It can be one of the hardest things to do in any relationship… apologize. It can be especially hard for men because an apology can make us feel exposed and open to attack or blame. To admit to failure can make us feel weak. The truth is an honest and heartfelt apology takes a great deal of courage, a virtue many of us would like to embody.
Our past hurt has a large impact on how we view and interact with the world. When we snap at each other, become frustrated, or say things that are hurtful we are letting coping behaviors that did not begin with our spouses, dictate the present course of our relationships. Reactions to pain slowly become more and more automatic us, even the reactions that we hate.
It is during these times that we need to pause and realize that we have the power to change our attitudes and our marriages. Learning to apologize and forgive each other is an essential aspect of any relationship, but it takes practice and a sincere desire to express regret. A heartfelt apology should always contain these key components:
FEEL AND EXPRESS REGRET
One of the most important aspects of an apology is first feeling true regret for your actions. When you apologize because you are “going through the motions” your words carry less weight.
ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS
An honest apology is also an acknowledgement of responsibility. You are taking responsibility for your own actions or words. If you lashed out at your spouse with hurtful words or comments, apologize for the action itself. You need to accept the role you played in making the decision to act a certain way. Saying “I’m sorry you took it the wrong way” or “I’m sorry for whatever made you mad” is a way of shifting blame from yourself to your spouse. Remember that the power to change resides only within you.
Actions can speak louder than words. To demonstrate that your words are not hollow you need to follow up your apology with suggestions on ways you can improve or make amends. An example would be, “I’m sorry I’m late. It must have been frustrating for you to make a wonderful meal and then wonder where I was. What if I make dinner tomorrow night to make up for my being late?”
ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Saying “I’m sorry” is a statement that requires no response or direct communication. Asking for forgiveness is a humble request that can help build a relationship. The vulnerability of a genuine apology opens up an important part of yourself to the person you wronged. It invites that person to open up about how that behavior made them feel. Those lines of communication are incredibly powerful in strengthening your relationship with your spouse.
We are not perfect, but we do have the capacity to apologize and to forgive just as the Lord forgave us.
Get rid of bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32