Making Amends vs. Apologizing


What do the words 'I'm sorry' really mean? They are used so frequently that they don't seem to carry much weight. If you are like me, however, they are the first thing we mutter when we realize we have made a mistake or done something wrong. When it comes to the pain of infidelity, the words 'I'm sorry' have to feel downright insulting to a betrayed spouse. As they should, because it isn't enough. The truth of the matter is, it will never be enough to undo the damage that is caused by breaking marital vows and by the deception that comes with being unfaithful.

'I'm sorry' is something we say when we bump into someone accidently or something we offer when we are running late. Most of the time, just uttering 'I'm sorry' comes across as selfish, because it has more to do with ourselves than what we did to the other person.

This brings us to amends. What is an amend?

For starters, amends are much different than saying 'I'm sorry.'

Amends cannot solve the problem of infidelity, but they differ from an apology in that they are a stepping stone on a different path. Amends are the ways we, as unfaithful spouses, start the process of understanding what we have done and beginning to change course.

Here are some additional thoughts on what an amend is and what it is not.

  1. Making amends is a lifestyle, not a one-time choice. It is about the beginning of becoming a new person. This will require that we not just hit repeat on the amend we are trying to make on any given day but, instead, commit to a process of letting our hearts be turned inside out and seeing our spouse with new eyes.
  2. Amends require discipline and consistency. My favorite definition of discipline is deciding what you want most instead of what you want right now. I sometimes struggle with a "right now" mentality. I confess that I still get caught up in what will make me feel better instead of what will help me to be better. Making amends must be done with a long-term vision, not for short-term satisfaction. Seeking short-term satisfaction is what got us into trouble in the first place.
  3. An amend is not a confession. While confessing what we have done is important, it is not the same as making amends. Confession is still about us, the pain we caused, and the details of our brokenness and sin. If we are standing on opposite sides of a river, confession is on one side, where we are. The hurt party is on the other side. To make an amend is to take the first step across the bridge in order to see and reach out to the person we have hurt by our choices.

Here are some ways that I have tried to avoid making amends. Perhaps they will resonate with you as well:

  1. In the midst of a painful conversation, I will shut down and cry. My tears will tell me that I am hurt and being vulnerable, but I often need to give more. As a woman, I find it difficult in these moments to rise up and be strong. Instead of saying what needs to be said, I let my tears speak, and they confuse my spouse even further. I cannot confuse my shedding of tears with making amends. While my tears demonstrate the attitude and posture of my softening heart, they don't take the place of real words, which my husband needs. He is not a mind reader, and my tears, while important, can never take the place of saying what I need to say.
  2. I confess that I have used sex in ways that aren't helpful in our marriage. I need to look at this area more closely, even as I type it, but it is a starting point and a confession that I have not always gotten this area right.
  3. I have had the tendency to over-apologize and take too much responsibility, instead of carefully looking at what shortcomings I actually need to own. This is a blanket attempt to not do the careful moral inventory that is necessary for recovery. I think it far better that I sometimes say nothing instead of filling the space with half-hearted attempts at over-apologizing.

Keep growing.

To Healing,

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I’m sorry

“I’m sorry” from the unfaithful is sounds like they are scratching their fingernails across the blackboard.

Actions speak

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is all that’s known. As a betrayed, I’ve heard it and appreciated it as a starting point. I’ve also had to learn patience at a whole new level as my wife has been working to learn what goes beyond those words (at a whole new level). Neither one of us can read each other’s mind. We both continue to make mistakes as we learn. Amends, like you stated, are not consequences. When they become lifestyle changes, things can seem new and hopeful. Without them, the cake won’t bake. Thanks Elizabeth

Loss for words

As an unfaithful spouse, as soon as d-day hit (a little over one year ago) I knew saying sorry wasn't going to do much of anything towards healing. Saying it felt childish, insincere and weak. I really didn't know what else to say tho, especially at first. What could I possibly say to help my spouse heal? I hadn't a clue to be honest. I still suck at it. All I try to do now is explain how I think he must feel, and that because of me he feels that way, and express my regrets and sorrow for how horribly I messed up. If anyone has other suggestions I would gladly hear them. Thanks Elizabeth for writing this blog :).

Loss for words

Hey Annie K, I can only speak of what my spouse did that was a help to me. She once said she is so grateful that I didn’t give up on her and was giving her a second chance. She showed appreciation for the love I was giving her in the face of all the hurt she was putting me through. It was healing to feel appreciated and important to her. I would say there isn’t a quantity that could be considered too much appreciation but daily reminders is a good way to start changing a lifestyle that benefits a marriage and “make amends”. Other than that, showing initiative in conversations and recovery showed me that she was aware of my hurt and wasn’t trying to brush it under the rug. It helped me feel noticed and not rejected for being unpleasant or uncomfortable for her to deal with. Give yourself some grace, this is learning and growth. I don’t think anyone knows what to do. But learning it can lead to some truly amazing things. Showing your “want to” can make a big difference in restoring hope. I wish healing and peace for you both

Loss for words

Thank you for this and for the well-wishes. I appreciate you taking the time and for the feedback. Its good to get some insight from people who have gone through it. I wish you both continued success.

