One of my favorite things about “reality” tv is getting to watch “real people” interact with each other.  I know that these are more like real life dramatizations than an actual reality but every now and again there’s a great glimpse of good relationship skills.

Last week on The Real Housewives of Orange County I got one of those moments.  I’m not even going to give you the back story {you can catch up on all the episodes here} I just want you to watch Terry Dubrow give one of the best apologies I’ve seen a husband give his wife.  And even better… his wife Heather does a great job of accepting his apology.

take a look and then we’ll talk about some of the keys to making a really good apology.  Of course taking your wife (or whoever you wronged) to such a lovely dinner is a nice touch but it is not the fancy environment that makes this apology so great.  In particular pay attention to the message in the card he gives his wife.  In it he does some of the keys to a great apology that we’ll talk about below


  1. Be specific- “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean much if you don’t articulate exactly what you’re sorry for. If you said something hurtful, say that.  If you did something wrong or disappointed someone, say that. just say what you’re sorry for and be sure to use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”.
  2. Clarify any misunderstandings.  In Terry’s case he said things that suggested he didn’t want to be married- that’s a pretty big misunderstanding since he clearly loves his wife! But it didn’t take a complex explanation to clear it up- he said something stupid in anger and he absolutely didn’t mean it and that’s all he needed to say to her.  Don’t try to give lengthy explanations and justifications- just say sorry and clarify how you really feel or what your true intentions are.
  3. Acknowledge the other person’s pain.  This is the BIG one that so many people miss when they apologize.  It can be hard to own the fact that we have hurt someone we love but it is in truly acknowledging their pain that we begin the healing.  The last line of Terry’s card, “I will never forget how this hurt you” was probably the most meaningful to his wife because it suggests that he understands her pain and will make a conscious effort not to repeat his mistake again.  You can’t

One last note on this near perfect apology- twice in the 2 minute clip Heather says that “this” is all he needed to do- the time together, the card, and the kind words- that was all she needed.  This is a couple with access to financial resources most of us can only dream of and yet he did not resort to diamonds or extravagant trips or a new car to apologize to his wife.  Instead he went with something more valuable- heartfelt honesty and vulnerability.

The point here is that a great apology is not about big gifts or grand gestures- simply say “I’m sorry”, the reason why, and let her know that you really understand how much pain you’ve caused and that you never want to do it again.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment of Terry’s apology as pretty awesome?  Let us all know if you have some other tips on how to give a great apology in the comments below.


Do you want fantastic communication like this in your relationship?

Sign up now for our online Couples Communication Class and learn how to fight less and listen more!

Don’t let bad communication ruin a great relationship; learn to communicate with love.

Couples Communication Class(1)