Don’t say, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you’

It happens. Sometimes we DO say or do things that we don’t mean to. Sometimes we unintentionally hurt another in some way. Maybe we aren’t thinking clearly at the time. Maybe there is some deeper reason for our actions. It is natural to immediately want to explain to your partner that you “didn’t mean it.” I hear this phrase a lot when speaking to couples. Unfortunately the reality is, those words are not helpful. Explaining how you didn’t mean it, doesn’t cut it. 

Sometimes hearing those words just angers the other partner. But why? In your mind you are thinking you really didn’t mean it, you are sorry, and you wish you could take it back. To your partner the damage is done. You can’t change the past. It is not helpful to argue whether or not you intended to cause pain. That is not what is in question right now. 

Your partner is hurt. Whatever you did is not sitting well in their heart. They feel sad and angry at the actions you made. Own up to them. You did what you did. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean to do what you did. It matters that you did it. So going back to our earlier post, stop making excuses. Tell your partner you are truly sorry. Tell them you messed up. You made a mistake. Be honest. Show them you may not be perfect but it doesn’t mean you can’t grow and learn from your actions. 

Be genuine, be respectful of their feelings. Try to see things from their point of view. How are they feeling right now? How would you be feeling? Then tell them how you wish you could take it back, how you are sorry, how you will learn from your mistakes. 

What is the best way to apologize?

4 thoughts on “Don’t say, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you’

  1. Your post is somewhat vague and somewhat demanding. When people say that they are sorry and they didn’t mean to hurt them, it means that they shouldn’t have said it in the first place but they did and wished that they didn’t say it.

    I love how people out there treat apologies as if it’s like an absolute law or something like the 10 commandments. You have to follow step by step or else it’s not sincere.

    Sure if you don’t mean it, don’t say but if you say it but if you do say something you don’t mean, well then apologize. I didnt mean to hurt you specifies that they know their partner is hurt and will do what they can to heal them. That’s it.

    1. Thank you, Limitlessway. I appreciate your feedback. Yes, the post can be more specific.

      There isn’t 10 commandments to make an apology sincere. What I am saying is I notice the phrase “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” doesn’t sit well with the receiving end. It’s not an absolute truth, it’s something I observed based on what people tell me or in couples therapy.

    2. Often “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is said INSTEAD of saying “I’m sorry.” It is said without any effort to acknowledge that something was said or done that WAS hurtful, and to come up with a plan to stop doing that kind of thing in the future. To the person on the receiving end, it can feel very much like you are being told “since I didn’t mean to hurt you, you shouldn’t be hurt.”

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