Hello AwakenYou listeners and welcome to a brand new month of opportunity and with it being a new month I want to take this as an opportunity for you to spend a few moments writing down the one thing you will work on this month when it comes to improving either your relationship with yourself or your spouse. Which will you choose and what will you work on specifically? Set your intention today, not just in your mind, write it down someplace where you will see it often, and use our weekly time together here to be your reminder to check in on your progress. If you haven’t downloaded my free Abundant Love Mini-Course then that would be a great place to start, it could be your project this month to start feeling better about your marriage. This course will help you start noticing the lens through which you are seeing your marriage and help you do a prescription tweak so that you are seeing more clearly. If you’ve already worked through that course take the next step of picking one of these episodes and making that your focus of the month, or even better, go watch one of my Marriage Masterclass replays and implement the action steps this month. Whatever you choose to do, I’ve got you. Send me a message letting me know what you’re working on and let’s hold each other accountable! This week I want to talk about the mechanics of how to apologize and why it’s so important because I am seeing how difficult this is for so many of my clients – and how difficult it was, and sometimes still is, for me.
Can I get an “amen” from those of you who grew up in a household where apologies weren’t a part of the program or if they were it was forced upon you, more as a penalty for being “bad?” Right off the bat, we’re instructed from a place of guilt and shame that we’re bad people and never taught that yes, we all make mistakes and that making an apology for our poor behavior comes from a place of self-compassion and genuine remorse for how we behaved without it meaning that we are characteristically bad people.
Today let’s look at why apologizing can be so difficult, why a good apology is so important, while also looking at what constitutes a poorly and effectively constructed apology and then lastly I want to take a look at how you can work through a situation where the other person won’t apologize because it’s going to happen.
Why apologizing can be so difficult
Each unique one of us has a suitcase of stories that might lead us to have a difficult time apologizing to our spouses, certainly something to sort through. If this is the case we can start to recognize our pattern as developed from situations in our childhood and start to let go of these behaviors as no longer necessary. In our marriages we are working on building each other up together as a team, it’s not about each of you playing on separate teams. Together we lift each other up so when you come out of a conflict or some “disharmony” you can recognize where your unwillingness to give in and admit how you may have hurt the other is coming from your past. This past may have you afraid of admitting your part in the detachment, fear of admitting you were wrong or acted in a way that inflamed a reaction from your spouse. Apologizing might make you feel like you are unreliable, a bad spouse/person, unworthy, damaged, and unlovable. What else?
The root of this difficult and uncomfortable experience is often a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. When you have a solid relationship with yourself you are better able to admit your mistakes, know that they don’t make you a bad person and that your apology doesn’t make you “less than.” On the contrary, it has you having empathy for your spouse and where they are coming from, and what they are experiencing. It doesn’t have you defending yourself and coming back to them with all of the reasons they hurt you but instead allows you to hear their story, and apologize from a place of love and compassion so you can follow through with the repair process.
Yes, you may have things to say about how you are feeling but if you can hold some space while mending the current situation it will have your spouse in a better place to receive your words.
Why is an apology so important?
The growth that happens in a relationship comes from repairing a patch in the road that’s been damaged. When two adults come together conflict, disagreement and disharmony should be expected. This isn’t a problem, unless you are unable to work through the conflict and come to a resolution.
It’s like anything else you do that is worthwhile. Think about it, think about any project you work on that you love working on. Maybe you like working on things that never present a challenge, but for me, projects without challenges get super boring, there’s no learning, no growth, no well – challenge. If you want your marriage to have more fiery intimacy, some good spicy fun, and an electric connection you have to dig into your conflict, go from a place of harmony to disharmony, share what is bothering you, and then work together to repair the break. And by the way, this is work we do within my AwakenYou program – learning how to be an expert at the repair cycle.
What a bad apology looks like
A bad apology doesn’t have you claiming your personal responsibility for the disruption while basically pointing the finger at the other person. You are dismissing the other person, invalidating how they are feeling and the impact your actions had on them.
Some examples of poor apologies:
- I’m sorry you feel that way
- I’m sorry you took it that way
- I’m sorry but…if you hadn’t done…
- If I offended you I’m sorry
These apologies have you placing the problem on the other person instead of acknowledging the role you played in how they are feeling.
There are for sure times when your spouse is going to take something you said the wrong way, and yes, while you can explain away what you actually meant, simply acknowledging that you can understand how they would feel the way they do will take you way further in calming the waters of disrepair.
What a good apology looks like
A good apology has you taking responsibility for what you said/did and how it made the other person feel, without needing to explain yourself. It has you legitimately feeling regret around how the other person is taking your actions. Think about what it might be like to help your spouse trust you in that you want to work on improving this type of behavior. Don’t make unrealistic promises to never act this way again but instead ask for help with overcoming this behavior. I love an honest request for forgiveness, it makes me feel seen, heard, and loved while bringing each of you to the same level for a magical calm connection.
- I’m so sorry, I legitimately feel bad that how my actions hurt you.
- What I did was wrong, I’m sorry, please forgive me as I work on getting better at catching and changing this behavior.
- Is there a way for me to make this right? What might it look like for you when helping me convey my commitment to working on a change in this area?
- I want to get better and I appreciate your willingness to lovingly call me out when this behavior comes up again.
- Will you please forgive me? I am all in on this relationship and need your grace as I work on being better.
Do you notice how all of these put the focus and responsibility on the person giving the apology, this helps co-regulate the offended party, again bringing you both to the same playing field and connecting.
What to do when your spouse won’t apologize
Let it go. I know that feels like a hard pill to swallow and I completely understand but sometimes our partners have work to do that they are unwilling to do or don’t recognize that they need to do it. They aren’t here listening to the podcast or investing time in the way that you are. Normalizing their behavior, without accepting it as ok, by understanding what their own personal struggle might be will go a long way. You might consider stating that an apology could go a long way in making you feel better and explaining that we all make mistakes, that it won’t make you think less of them but will do wonders is making you feel included in the relationship. Sharing that the apology isn’t so that you can beat them up but so that you can feel better about their desire to connect and work on your marriage as a team.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this: healing and forgiving are two different things. You can offer your gift of forgiveness without letting go of their responsibility to treat you differently and without holding them to their commitment to change. It is now up to you to call out behavior that triggers you as well as recognize that the behavior is a trigger that you can do the work of learning how to respond differently to. Listening to Ep 75: How To Create Healthy Boundaries as well as Ep 65: How Trauma Might Be Affecting Your Marriage will help you to recognize your possible need to heal and that is amazing work for you to do!
Maybe this could be your goal this month, the work of looking at when you might want to offer an apology and working through the process of why it might be hard and learning how to do it well. Always remember, I am here to help you work through the process, if you get stuck don’t stay there, book yourself a mini-coaching session and let’s get you moving forward!
I am a marriage coach who helps women and couples go from feeling powerless to change how they feel about their marriage to feeling powerful and taking ownership of how they feel. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage, and through this process, you will begin to find that your partner will change as well! Schedule your free mini-coaching session today to discover how coaching can help you take your next steps forward toward what you want in your marriage.