My husband and I were heading out to lunch when suddenly it dawned on us that we had totally forgotten to drop our other car off for repairs like we had scheduled earlier that morning. Without hesitation, he got on the phone and called the mechanic. The side of the conversation that I heard went like this, “Hey Johnny, this is Chris. I had an appointment this morning to drop my car off and I totally blew it. I apologize. I completely forgot.”
His words were almost like a gut punch to me. Apologies always roll off his humble tongue, but they have to be drug out of my mouth, and even then, they often come out kicking and screaming!
I’m not sure which apology camp you fall into, mine or his, but regardless, there definitely are some ways to kill the entire purpose of an apology, whether you’re good or bad at offering them up.
For starters, LEADING WITH AN EXCUSE will cause your apology to fall on deaf ears. If what comes out of your mouth first is a justification, you’re not heading in the right direction. Starting with a justification is basically the same as saying, “Let me tell you my valid excuse for why I treated you poorly, or let me explain why you deserved that hurtful thing that I said.”
It’s ok to share a reason why something went wrong—but first, just lead with the apology, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that or said that.” After the apology is spoken and received, then it’s ok to say “I am really sorry I snapped at you. I really shouldn’t let myself get so hangry.” Because we’ve all been there, am I right?
You also don’t want to be found BLAMING YOUR SPOUSE FOR BEING TOO SENSITIVE. To tell your spouse that something you did or said wasn’t that hurtful and that they are overreacting is probably one of the quickest ways to shut them down and go in the opposite direction of repair.
If you have done something wrong, your spouse has the right to feel about it however they feel about it. Your part in apologizing is just that, apologizing. It is not trying to control their feelings by saying things like “I’m sorry, but you’re just being ridiculous. It’s not that big of a deal.” Allow them to be upset using their own emotional scale.
Another way to have an apology fall apart is by PUTTING CONDITIONS ON IT. Conditions on an apology removes the entire value of it. Conditions suggest that you will only be sorry if. Although it’s desirable, you don’t need your spouse to own their part of the problem in order to be sorry.
In fact, if they don’t, your genuine, non-conditional apology will be a great example to them. Learn to apologize because it is right and humble, not because it’s the fair thing. Be a leader of humility and respect in your marriage. Don’t allow your spouse’s reaction to dictate whether or not you do the right thing.
Finally, in order to fully void out an entire apology, you’d have to NEVER CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR. Yep, if you keep on repeating the problem, no matter how good you are at apologizing, it just simply won’t hold any power. Without changed behavior, an apology is meaningless. Your words will be just that, words. Without the actions to match them, they just fizzle out.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Expedition Marriage