • Julie
    October 21, 2020 - 1:23 pm · Reply

    Hi the link to the sample of good apology letter can’t be found. Could you update please? Would be helpful thanks

    • Katerina Simms
      October 21, 2020 - 10:29 pm · Reply

      Thanks heaps for alerting me to this issue, Julie! I’ve linked to a new article that has an easy-to-follow apology formula. 🙂

  • Kira
    April 10, 2021 - 3:17 am · Reply

    This is a very wise article. Thank you for it.
    I myself was hesitant to message an old friend after 7 years. But in the end I am going to do it. To express my gratitude for the time we spent together. And to say I am sorry for all the times when I, intentionally and unintentionally, hurt him. I do not expect him to share my feelings or even to reply to me. But it is important for me to let him know how thankful I am. In order to be able to let go.
    And returning to the article, I think you are right, and any person would like to hear an apology, even a small one, even from far away past. I also have a few people I used to know from who I would like to receive an apology even if it’s been years haha
    And, on the contrary, I have received messages with apology from people I would never expect it from. And it made me feel really good.
    In the end I think after some time, a sincere apology, even if there is not much to apologize for, is the right thing to do. It’s a sign of wisdom, maturity and acceptance.
    I wish all of you who are also struggling with this decision now best of luck!

    • Katerina Simms
      April 10, 2021 - 11:36 am · Reply

      Thank you. Yes, I agree. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had involved apologies and working through long-lost relationships. Sometimes what you learn is surprising i.e. perhaps you blamed yourself, while the other thought they were at fault. Not all conversations with exes have to be anger-filled or traumatic.

  • N
    September 27, 2023 - 12:01 am · Reply

    I apologized to an ex recently by email. I did it in a moment of duress of anxiety and depression about life in general. I had long felt guilt about how I had ended things with this person and also how I acted during our time together. I wrote in a way that I thought was honest and straight from the heart, and even acknowledged the possibility that it would benefit me more than her (though honest this was a mistake, I know). I felt there was a high possibility of her not responding and that influenced how I wrote the email. Well, I can tell you this was all a mistake as she did respond and really tore into me for how I went about my apology. She made some very valid points about it being one-sided and not for her benefit. I thought there was a possibility it would bring some positivity into her life, but it actually seemed to disrupt things for her. She even ended it with some choice insults for me and saying that I hadn’t changed after all. It is how I expected her to have responded 7+ years ago when we ended things, but I thought time would have cooled things down to where maybe she would have seen the positives in my clumsy attempt to apologize. She said never to contact her again so I am using this comment section as an outlet instead of writing back to her trying to explain myself and disrupt her more.
    I am here to warn others that you really need to know your audience. If they were the type of person to not receive this sort of thing very well how ever many years ago you knew them, don’t assume they have softened up. If you are tempted to write an apology in a moment of anxiety or depression — try to wait for it to pass before sending. A poorly thought out email like mine just made both of us feel worse — it often isn’t enough to just have good intentions.

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