Another poster recently raised an issue of concern that repeated, frequent apologies to his BS would lose sincerity over time and it got me thinking about my own evolution regarding apologies to my BS.
It took me a long time to learn how to apologize in a way that means something to BS.
Very early in the process: "I'm sorry you feel hurt."
"I'm sorry I hurt you."
Somewhat later still:
"I'm sorry that I hurt you by (insert specific harmful behavior)."
"I can see why what I did hurt you so badly. I feel so bad that I did that to you. I wish I could take it back. I won't ever do that to you again."
I think the key to a meaningful apology is a demonstration of understanding why something was so hurtful to the BS. Sincere statements of remorse seem to follow naturally from that understanding and so the whole statement hangs together as authentic.
Another aspect of my apology evolution has been the timing of apologies. In the early days, I mostly apologized when we were already sliding down the avalanche of emotions while trying to talk about affair related issues.
Nowadays my apologies are mostly unsolicited and unplanned. They come up for me in response to some outside trigger that makes me think about something I did during the affair. Here's an example.
When I do kitchen work I like to put on a film I've seen and enjoyed many times in the past, something I don't really need to follow too carefully but is enjoyable to watch in little snippets as my attention wanders from task to task. Last night I picked "The Truman Show." I really enjoyed that film the first several times I saw it (probably 4-5 times pre-Dday and at least once post-Dday) but last night I found myself increasingly uncomfortable watching it. (I'm assuming here y'all have seen the movie or can read about it so I won't do a synopsis here.)
Truman's life was one massive gaslighting event. The crux of the movie is him beginning to suspect that he's being lied to and then he is thwarted by the liars at every turn in his efforts to try to find the truth. The few people who try to tell him the truth are cast by the liars as crazy and are eliminated from his life.
About half way through the film I switched to something else. When I next saw BS I told him about my experience watching the film this time and added that I remember so many times before D-day when he told me he was unhappy. He knew things were not right, in fact it literally made him sick because his gut was screaming and I was telling him something else. He chose to believe me. It went on for years. I feel ill myself thinking back on it. Then I said "I'm so sorry I did that to you. It was cruel." I don't remember if I said "I won't do that again" but if I didn't, I wish I had.
I guess the bottom line is that you can apologize sincerely for the same thing many times if each time you demonstrate a facet of your understanding of why what you did was so hurtful. I think the BS's call it "getting it". Also, unsolicited apologies during the calm seem to be more effective than those offered during the emotional avalanche. Me: WS (52)
Him: BS (47)
D-day: June 6, 2010
Last voluntary AP contact: June 23, 2010
NC Letter sent: 3/9/11
Riding shotgun down the avalanche.