I was having a difficult time with someone. This person was not yet my boyfriend (and would never reach that point with me) but we were talking. My best friend had just thrown me a surprise birthday party, and of course, she invited him and his friends.

He ignored me all night but rather smoked with a girl from my youth that he had mentioned he found pretty, multiple times. Of course, this made me jealous, but I didn’t mention it until he left without talking to me.

I texted him later, telling him I would’ve appreciated it if he wished me a happy birthday and hung out with me a bit. This resulted in a long argument that ended in me falling asleep crying. Waking up puffy-eyed and heavy, ready to move on from the situation, I opened up our text conversation from the night prior with hopefulness in my heart that he had come to a realization about his wrongdoings and gave me an apology, he had simply said “I’m sorry that you’re so sensitive.” 

We stopped talking shortly after. There were multiple other incidents, but this apology hurt me more than him not even apologizing. No apology would at least be justifiable that he was just rude and couldn’t take responsibility for what he did wrong, coming from a lack of maturity. However, this apology left me feeling like I was the one who did something wrong. This wasn’t the first or last time he had done it, and it ended up having a profound effect on my self-esteem and made me feel invalidated in my feelings.

I’m sure you’ve experienced it before, and if you haven’t, you are a lucky individual.

Let me enlighten you. Often referred to as the “straight white male apology,” it might sound something a little bit like this:

Sorry that I’m such a monster.

Sorry you’re so sensitive.

Sorry, I guess I’m just the worst, aren’t I?

Sorry that you’re so upset.

Let’s get something straight. An apology that makes the other person in the relationship feel like they are the one’s at fault, is not an effective apology. This is a method of gaslighting that makes the other person either feel like they are crazy, making up the situation in their own heads or that they are at fault for whatever their partner is supposed to be apologizing for. Spoiler alert: this doesn’t help anyone and makes every party just feel worse about themselves! No one wants your narcissistic and egotistical apology, it’s doing absolutely nothing to improve the situation or make your relationship progress in the long run.

This apology sends the message that you don’t care about the other person’s feelings, or that you are blatantly ignoring what they are saying to you. It’s an effective “sorry-not-sorry” and guess what? Just because you say the word sorry, doesn’t mean it counts! It can feel extremely upsetting when you aren’t getting what you need or want out of your partner, and this is, unfortunately, an extremely common technique of gaslighting.

In other words, these “non-apologies” are a tactic that can be used by your partner to try and manipulate you into acting a certain way that only gives them power. These types of apologies are meant to make you feel like you’re in the wrong when it’s the exact opposite. With the negative connotation of guilt, shame, and sensitivity, it makes you feel like you are absolutely crazy, and trust me, you aren’t!

If any of this resonates with you, I understand the frustration and triggering nature of this type of “apology.” For those of you who have done this before, start practicing your apologies, because we ain’t dealing with this anymore.

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  • Aliza Schuler

    Aliza Schuler is a sophomore student at American University studying Film and Media Arts and Creative Writing. When she's not adapting her personality to be more like Jess from New Girl, she's advocating for women's rights, swimming in the ocean, doing yoga, skiing, or working on a craft kit from Etsy. Your favorite in-house comic, Aliza specializes in making jokes at all the wrong times. Apart from school, she advocates for people in period poverty and writes satire for her university newspaper. No matter the circumstances, you can always find her biking around Northern California in her ridiculously kiddish watermelon helmet.