Lifelines: Anne Chilton on saying sorry

SORRY is often a hard word to say; especially if we mean it. Taking responsibility for the hurt we cause others - hurt that we don't usually mean to inflict - often means we have to stand down, back off and somehow show the other we know what we have done.

Sometimes, though, it might seem easier and less painful to insist it isn't us - it's them. Throwing this red hot ball of responsibility between us, neither wanting to take it on, will only exacerbate the situation.

One of the most difficult things about being in a relationship is accepting that sometimes our partner will get things wrong, do things that upset us or that we do not agree with.

Hide Ad

Sometimes those things will hurt us. And sometimes we will do all those things to our partner. Instead of getting caught up in apportioning blame, the most helpful thing can sometimes be to say sorry and mean it.


My partner and I owe a lot of money on credit cards. He spends loads on things for the house and is always buying things for me. When I ask him about it he says it's my fault as I want nice things. We end up not talking for days.

There seems to be a couple of things going on here. To begin with, you and your partner don't seem to have discussed the budget you might have and, secondly, he seems to be doing things because he thinks you want them.

In his eyes he feels you should be pleased with the things he is getting for you, whereas you feel upset because the debt is increasing. I wonder if the difficulty is that neither of you feels the other really understands what you are feeling.

Have you thought about sitting down with him to talk about the shared ideas you might both have about your home and worked out a budget for how to pay for them? Remember neither of you did this to hurt the other; you wanted to make things good; now, though, you need to rethink.


I had a fling with a colleague last year; it only lasted a couple of months until I came to my senses and ended it. I now feel eaten up with guilt and wonder if I should tell my partner?

Hide Ad

Whose benefit would telling your partner would be for: theirs or yours? Being honest about a dishonesty probably won't make it right in this instance. You might initially feel better for having unburdened yourself.

However, your partner will have to begin to deal with the hurt and betrayal they feel as a result of your telling. Sometimes we just have to hold on to the things we have done and find ways of dealing with those feelings ourselves. You might want to consider what wasn't right in your life to allow the affair to happen in the first place. Giving attention to that might be more helpful; maybe you and your partner could do with looking again at what you both want out of your relationship; look to the future.


Hide Ad

My marriage broke up several years ago when I left my husband to be with someone else. Since then the other relationship has ended and I have spent a long period on my own. I now feel I did my ex-husband a disservice and would like to tell him how sorry I am.

Often when we do things that are painful and potentially hurtful to others we look for the view that allows us to see the least hurt. Sometimes it's only when we are at a distance that we can see the pain we caused others in our lives. I wonder what it is you hope to gain? If it is to say sorry, your husband may or may not accept your apology and you need to appreciate that. If, on the other hand, you are looking for forgiveness, you need to accept that he may not want to give it, no matter how many times you say you are sorry.

Anne Chilton is a consultant in professional practice at Relationships Scotland (

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 12 December, 2010