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Confession has been found to be a predictor of forgiveness in intimate relationships, which is considered a positive event for couples. We believe that confession is good for all relationships, and we suggest that this applies for people in couples counseling as well. It can occasionally be possible for couples to misuse confession and apologies as part of a negative pattern if it is done in a manipulative and insincere manner, but it is generally considered to be a positive experience. Apologizing is a vital part of healing hurts in relationships.

Here are some questions to consider about confessions and apologies. What are confessions like currently in our relationship? What needs to be changed or improved? How can you apologize to your partner in a way that you would like to hear an apology?

man and woman holding each others hands

After you have thought about these questions, here are 7 principles for giving a good apology.


1. Confessing before you are caught or asked to apologize will make it easier to do.

What you say:

2. Remind your partner of your covenant relationship.

3. Make a clear direct confession, without explaining circumstances.

4. Take responsibility for any sins that may have contributed to hurting the other (such as being overly busy or preoccupied).

5. Use tenderness and touch throughout the process.

After the confession:

6. Immediately do something to show your change of heart/repentance – for example: If you weren’t paying enough attention then plan some time together just to attend to each other. Or if you said something mean, write a love letter full of kind and encouraging words. Be extravagant in showing your change of heart. If you can, choose something that relates to how you hurt your partner.

7. Remember the importance of accumulating trustworthy post-hurt events. Repeating the same hurt soon after a confession makes you seem insincere.
Here are some tips for how to give a confession. It should come from the heart and be perceived by the other partner as sincere.  Including some heartfelt emotional expressivity in the apology can help show this sincerity. It is best to try and include some emotional expression in an apology even if it is difficult for you. The other partner should be gracious and understanding of the difficulty in apologizing and any attempt to express one’s emotions in the apology. The person receiving the apology should not feel pressured to forgive at that moment. The person giving the apology needs to recognize that it may take some time for the partner to forgive.