3 Ways Apologizing Turns into Shifting Blame

You decide you need to apologize to your mate for raising your voice at them. You know that it was inappropriate and was not being respectful. You muster up enough humility to go up to your spouse and say, “I’m sorry that I raised my voice at you. That was inappropriate.” If you leave it at that it would be a perfectly acceptable apology! But then you add, “But if you would have listened to me….” Now the apology changed into shifting blame.

Shifting blame is easy to do. Even hard not to do sometimes! It is human nature to be the best that we can be. Even when we know we have done something wrong and apologize for it, subconsciously we don’t want it to be our fault. Therefore, we start shifting blame.

This is not a new phenomenon. Think back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…

Then the man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” –Genesis 3:12-13

They were even shifting blame back then! It is indeed human nature. However, God saw through it and held them both accountable. He does the same now as well. He does not want us shifting blame, but taking responsibility for our own actions.

Apology vs Shifting Blame
An apology is a standalone statement asking forgiveness for something we are taking responsibility for.

Shifting blame is when we attempt to apologize, but say it was someone or something else’s fault we acted the way we did.

Ways Apologizing Turns into Shifting Blame

1. Using the word “but” at the end of the apology.

  • “I am sorry for getting upset, but if you would have listened to me…”

2. Bringing up their actions instead of yours.

  • “When you ignore me it makes me upset and I then raise my voice.”

3. Saying “Next time could you ____ instead of ____?”

  • “Next time could you listen instead of ignoring me?”

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes there are times that things need to be discussed. If your mate did something that truly made you upset which is why you raised your voice it probably needs to be discussed so it can be avoided in the future. There are proper communication techniques to use to do that so both parties feel safe and open during the discussion. However, using “I statements” and “I feel” statements are still recommended rather than shifting blame.

Why Should We Not Shift Blame?
When we shift blame it is no longer about our actions, but we are attacking our partner. We are not taking responsibility for what we did. That is not the purpose of an apology. To apologize is to acknowledge what we have done and ask forgiveness. Blame and attack make it very hard to forgive and move forward with the issue at hand!

Leave a comment below: On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being easy) how hard is it to apologize without shifting blame? 



Cassie Celestain enjoys running, reading, and crafting! She loves being married to her best friend as well! She blogs about marriage over at True Agape. True Agape was created to help couples through the early stages of marriage by giving resources that help them embrace their spouses’ quirks, accept their spouses for who they are and love EVERY day of it! You can connect with Cassie on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.


Here you will find guest contributors . . . or those who once contributed regularly, but no longer contribute to the website in an on-going manner.

  • AVA

    This post has made me even more thankful to be with a man who is excellent at apologizing. Hearing him sincerely apologize for an argument makes my role in the argument even more apparent, eliciting a sincere apology in return. All of the “but” statements running through my mind just disappear.

  • Belind a Sanchez

    1 very easy because we try on respect each other and when you are very sorry it comes from the heart. and we move on….

    • Belinda,
      You are right it should come from the heart! Some have more trouble with apologizing than others though.

  • Ava,
    My husband is also good at apologizing. Previous to meeting him it wasn’t as easy for me to apologize. I think the first time that he did it made me realize that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes we just have to admit it and ask for forgiveness. Knowing he is open and honest enough to admit he was wrong makes it easier for me to be able to do the same when I need to.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Jeanette

    Cassie, this is funny. Just last night my husband and I had a little tiff. I wrote him an apologizing letter in his lunch bag. I just said, “I apologize for being disrespectful towards you. Please forgive me. I love you”. His response this morning at the computer was, I love you :-). If I would have approached him last night when he and I were tired, it would have gotten ugly with the blaming you are talking about. We are usually fast at forgiving one another. We’ve been working on this for 26 years.

    • Jeanette- I am for sure a believer in timeouts for adults if it is needed. I did a post about 4 communication danger signs and how to take timeouts. You can find it here: http://trueagape.net/2013/12/4-communication-danger-signs/ Although it sounds like you two have figured out when you need them and how to handle it. Congrats on a successful apology! It really does make a world of difference!

  • Susan

    I try to apologize without the add ons. It would be nice if my husband did too. He rarely apologizes. After all he can’t help it if I get offended or hurt by something he says or has done. Seriously, after almost 40 years of marriage, it will be a miracle if he ever changes.

    • Lesa

      I always felt as though my husband never apologized to me either. I felt like I was the only one who was apologizing. I always felt hurt and offended by him. But then when we started going to Christian counseling I really started taking a deep look into what I was saying and how I was saying it. What I asked for and how I asked for it. It was very similar to this article. Always make sure you use “I statements”. “When I ask you something and you don’t listen to me, I feel disrespected.” rather than, You never listen to me, or You’re not listening to me, or even, Are you listening to me?
      Another thing you may want to try…Watch the movie “Fireproof” with Kirk Cameron. Also purchase the book, “The Love Dare”. If you have a Nook, I have it. I can lend it to you for two weeks. Do it yourself to him. Don’t even worry about him doing it with you. If you do it to him, maybe he will want to do it with you the next time around.
      In His Name,

  • Susan- Maybe you could tell him that you read an article that really got you thinking and you would like him to read it too. I’m not sure how open your communication is, but I know my husband would read something if I asked him to. It then could start a conversation about the topic. My only other thought if that is not an option just pray about it and try to stay focused on what your husband does do well in the relationship. I believe anything can change, even after 40 years, if the person sees the importance and is willing to change. 🙂

  • Brooke

    5, I find it very hard to apologize though not so hard to keep from shifting blame. I only apologize when I really mean it whereas (in my opinion) my husband apologizes for everything but never really means it and/or shifts the blame to me, our kids, etc, etc.

    • Brooke,
      I am sorry you feel your husband does not mean his apologies. Have you told him you feel that way? Sadly, sometimes we only can make sure we are doing the right thing. Hang in there!

  • Natasha

    I grew up in a home where my father never owned up his sins against his
    wife. Needless to say, the marriage ended sourly leaving one sibling
    needing to be right all the time; daughter like father.

  • Dj

    If the offended party just wants an apology, rather than working thru the issue, then they are not owning their part. It always takes two. What is needed is an open dialogue that states – when “this” happens, I feel “this”. And I react wrongly because —-. I apologize for my reaction and hope we can find a healthier way to interact in these situations.

  • Lesa

    My husband is getting better and better at apologizing every day. He is also getting better and better at teaching me to apologize. He is very patient with me, because I have to admit I am a much slower learner in this department than he is. I love him for so many reasons, but this is surely one of them.
    Lesa in CT

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