Why it is so amazingly difficult to say “I’m sorry” when you know you blew it? If you bump into someone in the hallway at work, it’s no big deal to say it quickly, but when you know you really hurt the feelings of someone you love it can be one of the hardest things to do. However, in a long-term relationship like marriage, this little courtesy can make or break the trust and love bond between you. It’s important that you learn when to say it, how to say it, and then that you do say it. Good manners go a long way in intimate relationships.
The apology really isn’t a step that can be skipped. I think it’s easy to believe that your love is the kind that is so strong that an apology isn’t necessary. You may think you have some sort of deep understanding between you that lets you off the hook. You feel you don’t need to say you are sorry because your spouse can tell how sorry you are by how nicely you have been treating her ever since, right? Maybe you can get away with that sometimes, but you cannot get away with it all of the time and really, I wouldn’t even try to do it some of the time. That is dangerous behavior!
When someone’s feelings are hurt bad enough, it can be hard for them to move on past that disappointment. You might never do it again, you might even do lots of really nice things for them that they will appreciate and be thankful for, but they still have a tough time getting over it. It still hurts. If they’re lucky, they will find a way to forgive you on their own, and they might be able to overcome their feelings, but forgiving someone that hasn’t asked for it can be an infinitely more arduous process than trying to forgive someone who humbly and sincerely apologizes, and then asks for forgiveness. Do not let yourself be responsible for that kind of pain in the person that you love. You might not know they are still suffering over something you did or said long ago but that’s does not mean that it doesn’t still hurt them. Do not let yourself be responsible for creating that kind of pain in the person you love.
Brick by brick, walls can build up in a marriage until there is no communication at all between two people who started out their life together with a loving, open relationship. Get rid of the bricks daily by apologizing and keep the relationship between you open and free and clear of anger and grudges that will eventually lead to unspoken hatred.
Here are some good rules regarding apologizing:
Rule number one: Never hurt the people you love. You may never know when you hurt someone so deeply that it is difficult for them to forgive you on their own, so follow this rule absolutely. And remember, it is always better and easier to avoid hurting them in the first place. Be aware of your words and actions.
Rule number two: In the event that you fail to keep rule number one, you must always apologize. Really. You must always apologize. Do not be too proud to recognize that you did something wrong and then apologize. It is the most basic thing you can do that will have the most profound effect on your marriage. When you are short-tempered, apologize for speaking abrasively to your spouse. If you didn’t say anything mean but still hurt her feelings somehow, you can still apologize for hurting her feelings.
Rule number three: Never do it again. Ask what you did wrong. Try to figure out why it was so upsetting to your loved one so you can be sure that you never do it again. Don’t abuse their forgiveness. It is no small thing when you tell someone you are sorry, and it is a huge thing if they can forgive you. Don’t put them back in that same situation where they have to try to forgive you again. They may do it, but it will hurt them when they see that you repeated your offense after apologizing for it because now your apologies are weaker and less sincere and so is their ability to trust you. How will they know the next time you apologize if it means “I’m so sorry and I’ll never do it again” or if it really means “I’m sorry but I might do it again.” They shouldn’t have to wonder which kind of apology this is.
You might just sit down with your spouse and have a conversation about how hard it is for you to say you’re sorry. Talk through it until you both understand why it is difficult for you. They will undoubtedly let you know how much it means to them when you apologize, and reassure you that tender feelings develop when you do.
Yes, it’s hard to apologize, but it is vital. Marriage requires a lot of work. You do not have to be perfect, and you don’t need to try to keep up some false image of yourself with your spouse. They know you are not perfect. If they didn’t before, they figured it out when you hurt them. Admitting you made a mistake does not make you less perfect, it makes you more so and validates you as a growing, learning human being. Apologizing is a great thing to do — it is healing for both of you when it is done sincerely. There is no advice better for a marriage and not many principles that are more important than to apologize for an offense. If a man buys his girl flowers to make her feel special, it still does not make up for making her feel inadequate unless it is also accompanied by a sincere verbal apology. The pain and disappointment are still there, though buried. He can try to balance it out by taking her to dinner or even on an exotic vacation but your time together will not be as sweet as it would have been if you had taken the time necessary to apologize before you left.
When you apologize, make sure it is sincere. If you have an argument, and you still feel like you are right and can’t sincerely say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong” you can at least say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong to make such a big deal out of it, I’m sorry I spoke in that tone of voice, I’m sorry I made you feel like I was mad at you, I’m sorry I made you cry.” Whatever you can sincerely say, say it as soon as you realize you have done something wrong. Don’t let the ugliness continue to grow and separate you! When you have calmed down, and cleared your head, and can apologize for the rest, make sure you do it.
Sometimes I will apologize to my wife for something that happened a day or two ago. She seems to have forgotten all about it, but it still eats me up inside and I feel such guilt for having offended the most important person in my life. I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen and I will bring it up again to let her know how horrible I feel about it. When we were first married I needed to apologize more often, and now that we understand each other better and our communication has improved, we find that we have less and less to apologize for.
Let that be your goal in your marriage. Admit to yourself that you will have problems of varying degrees, that you will disagree on some things, but because of your commitment to your relationship you will work them out. Make everything you do be a deliberate step towards the type of relationship you both want. One where you always get along, where you only speak kindly to each other, where you understand each other completely, and you have zero guilt for things tugging at your conscience. Your relationship will be infinitely closer than it would have been if you believe apologizing is an impossible task and never try. I promise you a happier marriage as you learn to admit your mistakes to each other and talk about them.