Entire stand-up comics’ careers (not to mention just about every domestic sitcom in the past decade—or is it century?) have been forged on the “I’m always apologizing for no reason” male relationship stereotype that, no matter what men do, they cannot escape apologizing to their girl several times a week for reasons completely unknown to them.
Now, whether you have no idea why you’re in trouble—or know damn-well why you’re in the dog house—if you have been in a relationship for any length of time, you know that the onus is on you to apologize and make things right. The effectiveness of your grovelling will depend on a few things.
First is your perceived sincerity. Women don’t really care to hear you apologize for something you don’t feel any remorse for. If they perceive you are being insincere, then they will ride this until you feel legitimately remorseful. So, if you’re not feeling the remorse, don’t bother with the lame attempt at getting back into her pants (which is how she’ll perceive your gesture and punish you accordingly).
Second, the attempt has to match the gravity of the offense. And by that, I mean, how grave she perceives the offense. To give you an idea of the levels of grovelling, here is a handy guide to matching your grovelling approach with the offense.
Level One: Misdemeanors
Most of the lower-level grievances that women have (the ones that dudes usually don’t catch) fall into the category of expecting you to remember or do things that their girlfriends would remember/do. For instance, a girl’s friends will never forget to ask about or celebrate an event (first day at a new job, birthday). A girl’s friend will let them know how much they appreciate them often. Why? Mostly because women feel tragically under-appreciated.
Most women think they give unselfishly of themselves, but really, they want the recognition. That is why you are expected to appreciate every remotely unselfish act they perform, and praise them accordingly. Their belief about how good they are to you also exacerbates their expectations of you. Since they do A, B and C for you (even though you don’t ask them to), the least they can expect is a little in return blahblahblah.
So, what should you do if you have “wronged” your girl in her mind, even if you don’t see the huge injustice? Well, if you want her to feel appreciated, it’s not actually that hard. Girls want to know that they are always on your mind. A good pre-emptive strike against irrational “you don’t appreciate me enough” complaints is to give her flowers or little tokens semi-regularly. This confirms for her that you do appreciate her and she won’t have to jump on pithy complaints to make her case that you don’t.
If you find yourself in the doghouse for a crime of unappreciation (e.g. forgetting an important date, not helping out around the house, constantly leering at other women in her presence), then you can usually get away with a traditional gesture of contrition.
Flowers work best when accompanied by going on step beyond the offending behaviour. For example, if you forgot a movie date, make up for it with flowers, dinner and a movie. If she feels that you are leaving the household chores up to her, then do all of yours, and all of hers, for a week. Follow through on the sincerity by continuing with yours (for added points, suggest the two of you set aside one morning on a day off to get chores done together and then celebrate by going out to lunch. She’ll eat up the “togetherness” of it all.)
Other options for the traditional, low-level apology: write her a letter or card telling her how much you appreciate her (literally, it could say, “I really appreciate everything you do,” and it’ll knock her socks off—girls are just suckers for cards); make her dinner; buy her a little gift. What can I say? Girls love getting stuff, especially stuff that shows how well you know them (i.e. the less generic, the better).
Level Two: Felonies
The level two grovelling involves some more serious offenses. These you will recognize by the combination of disdain and disappointment on your girl’s face, and most will be things that you may not have considered a big deal at the time, but quickly realize that you acted like a jerk. These instances can include forgetting plans on major dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), dropping the ball when your girl is having a crisis (this could be health-related, or involving the loss of someone close to her), or lying to her. The worst thing about these ones is that they involve really hurting her feelings.
You are going to have to up the ante on these occasions. First is a full admission that you are a worm who is undeserving of her love and affection. The harsher the insult you use to describe how low you have sunk, the better. Don’t try to explain this one away. If you’ve made a mistake, then the first step is apologizing. If you try to justify your crime while she is hurt, it will fall on deaf ears, and likely make her angrier. “Guilty with an excuse” doesn’t fly in the early stages of the conflict.
In order to make good, you are going to have to pair any of the above misdemeanour tactics with a real sacrifice on your part to show that you are willing to make yourself suffer like you have made her suffer. It’s hard to truly make up for one of these incidents, as the act of contrition will always be tainted by the original sin.
An example of sacrifice can include giving up an important night out with the boys that you covet (poker night, for example) to plan a special night for her. For top points, the night should include an event that she loves, especially one that you are not too crazy about (the ballet, opera, dancing), to show that you are not only sorry, but are willing to give up a little something for her. At the end of the night, look her straight in the eye, and say one last time, “I really am sorry, you know.”
Level Three: Crimes against Humanity
This final level is reserved for extreme crimes against the relationship. They could include cheating, gambling away your nest-egg, or having your secret drug habit exposed. This level is reserved for deal-breakers. If you have performed an egregious act against the relationship, chances are that she will not be talking to you for a while. She will need “decompression” time in which she will consult all of her girlfriends with whom she will commiserate about what a dick you are, while gleaning as much advice as she can.
While she is doing this, take a page from the celebutard school of contrition: get into any counselling, rehab or 12-step program you can find. This is the first step in showing your sincerity and commitment to change. While respecting her space, send her updates in the form of cards and letters, telling her what you have learned form this experience (get your counsellor to help you with this). No gift will cover this, and neither will any one gesture. The only way to recover from a mistake this big is to sincerely commit to change, try to involve her in the change (couple’s counselling, for example), and hope that she is a forgiving soul.