If you’ve been married for any length of time, then you know that apologies come with the territory.
“Honey, I’m sorry for not taking out the trash the other day. I’ll take care of it now.”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you Joe was coming over to watch the game today.”
“I was gonna put gas in the car, I completely forgot. Sorry.”
We say it all the time, sometimes by reflex and other times through contrition.
And I’m sure you’ve heard some say (and you may even subscribe to the theory) that it’s best to apologize, even when you haven’t done anything wrong — just to avoid an argument.
In some cases I guess that can be helpful.
But half assed apologies can have you cast into Marital Purgatory, before getting you off the hook for your “indiscretions.”
“Take me for instance. No really, please — take me.”
It happened last Thursday, as I was picking up a check from a client in Beverly Hills …
I missed my wife’s text (and phone call), asking me to pick her up in downtown.
When I finally realized that she had tried to contact me to pick her up, it had already been a good thirty minutes or so later; which meant she would have to wait another hour before I would be able to get to her (given LA rush hour traffic).
Stuck in traffic, heading back to get her, all I could think about was how much my wife was going to rip me a new one.
Stressed, worried, and reluctant to arrive in downtown; hoping an earthquake (at least a seven on the Richter Scale) would hit, bulldozing the city and its roads, only to eclipse my wife’s festering anger — in lieu of the destruction that Mother Nature would deal in my defense.
No earthquake. No apocalypse. No Deus Ex Machina or Heavenly Rapture to whisk me away …
It was just me and my thoughts. (Scary stuff.)
When I finally picked her up, we argued, went home and stayed relatively frustrated with each other until the next evening.
A Half-Cocked Apology Falling On Deaf Ears
Eventually my wife and I talked it through like adults and were able to move on — without causing any severe damage and thoroughly addressing each of our concerns.
And after some consideration and a little bit of reading, I realized a couple of my “apology fails” that made my initial apology instantly fall on deaf ears.
But I also realized how “half-cocked” my initial apology was and why I should probably stop using this approach when making an apology.
Here are three insights I picked up along the way:
Using an “apology” as a defense. By its true definition an apology was originally meant to be an argument, a defense for one’s position in court. (That’s where Plato’s Apology of Socrates came from — read it and you’ll quickly learn that Socrates was building his defense, not apologizing, as we know the word.) So unless you’re planning on defending yourself against your wife, don’t apologize in the true sense of the word. In other words, don’t be defensive.
Overusing “I’m sorry” — the psyche killer. Say something often enough and you just might start believing it. People say, “I’m sorry” when they’re inadvertently blocking your pathway in the grocery store, instead of saying, “excuse me” or “pardon me.” You can substitute “I’m sorry” for the words “I apologize” in almost any instance with your wife (barring a funeral or other events in which you have no control over.) Try it. It’s better to be safe than … “sorry.”
When words sound nice but smell like BS. If you aren’t sincere in what you’re saying, don’t apologize. At least not at that moment and especially if you plan on going the much trodden “I’m sorry” route. If you try to apologize when your words are just rhetoric, it will only cause her to resent you more, because she’ll smell your BS. Get yourself in the right frame of mind first, make sure the time is right and genuinely make your apology.
Remember, there will always be minor setbacks (in life and in your relationship), so don’t beat yourself up over them. Address them directly, no matter how painful the situation may be, with character and empathy.
Apologies Are Necessary Evils To Be Handled With Care
Like I already said, if you’ve been married for any number of years, you already now how prevalent apologies really are in your life.
That’s the reason why it’s important to learn how to dish them out …
Namely, with sincerity, vulnerability, and with an understanding that you will always make mistakes — and that you aren’t a “sorry person,” but sorry for your error in judgment … and for that, you “apologize.”
This is something that in theory, sounds easy to do, just as many other domestic interpersonal “techniques” that we hear of. But mastery can only come with perfect practice.
And that can only start with awareness.
From one husband to another,