Should I Apologize To My Ex? (12 Factors To Help You Decide)

by April Maccario

It is not uncommon to ponder over our previous relationship even though we’re no longer in it. Months or years after a breakup, either due to growth or sheer regret, we may feel the need to come to terms or own up to our past mistakes. And if you think deep enough, you’d certainly find something you could have done better, maybe even consider apologizing for it.

Knowing how things can get with exes, you want to make sure we figure out the best way to do it. Not to take anything away from someone trying to do better, but maybe how to apologize to your ex isn’t what you should be worrying about yet, but whether or not you should.

Does your ex truly deserve it, or is it just another instance of the stereotype that women tend to apologize more readily than men? And if it isn’t a factor of what the other person deserves, then what should you consider before you decide whether or not to pursue saying sorry? 

Keep reading as I explore 12 factors in this post that could help you come to the right decision.

12 Situations Where An Apology Is Needed

1. Did you do something wrong?

Many people feel the need to apologize to an ex even years after parting ways because they feel bad about how they treated the person while they were together. Before you consider giving an apology, it goes without saying that you have a reason for it.

So, did you hurt your ex, or were they hurt because you chose yourself towards the end of your relationship? If it's the former, you should definitely say sorry. A simple “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how much my actions affected our relationship at the time,” would do. There’s nothing wrong with apologizing when you figure out you were wrong, even though it’s years later.

2. Is it sincere?

is it sincere

Do you actually want to apologize, or do you just need an excuse to talk to the person? Apologizing to an ex isn't something you should do unless you're sure it's coming from a sincere place, especially if you did them wrong. If not, it means you're not ready to bear the responsibility for your part in what led to the breakup.

If you don't think you had any part in it, why are you trying to tell them you're sorry in the first place? You may say “ I don’t think he’ll know the difference, I just want to know if he still misses me,” that would be selfish. 

It’s better to hold off on saying sorry to them if the apology is for ulterior motives. It would look bad if you apologized, then asked for a favor almost immediately.

3. What purpose does it serve?

Another question you should ask before saying sorry is what do you hope to gain, and how does it serve you? Is being apologetic your way of extending a hand of friendship to your former lover, or are you perhaps trying to discourage them from pursuing another love interest? At least wait until you are able to mean it because you may not get another opportunity to do it right if they don't believe you're sincere.

I cannot shame you for trying to disrupt other people's attempts at dating an ex you still have feelings for, but an apology will not suddenly make them want the same thing you do. Again, I'd like to reiterate that an apology shouldn't be manipulative. However, if you believe it can nudge you one step closer to doing better by yourself or them, then, by all means, go for it.

4. Who does it help?

Do you believe apologizing to your ex will help you get closure, or are you doing it for them? If moving on is your main driving force, I believe an apology should be in order. It helps you clear your conscience, and you can focus on your next relationship without residual guilt on how you treated your ex. 

Similarly, if you feel like your remorse would help them in any way, it is only right that you help them achieve closure too by owning up to your faults. You can say “I don’t know if this will make things better, but I’m going to admit my wrongs because I truly feel sorry about doing what I did.” However, if, to the best of your knowledge, the status quo is better for both parties, I suggest you let sleeping dogs lie.

5. What are your expectations?

I want to emphasize the importance of keeping your expectations in check if you do decide to say sorry to an ex. You see, that you have evolved and seen the light doesn't mean they are there yet. For all you know, your ex might still be holding on to their anger, depending on the depth of their hurt. 

You shouldn't expect forgiveness right away, especially if it feels like something you want to do for yourself. Consider the fact that he may not be ready for those kinds of talks right now. 

If you know not getting the response you want will make things worse for you rather than make you better, you might want to hold off on apologizing until you can do it with no expectations.

6. Are you prepared for rejection?

It is one thing not to get the response you were quite hoping for in terms of appreciation or enthusiasm from the recipient. It is another for them to not just deny, but also flat out reject the gesture. Unfortunately, because you cannot fully predict another person’s state of mind, especially when you haven’t been close in a while, their response could be either of the above.

You wouldn’t want to pour out a heartfelt apology just to hear “I don't think I can ever forgive you, when we were dating, I felt like I was constantly stabbed in the chest by someone I thought loved me…” Are you prepared for that kind of rejection? 

Keep in mind that this may open a page you’d rather leave closed, especially if they were the one who broke up with you in the first place. I should add, though, that this is just to prep you for the worst-case scenario, there’s still a significant chance that it won’t be that bad.

7. Is it worth it?

is it worth it

When it comes to emotional business, not every risk is worth taking. I know we’re not discussing war terms here, but we might as well be. What has your relationship with this person been like since you parted ways, has it been a game of who is doing better or you’ve ignored each other’s existence so far?

