The 9 most important words in a marriage

The 9 most important words in a marriage February 19, 2015

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Some people believe the philosophy…“Being in love means never having to say, ‘I’m sorry.'”

The people who believe that are almost always DIVORCED!

The truth is, a healthy marriage requires A LOT of grace. Some couples get stuck in a stagnant rut because one or both spouses dig in their heels and refuse to admit fault for fear of looking weak or giving “power” to the other spouse. Neither spouse is willing to swallow their pride and go first. This creates a toxic cycle where nobody wins.

When you hold a grudge, you both lose. When you choose to forgive, you both win!

Before I get to the “Nine most important words in a marriage” let me share briefly on how NOT to apologize…

“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings”

This isn’t a real apology. It’s the kind of “apology” that will just make your spouse want to punch you in the nose. It’s a passive aggressive way of saying, “You were being too sensitive.”

“I’m sorry for whatever I did”

Anytime the word “whatever” is used in the apology, it loses authenticity. A real apology is specific and heartfelt, not vague and impersonal.

“I’m sorry, but I wasn’t the only one at fault.”

You probably weren’t the only one at fault, but your apology loses sincerity when you start trying to assign blame to your spouse at the same time. They have to do that on their own. If there’s ever a “but” in your apology, it isn’t a real apology. 

Now, for a better way to apologize, here are the 9 of the most important words in a marriage...

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” 

These simple words can preserve trust in your marriage, and once you lose trust, you risk losing everything. Always be quick to say them when you’ve blown it! Here’s how…

There are 3 key components to a true apology. I’ll give an example below of how this kind of apology can look in a marriage.

1. Confessing guilt. (I was wrong.)

This needs to be specific and heartfelt, not forced or coerced. Reveal the details of what you did and the motives behind them (even if it isn’t pretty.

2. Admitting remorse. (I am sorry.)

This can’t just be remorse that you got caught. It has to come from a place of reflection and genuine concern for the damage you caused.

3. Asking for grace. (Please forgive me.)

This requires swallowing your pride and putting the power in your spouse’s hands. It’s asking the opportunity to rebuild what you have broken by your words and/or actions and it’s asking them to give up the right to punish and to focus instead on healing and rebuilding trust.

Here’s an example…

“I know that I hurt you when I hid that purchase I made from you. I chose to value something I wanted to buy more than I valued your feelings and your trust in me. I was wrong. I don’t have an excuse other than I was being selfish and reckless. I am sorry. I want to make this right. I want you to be able to trust me fully and completely and I know I wounded your trust in me. Please tell I can to to start rebuilding your trust. I love you and I want to do everything in my power to protect our marriage. Please forgive me.

If you’re on the receiving end of the apology, accept it with grace and move forward to rebuild trust.

For more on this, read my popular post on “How to Rebuild Trust.

Let grace flow freely in your marriage. Be quick to forgive and to seek forgiveness. Don’t keep score and don’t hold grudges! Your marriage will thrive when you embrace grace.

For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage please connect with me on twitter and watch my FREE video with my amazing wife Ashley where we teach The 4 Pillars of a Strong Marriage.

And check out my bestselling book, iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage which is now also available as an ebook download for iPhones, iPads and all Apple devices (by clicking here).

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  • Susan Snow Horvath

    Regarding: admitting or confessing…I think the author is coming from the standpoint that the transgression is a given. If my partner fails to tell me something secondary to on oversight, there’s nothing to PROVE….he may have simply forgotten, but that doesn’t mean that my feelings weren’t hurt. The simple process of him saying, “I’m sorry for not telling you.” doesn’t imply that he was guilty, per se…it simply means that he’s regretfully acknowledging the unintentional failure that caused my pathos.

    Regarding Forgiveness: For me, forgiveness isn’t something that I withhold until I receive an apology or until “…deeds back-up promises…” Forgiveness does not minimize, justify, or excuse the wrong that was done. Forgiveness also does not mean denying the harm and the feelings that the injustice produced. And forgiveness does not mean putting yourself in a position to be harmed again. You can forgive someone and still take healthy steps to protect yourself, including choosing not to reconcile.

    Forgiveness has nothing whatsoever to do with other people. It is a decision that we make for ourselves; a gift we give to ourselves (as a Christian, we forgive, so we may be forgiven Matthew 6:12, 6:14-15). Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to stop judging, to stop condemning.

    You state: “Covenant marriage keeps problems going….” and that Christians should stop supporting a “failed model” with your solution “….putting safety, happiness, and sexual fulfillment as the goals of the relationship.” is NOT what makes a successful Christian marriage.

    The primary difference between a Christian marriage and a non-Christian marriage (since YOU brought it up) is that Christ is the CENTER of the marriage…In a Christian marriage, partners practice selflessness, as described in Philippians 2:3-4. Both husband and wife must consider their partner’s needs before their own. Strong Christian marriages are characterized by the spiritual disciplines—Bible study, Scripture memory, prayer, and meditation on the things of God. When both partners practice these disciplines, each is strengthened and matured, which naturally strengthens and matures the marriage

  • Susan Snow Horvath

    Completely agree GoodDad 🙂

  • Mary Witt

    The apology I received when I learned my husband was dating another woman-
    “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt”.