My first argument with a boy was in first grade.
His name was Adam, and he was my best friend. He wore wireframe rounded spectacles, and he had what Buzzfeed titled 90s “Dreamboat Flat Top” hair. He also had ruby cheeks that made him look like he’d just run five laps around the playground.
One day, his ruby cheeks turned bright candy-red. Rumor had it, I’d said, “Adam isn’t really my friend,” to a girl during recess. I don’t remember if this was true or not, but I do remember that name-calling and tears quickly ensued. Soon, a school counselor was called in to diffuse the spectacle.
The counselor asked us to say, “I’m sorry,” and hug. We obliged.
Instantly, we were best friends again.
In my teen years and beyond, making and accepting apologies in my romantic relationships wasn’t so simple. Oftentimes, the apologies were messy and amounted to cliche flowers, which meant little in terms of a special relationship between two special people.
But after plenty of practice making mistakes in romantic relationships, there’s one thing I’ve learned: Different personalities call for different apologies. Sometimes, the best apology is your S.O.’s favorite candy or a date night. Sometimes, a simple, “I’m sorry,” and a hug will suffice.
The next time you’ve forgotten your anniversary, picked an unnecessary fight, or eaten all the leftover Chinese food in the fridge without asking, skip the scented geraniums. Instead, consider what their “love language” is and choose an apology from the list below to properly suit the situation and your S.O.’s personality.
1. Write them a letter
If you have trouble getting out the right words in the heat of the moment, consider writing a letter. A handwritten apology is especially meaningful for lovers whose “love language” is words of affirmation. Unsure of what to say? Pick up a pen and begin with the basics: I’m sorry. Then, let him or her know why you’re sorry, how you can ensure the same issue won’t arise again, and reassure them how you feel.
Remember that as long as your letter comes from the heart, it doesn’t have to be long. In fact, a short, “I’m sorry, and I love you,” on a Post-it on the fridge or hidden in the dog-eared page of the book they’re reading can be just as meaningful as a five-page apology.
2. Surprise them with their favorite sweet
Whereas a bouquet of flowers can be pretty general, your S.O.’s favorite candy bar or treat from the local bakery is a personalized olive branch. In my case, it’s quite literal; my boyfriend knows my favorite treat is the vegan olive bread down the street at Bonanza Bakery. While treats aren’t necessary to say, “I love you,” knowing that my S.O. went out of his way to get me something special makes me smitten. Plus, it’s hard to argue when my mouth is full of olive-bready goodness.
3. Help them with a task on their to-do list
Is your significant other always on-the-go? Do they tend to pick up more chores around the house? If so, the right apology might be helping out with an act of service to show appreciation. The task can be big, like checking off all the chores for the week, or running an errand. Or it can be little, like doing the dishes, or picking up pizza for dinner.
While surprise can be part of the apology, it certainly doesn’t have to be. If you’re unsure of how to help, don’t be afraid to ask you S.O. Say something like, “I know you’re under a lot of stress lately. How can I make today easier for you?”
4. Coordinate a date night
If the mistake you’re apologizing for is small (don’t try this if you’re apologizing for accidentally setting the kitchen on fire,) coordinate a fun date night. Skip out on the cliches, such as restaurants and movies, and instead choose a date that allows room for some silliness, like take-out food and video games, going to an arcade, or going bowling. A playful date will help ease any tensions.
5. Just say, ‘I’m sorry’ and give them a hug
A genuine apology doesn’t need to be over-the-top and extravagant. When in doubt, opt for the simplest apology there is — your words. Ask your S.O. to sit down, and have a chat from the heart.
The talk can happen next to the crashing waves of a beach during sunset, or on the thrifted couch in your living room. What matters is that you admit your faults and ask for forgiveness.
Take ownership of the mistake and how it made the other person feel. A good apology doesn’t use the word “you” very often. So, no, “I’m sorry you are sad.” Rather, “I’m sorry I (insert mistake).” In addition, you should take time to think about why or how you made the mistake and how you’ll prevent it from happening again. Forgot an important date? Vow to use Google Calendar from now on. Came home too late? Talk to your partner to set reasonable boundaries both of you can agree upon.
Most importantly, if your S.O. allows, seal it with a hug.
Do words mean the most? Are they tickled with gifts? Or perhaps, are they stressed with work and chores? Personalize your apology to your partner’s personality and needs, and your relationship will bloom without flowers.
Originally published on