Op-ed: Knowing When to Apologize Sure Is Important in Relationships

For most of us, the hardest thing to do is apologize, but recognizing and taking responsibility for how we are affecting others is a crucial component of any healthy relationship.

BY Justin Hernandez

February 12 2014 5:00 AM ET

It dawned on me that when my first entry for The Advocate went live last week, I never really took the time to formally introduce myself to the readers. My name is Justin Hernandez. My writing career began in 2010 with a little blog about my dating life that I updated about once a week with tales of the comical, colorful, and sometimes tragic interactions I experienced in my quest for love. Fast-forward to four years and one memoir later, and here I am contributing stories about sex, dating, and relationships to The Advocate.

You might have already seen my entries, prompting the question, Why the fancy greeting now? Well, as I said, this is a formal introduction. I had an informal one of sorts with a few readers earlier this week via Twitter thanks to an error in the titling of my recent story about a transgender woman who addressed a question about attraction in a YouTube video. I really enjoyed the thoughts and opinions expressed in the video and constructed a write-up for the clip. In my excitement about delivering the story, though, I failed to give thought to the headline of the article. That’s what led to the exchanges on social media.

Without going into a complete rehashing, my original headline was just a reiteration of the question that was being answered in the video. In hindsight, it was a completely foolish, albeit unintentional, mistake. Within hours of the story being published, I was contacted on Twitter by Parker Marie Molloy, who also writes for The Advocate, and she expressed her disdain for the title. This set off a chain reaction and I was soon fielding tweets from others who were also very unhappy.

I offended a colleague, not to mention several of The Advocate’s readers. That was never my intention. I apologized the other night, and I am once again extending a sincere apology to anyone who took offense at the original headline, which has since been updated.

After communicating privately with Parker and posting my apology on Twitter, I settled into bed to watch a rerun of The Golden Girls (my nightly ritual). As I went over the chain of events in my head, I searched for the lesson I could take away from this experience while I watched Sophia argue with her new friend Alvin on the boardwalk. That’s when it hit me.

The hardest thing for most of us to do is apologize. Why? Because whenever a disagreement occurs, our defense mechanisms automatically kick in. Pride takes center stage, and we immediately think about protecting ourselves rather than stepping back to see how others are being affected. The end result is a breakdown in communication.

Knowing when to apologize is an important cornerstone in any relationship — whether it’s romantic, platonic, business, or a casual acquaintanceship. Ego and shame are the two biggest obstacles that prevent us from asking for forgiveness. They cloud our judgment and stop us from being present in the moment and engaging in healthy interactions. We can never truly be sorry and accept accountability if we’re letting ego and shame run the show. It took me 20-plus years of dating to figure this out, and it’s something I always have to be mindful of and willing to work on.

I understood my error the other night, and although I meant no malice, I realized my faux pas was offensive. I had no problems apologizing and accepting ownership of my actions in the situation. Was I embarrassed? Yes. But rather than allow myself to go to that place where I put up a wall and become dismissive and defensive, I faced the shame head-on. I feel better for doing so. I made some new friends on social media as a result.

When I was presented with this opportunity to write for The Advocate, I was grateful and eager for the opportunity to cover the broad spectrum of dating. While it’s true that as a gay man I identify with the “G” in LGBT, I don’t want to be known as the writer who only devotes time to subject matter that pertains solely to gay men. My goal is to present The Advocate’s readers with stories that will allow each and every person to walk away with something informative and entertaining. At times, I’ll make you laugh. Other times, I’ll probably make you roll your eyes. Either way, hopefully whatever I write will encourage dialogue about dating, sex, and relationships.

Stick with me.

And if it should happen that another time comes along where I need to apologize for something, rest assured I’ll do just that.

 

JUSTIN HERNANDEZ writes about sex, dating, and relationships for The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter at @HernandezJustin.

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