The Hidden Connection Between “I Love You” and “Sorry”


I'm Sorry, and...I Love You

When we think of saying I love you to someone we certainly don’t think that I am sorry belongs in the same category. In our heads they seem far apart. One is an expression of our truest most wonderful feelings for a special person. The other is said when we think we might have hurt someone and we want to make it better.

So what would tie the two together? Before we see the connection I want to talk about how we learn each concept. The loving sentiment we might have heard from our parents when we were small. We might have heard them say, “I love you.” We might have been encouraged as children to say it to others, maybe grandparents or other relatives, and we probably heard it from them. We learn this is a good thing to say. Maybe we learn it’s just for families.

The Meaning and Power of “I Love You

The Meaning & Power of "I Love You"

We might even learn that we get to say it to our special person when we grow up and, “fall in love”. So the phrase, “I love you,” becomes a powerful sentence we carry with great respect our entire lives. It’s an important phrase. It conveys our deepest feelings of connection to a person we feel close to.

And when we say it to our special one, well then we have sealed the deal. They belong to us, and if they say it back to us then we belong to them as well. It’s kind of a rite of passage as we enter into a relationship. “We said I love you to each other,” we tell our friends. Everyone will know what that means.

How We Learn to Use “Sorry”

So now let’s talk a little about “I’m sorry.” We also learn this when we are small. We usually learn it when we’ve done something wrong or bad and we have to make it better. We might be told by a parent or caregiver, “Go tell them you are sorry.” We feel bad and we do as we are told. This experience is supposed to ingrain in us a healthy respect for our ability to fix a difficulty.

But as a couples counselor I don’t see the “I’m sorry,” experience ending up the way it was probably meant to by our teachers. Often when I work with a couple and there is a difficulty and someone has their feelings hurt I ask if there was an apology. I usually hear something like, “I already apologized.”

How “Sorry” and “I Love You” Bring Us Closer

Apologizing in a Loving Way

And yet there is still a problem between the couple. So what’s wrong with this picture? It might be the way the “I’m sorry,” is offered. You see, it’s my belief that “I’m sorry” comes from the same place as “I love you.” Both are from the deepest part of our heart and both are meant for deepest connection.

One seals the connection, the other repairs the connection. Both are vital for a healthy relationship. Think about your own ability to mend a problem with your mate. Do you come from your loving center and say I am sorry I hurt you? That is true compassion and the compassion, connecting with your mate’s hurt feelings, is what’s needed for a true repair.

Apologize from a Loving Place

Or how many of us casually throw out those two words, and then say it again like, “I said I was sorry!” Ask yourself, does that feel loving?

No, it doesn’t feel loving, it feels like the fight will continue. That’s not what two people want after someone expresses hurt feelings. Saying “I’m sorry” from the heart gets you back on track quicker. It takes courage to come from a vulnerable place and actually feel your partner’s pain. But when you get good at this, you might spend less time feeling disconnected and more time hearing that other phrase we know so well, you know the one, the one that has “love” in it.


Express Yourself Lovingly in Your Relationship

Read a Book About Communication in Relationships

Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. Book by Linda Nusbaum.

Can’t make it on Monday? Read all about how you can communicate more lovingly in Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It provides tips on softer communication that just might help you and your loved ones meet each other’s needs in more positive, less confrontational way. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you better understand your love for one another and how to express it.

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