You and your spouse have just had an argument. ‘I don’t need to apologize,’ you tell yourself. ‘I’m not the one who started it!’
You drop the issue, but the tension lingers. You reconsider apologizing, but you cannot bring yourself to say those simple words “I’m sorry.”
WHY IT HAPPENS
Pride. “Sometimes it’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry’ because my ego gets in the way,” admits a husband named Charles. * Inordinate pride can make you too embarrassed to acknowledge your share of the blame.
Viewpoint. You might feel that an apology is in order only if you are responsible for the problem. A wife named Jill says: “When I know I’m a hundred percent at fault, it’s easy to say ‘I’m sorry.’ But when we both said things we regret, it’s difficult. I mean, why should I apologize if both of us messed up?”
You might feel even more justified if you feel that what happened was entirely your spouse’s fault. “When you genuinely believe that you haven’t done anything wrong,” says a husband named Joseph, “withholding an apology becomes a way of declaring your innocence.”
Upbringing. Perhaps you were raised in a household where apologies were seldom uttered. If so, you may not have learned to own up to your mistakes. Having had little practice as a child, offering sincere apologies as an adult has never become your habit.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Focus on your spouse. Try to think of a time when someone apologized to you and how good that made you feel. Why not make your spouse feel the same way? Even if you do not believe you were wrong, you can apologize for the hurt your spouse feels or for the unintended consequences of your actions. Such words can help your spouse to heal.
Focus on your marriage. View an apology, not as a defeat for you, but as a victory for your marriage. After all, a person who remains offended is “more unyielding than a fortified city,” says Proverbs 18:19. It is difficult, if not impossible, to restore peace in such a defensive atmosphere. On the other hand, when you apologize you prevent the offense from becoming a barrier. In essence, you put your marriage ahead of yourself.
Be quick to apologize. True, apologizing may be difficult if you are not fully to blame. But your spouse’s faults do not excuse bad behavior on your part. So do not hesitate to apologize, thinking that the passing of time will cover over the offense. Your apologizing can make it easier for your spouse to apologize too. And the more you practice apologizing, the easier it will become for you.
Prove that you mean it. Rationalizing your behavior is not the same as apologizing for it. And saying, perhaps with a tinge of sarcasm, “I’m sorry that you’re so sensitive about this” is not an apology at all! Accept responsibility for your actions and acknowledge the hurt your spouse feels, whether you believe that the hurt is warranted or not.
Face facts. Humbly accept that you will make mistakes. After all, everyone does! Even if you think you are blameless in a situation, recognize that your version of what happened is probably not the whole story. “The first to state his case seems right,” says the Bible, “until the other party comes and cross-examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17) You will be more apt to apologize if you have a realistic view of yourself and your shortcomings.
^ par. 7 Some names in this article have been changed.