Is the apology so important that it's worth breaking the ‘no contact rule’ over now? What matters more to you between letting your ex know you're sorry and maintaining the 'upper hand?' Based on your answer to each of these questions, you need to ask yourself if it feels right to proceed.

While apologies can potentially mend bridges, in the end, it doesn't mean much if it doesn't help you or them feel better.

8. Do you want your ex back?

Some say the best way to keep your ex on the hook is not to apologize yet. That way, you'll always be on their mind even if that means they'll only think of you in anger. I consider this approach to be both selfish and insensitive to how the other person is feeling, especially if done deliberately.

Before you do something so callous as to use an apology as a hook just so you can have a chance to stay on their mind, take a moment to remind yourself that you deserve better. 

Instead of using someone's feelings like a toy, why not come up with a healthier alternative; apologize at the right time and let the bird come flying back to you if it’s yours? At least that's what I'd do.

9. Did the person hurt you?

You shouldn't have to be the one to say sorry if you did nothing wrong. Take, for instance, an ex who cheated on you or did something equally terrible and then dumped you. If this is someone you had deep feelings for, after getting over the initial anger of being jilted, you might start wondering if it was somehow your fault that they cheated.

Even if something you did (or didn't do) may have played a role, remember it was their decision to break your trust, and they probably would've done it regardless. The best thing you can do for yourself, in this case, is to forgive them whether or not they ask for it. 

This will help you close that chapter and move on for good, but DO NOT apologize, it's not your fault that they chose to hurt you.

10. Is your ex being manipulative?

Just like you shouldn't use remorse to manipulate someone, you shouldn't let your ex do the same to you either. Especially if, during your relationship with this person, he was 'never wrong' and you had to apologize all the time.

They may likely be waiting for you to apologize again now that things are over and you shouldn't continue to indulge this habit. Except you said some hurtful things in anger or did something you truly deserve to feel bad for, saying sorry just for ending things with that kind of person would be giving into manipulation.

11. What does your gut say?

When in doubt, go with your gut. I could give you a million and one reasons to apologize to your ex, but if your intuition says not to, it just wouldn't feel right. The idea of saying sorry is to express regret for doing something wrong to someone, right? At least that's what it should be.

Nevertheless, one needs to be cautious in approaching this subject when the recipient is someone with whom you had an emotional connection. Or perhaps still do. If logic says you were right for doing what you did, but your mind still isn't at rest, do it for your peace. And if the reverse is the case and it just doesn't feel right to reach out, go with your gut.

12. Are you able to do it right?

are you able to do it right

Finally, the million-dollar question has to be, can you do it right? If your effort to make things right causes your ex to open a can of worms, can you handle it?

You need to accept responsibility sincerely, and at the same time be patient enough to get through their reaction without flaring up or defending yourself. Even though the writers aimed the post at couples who are still together, it is still a valid approach to apologizing properly. Do you think you can do that with your ex? Think about that first.

FAQs

Why you shouldn’t apologize to your ex?

I do not believe that apologizing when you are wrong makes you look weak or takes anything away from you. In fact, saying sorry to someone you hurt is necessary. However, you shouldn’t have to do it, to an ex no less, when your conscience is clear that you didn’t do them wrong. 

Should I apologize to my ex for saying mean things?

That you’re asking this question means you’re not totally comfortable with how you left things. Yes, I think you should tell your ex you are sorry for saying mean things. Words can have a lasting impact on someone, even those said in anger. It may not do much for them, but you’ll at least get it off your mind.

How do I apologize to my ex?

The biggest challenge with apologizing to an ex is staying on course. Have the talk face-to-face if you can, and keep it simple. Some pages are better left closed, so try not to rehash the past when having the conversation. Also, understand that they may not be ready to move forward yet, so don’t expect too much.

Should you apologize to your ex after no contact?

If you plan to say sorry at any point, doing so after giving each other space is as good a time as any. By then, both parties must have had some time to go over what they did, probably get over the pain of breaking up too. The chances of having moved on are also higher, so they know you’re not just apologizing for ulterior motives.

Why would an ex apologize?

They may use it as an opening to get back together with you, to see if you’re willing to forgive and forget. It could also be because they have had some time to think about their actions and are sincerely seeking your forgiveness for the pain they caused. 

To Conclude

I hope reading through this list gives you some insight on how to apologize to an ex and also whether or not you should do it. Just remember to prepare for the worst if you choose to go through with it as having good intentions doesn’t mean your attempt will meet them well. Do well to share the article for others who need it, I’ll be available in the comment section if you have further inquiries.

April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

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