Angus and Annie

Angus- If my wife communicated to me what your wife has communicated, it would breath new life where I feel I am losing hope. It would allow me to extend even more grace and patience as my wife as she unoackages the mess she is in.

Annie K- Simple start speaking from your heart. Even if you don’t have all the answers of your “why”, truly communicated sincere remorse not just for the pain you caused but for the choices you made. Any sort of communication you have been able to start to self reflect on your choices and the consequences they have caused is a great start. My unfaithful wife is simply stuck at I’m sorry. But, there is no communication of what she is sorry about. She is too stuck in her own grief, shame, pain that she continues to be self centered. There is no empathy. I feel she is sorry she hurt me, but it feels like she hasn’t taken responsibility. It is almost like saying I al sorry you are upset. Instead of saying I am sorry for what I did was incredibly wrong, destructive, selfish, and of course as far from loving as any act can be. Start to own up to what you did that brought so much pain and destruction to both of your lives. That is a bridge that will be built that will allow your spouse to own up to the pain they have certainly caused you as well. Having the betrayed spouse do all the work on top of being of the receiving end of their spouses infidelity can almost be too much for the betrayed to handle.

I know this is 3 months late, but maybe a perspective from a betrayed husband will help you and others.

Unfaithful and remorseful

I find myself frozen when my husband shares how he’s feeling. I don’t know what to say, but say I’m sorry. I’ve followed up my verbal words with emails reminding him that I know my actions caused his pain and that I wish I could take it all away.

very well written!! What I

very well written!! What I want the most verse what I want right now. Thank you!
sometimes I got stuck into the moment of thoughts, which are pretty negative.
I am related to all the apologizing behaviors. crying is a big one.

Betrayed spouse with some differing opinions

Hi, while I thank you for this article there are some things that I feel differently about. Such as the tears. I am a wife who was betrayed so this may be coming from a different angle. I want my husband to show those tears and the remorse he feels. We are 2 1/2 years out from our first d-day and have yet to see or feel the remorse from him other than his remorse of getting caught. At this stage I wonder if there will ever be true empathy, tears, and remorse for throwing that bomb and blowing up my life. I can tell you, I truly doubt it. But at this point I think that would be a great way to start making some amends is by showing his remorse for the pain he’s caused me and truly walking in my shoes and showing real empathy. Am I tired of the regular old “I’m sorry”? You better believe it! So that hit the nail on the head. Again thank you for taking the time to write this article.


thank you for this. This explanation of amends really resonated with me and the comments about the ways of showing remorse(such as crying) and having difficulty speaking, yet knowing we must talk, and share what we are feeling as the unfaithful--- it is like you are talking about me. I know how important it is to make amends through SINCERE action more than words.
I am the unfaithful, D-day 6 months ago, my husband of 18 years has been wonderful in so many ways and he is worth everything I can do to show amends. The words "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it with him. Showing by action is what is helping, slowly. Some days seems like we are back at square one, there will be a trigger, or a few bad night's sleep in a row, and we will be back at the first week. Which can be frightening, since it is unpredictable and it is traumatic and so painful for him - I believe he has PTSD in reality- he has loss of time, etc. during these episodes and is so upset & angry he shakes and doesn't know what he's saying. It is such a loss of security for him that I cheated. Then he feels remorseful for saying such ugly things - and I always tell him he has every right to have these episodes- I never argue with him or defend myself anymore and I stand in it, stay with him- I don't walk away. What I did is indefensible and once I realized I should not argue or defend myself or try to explain when he is in this trauma mode, that I need to show amends by listening, touching him if he will let me, reassuring him that I love him--- consistently answering his reasonable questions---that made these episodes lessen and become less severe. It took me a few months to evolve from being defensive, scared and reacting with anger into being open to his pain and feeling it completely and I really think that set our healing back some. It doesn't make me a doormat, as some of my friends and family have suggested, nor is it abusive- for me to really be empathetic, to really change who I am and understand how deeply I hurt him, I know I need to feel and listen to his pain, repetitive as the words may be. This website has been a huge help to me, and thank you for all who participate.

Make amends through SINCERE actions

Thaks for sharing, I´m also an Unfaithful Wife, almosts everything you explain is what we are going through, my husband went through one of this episodes where he was so upset & angry that he was shaking and doesn't know what he's saying, unfortunately I have not been able to touch him at all, let along thell him that I love him because that to him will shound very dissonest so I do not dare tell him that. We are 1.5 months of D-day and have spoken only 2 times for a good lenght of time, but other than that he does not speak to me. I hurt him beyond repair and seems we won´t be able to keep the mariage together. He tells me and I can see that he doesn´t feel our house like his home any more, and he is very uncomfortable at home, he does not want to see me and I see and feel his anger all the time. Your are very fortunate that your husband is still taking to you, I hope now you are still together in a loving marriage.

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