Waiting for “I’m sorry.”

When we’re little we’re taught that saying, “I’m sorry” is suppose to fix every situation we get ourselves into. It’s that concept of ‘everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten philosophy’ which I personally love in its simplicity. In reality it can often work and opens up communication and community, even partnership. But in divorce, “I’m sorry’s” are usually hard to come by and we don’t like that.

Wanting to hear those words, expecting an apology or waiting for one, taps into our youngest selves: the child in us who wants their world order righted again, the spouse who wants their broken vows atoned for and the adult who is ashamed of what’s occurring in their lives. The problem is...

Waiting for the person who hurt you to apologize is a futile act, it simply sets us up for greater disappointment.

What is it that we really want? Is the apology designed (in our minds) to bring us back together, to feed our egos’ self-righteous anger or to make the pain go away as we continue down the path of discovery and separation?

Do you really think hearing an “I’m sorry... I’ve had an affair, I want a different life, I realize I’m gay, I don’t love you anymore…” will make the process easier to go through and heal from? Or is it something we want our egos to hear? This is a real question ‘cuz it’s never gonna to happen. The pain won’t go away from hearing it from the person who’s hurt you.

The pain will only go away when you accept your responsibility and apologize to yourself.

This requires digging a little deeper and figuring out your part in the separation including your naiveté which isn’t a crime but still causes an enormous amount of pain. It means really looking at the person you once were: how you were making assumptions rather than making sure you understood the agreements you were living with and taking the time to keep them current; your sex life - did you care for your partner? Did you live in disagreements, worry and a pattern of belittling instead of support and being an advocate? Where were you the one breaking the agreements you both had, allowing the structure to become porous? Did you turn away from your intuitive self that sensed things were off, but you rationalized away those feelings because you had a little baby at home, or were afraid of facing what was really going on?

This part of discovery has nothing to do with the person who’s gone and everything to do with the person you’re becoming.

Saying, “I’m sorry” to ourselves is a big part of healing: recognizing the person you once were, accepting who you once were and what you did to yourself that helped set up the breakdown is a big, big piece of the healing process. It must be done. So start digging with someone who can help you process, find the forgiveness and start to move on.

If you’re sitting here today unable to forgive the person you once were, here's a hint: go to the place where you find solace (that’s usually your God or a deeply personal place) and find forgiveness for the person you once were and for the person you are today who’s still judging and resentful; on it, angry. Does this make sense? You have to go bigger (or deeper) to forgive all of you.

This is part of the experience of divorce - the deeply personal part that’ll help you move into the next phase of your life without trying to control and carry the kind of stuff that keeps you stuck in the past. No matter what our egos or child-like part of us wants, the only person we get to control and manage is us. We need to say, “I’m sorry” to who we once were and to who we are today. It’s the only thing we can control.

Sometimes we need help, and forgiveness isn’t easy: It’s not easy to come by and it’s definitely not easy to give to ourselves. But waiting for an apology from the partner who left won’t have any meaning until we apologize to ourselves.


Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY