Julie feels some resentment and anger towards her husband, Evan, since she discovered he purchased a new motorcycle and kept it a secret. Over the past month, Julie has shut down emotionally and she’s been giving Evan the silent treatment. However, she loves Evan and wants to accept his apology because she believes he is remorseful about his actions.
When Evan was able to confess his wrong doing and ask Julie to forgive him, it had a positive effect on her ability regain trust and will have a healing effect on their marriage.
According to experts, the capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love. Couples who are able to give and accept apologies can get back to feeling connected emotionally with their partner.
Why are apologies important?
Studies show that forgiving your spouse is good way to let go of your baggage so that you can heal and move on with your life. Often people equate apologizing with weakness and it is widely believed that if you apologize to someone you’re making yourself too vulnerable. However, apologizing can also be seen as a strength because it shows you are able to show goodwill toward your partner and be sincere.
Rather than pointing fingers in an effort to identify who is at fault, humbling oneself and confessing to the words or behavior that have caused your partner pain, upset, or harm can go a long way toward strengthening your marriage. It’s not about who’s right or wrong, if it’s a matter of your being “right” at the expense of causing pain to your spouse.
Evan could have stubbornly held onto the belief that he had nothing to apologize for – especially because he used his own money and his behavior was not intentionally hurtful. However, apologizing to Julie allowed her to let go of her feelings about being betrayed.
If you do apologize to your partner, be sure to do it in the right way and don’t include excuses for your actions or words. Not all apologies will be the same but most will contain some of the following elements.
6 ways to apologize to your partner:
- Write down two reasons you feel sorry for the hurt that your behavior or words caused your partner. Gain awareness of the emotions you experience about your own past hurt. This may help you to feel more empathy toward your spouse. Ask yourself: why did I feel the need to behave in a way that caused my partner pain or upset? Was my behavior intentional?
- Take responsibility for your hurtful actions or words. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.”
- Use the words “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” when you apologize to your partner. Your apology will more likely be heard and accepted if you use these words. Be specific about exactly what you did to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass them.
- Explain to your spouse how you plan to repair the situation (if this is possible). For example, if you said something to hurt your mother-in-laws feelings, you might offer to apologize to her over lunch or by writing her a note.
- Describe your actions without making excuses or blaming your mate or someone else. Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements can help you avoid the blame monster. For instance, you might say “I forgot to call you because I had an awful day at work. I am very sorry for being inconsiderate when I said I’d call,” rather than “You don’t have a right to control me.”
- Ask for Forgiveness. Processing what happened briefly with your spouse will allow you to let of resentments so you can move on to a healthier relationship. Keep the big picture in mind. Be sure to apologize when the setting is conducive to a private conversation and there aren’t any distractions (TV, cell phones, children in the room, etc.).
Apologies are an essential ingredient of a strong, healthy relationship. Accepting that you and your mate do the best you can will help you be more understanding. This does not mean you condone his or her hurtful actions. You simply come to a more compassionate and realistic view of your spouse.
Apologizing and practicing forgiveness is about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve – unhampered by hurt and recycled anger. It is about choosing to live a life wherein others don’t have power over you and you’re not dominated by unresolved anger, bitterness, and resentment.
Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy A Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship was published in January of 2016 by Sourcebooks.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry