I usually get up early so I can read and think and drink a little coffee before the rest of my family is awake. A couple of days ago, I looked over and saw Tony asleep in bed when I got out of the shower, and my stomach was instantly in knots. I had gone to bed early the night before because I was in a foul mood. We were working together on our new #staymarried group, but our hard drive had crashed. We had minimal programs, no printer set-up, no ink for the printer. It was a big irritating mess and a giant waste of my time. Tony was working through the tech stuff, and of course that irritated me, too. Waste of time, all of it. Bleh. I’m going to bed!
Now, after a full night’s rest, I saw more clearly that I’d been fantastically rude and taken my frustration out on him. I saw him sleeping and I knew I needed to apologize. Bleh, again! I hate apologizing. I mean, why can’t I just be grumpy and even a little mean when I feel like it? Why can’t we all just move on? I mean, he shouldn’t take it personally, right? I was mad about the computer, not about him. Yet, there he was, laying there sleeping, forgiving me before I even muster up whatever it is I need – humility, is it? – to apologize. I hate it.
I slinked into the bed, waking him up slowly, and I said it. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? I was a jerk and was really rude to you last night. I’m really sorry.” … and, exhale. Wow, that wasn’t so bad. As I started the words, I began to actually feel them. As I heard myself, I believed what I was saying more and more. I WAS a jerk, he didn’t deserve that. I WAS sorry. I DID hope he’d forgive me.
He kissed my cheek, “I forgive you. I love you,” and that was it. I was relieved. I couldn’t believe how much I was dreading apologizing, how frustrated I felt when I saw him in bed knowing I needed to ask forgiveness. I had just wanted it to go away without me taking any action at all. I was so annoyed with the whole thing in the first place and, now that it was over, I was so light and thankful and even happy. I pranced off to the kitchen to make us some coffee, sat and had a few minutes to myself, and the rest of the day was perfectly normal.
So, I’m wondering, am I the only one that dreads apologizing? I should say, I used to be much worse. I’m the stone-walling silent-treatment type by nature, and it used to take me a minimum of twenty four hours to come around. I would gnaw on my own self-righteousness, getting as much of that bitter flavor in my mouth as I could. I would glare and ignore and even wait for him to approach me in just the right way before I could even fathom apologizing for anything I did, which he probably provoked me to in the first place. Dream girl, right?
Tony’s never been that way. Not that he’s always right… although, I can hardly remember a time when he was actually wrong… but more that he always wants to reconcile as soon as possible. He has no need for grudges, no appetite for bitterness. He wants to move on and enjoy each other as fast as possible. Is that you? Are you quick to apologize? Quick to forgive? Quick to move on?
We’ve learned each other better over time, of course. I have always known it wasn’t the best thing to hold onto my frustration, but knowing and doing often have a gap – or even a chasm – in between. The gap has been narrowing for me over the years. Just think, I went to bed in a huff and woke up and apologized – not bad. Now, if I could have apologized for my attitude before going to bed, that might even be considered “holy” – but I’m not there yet.
Maybe it’s because I hate being wrong. Maybe it’s the pain of humility – though it isn’t actually humiliating. Maybe it’s the lack of self-control I have over my attitude in the first place that frustrates me. I would admit, yes, actually, it is all of these things. I hate apologizing for all of these reasons. When I need to apologize, I can easily think of even more reasons I hate it and even justify why I can’t or shouldn’t do so just yet. But, I’ve done it, and I’ll do it again. When I know I need to apologize, these are the things I try to keep in mind:
The DOs and DON’Ts for Making an Apology.
DON’T apologize for someone else’s feelings.
“I’m sorry you’re mad,” is not an apology. It’s condescending.
DO apologize for your own actions and attitude.
“I’m sorry I was rude,” is an apology that takes ownership. Be specific about what you did wrong. “I’m sorry for whatever made you mad” is NOT going to work. If you need some time to think and reflect on what you did, take it. It’s better to come with a real apology than a generic one that will probably end up creating a whole new fight.
DON’T add an excuse to your apology.
“I’m sorry I was rude, but I was really irritated,” means you’re not really sorry. You feel justified for the way you acted and you expect to be excused. One of the most memorable pieces of advice I’ve ever heard: When you say “I’m sorry, but …” you’re really just a sorry butt.
DO ask for forgiveness when you apologize.
“I’m sorry,” on it’s own, is just a statement. It requires no response. “Will you forgive me?” is a humble request that can rebuild a relationship. When you ask your spouse to forgive you, wait. Listen. Be prepared for them to say in response, “I need a minute, I’m not there right now.” When you are in the wrong, you are never owed forgiveness. Be grateful when you receive it.
DON’T expect a reciprocal apology.
Let’s say you were in a fight. You were both rude and hostile to each other and now you’ve decided to be the brave one and apologize first. Do not apologize expecting your spouse to apologize equally. They may not. If you expect them to, and they don’t, you may be tempted to say something like, “Never mind. I thought we were going to work this out together. I said I was sorry, you are obviously not sorry, so FORGET IT!” … Um… yeah… that’s not an apology. When you recognize you have done something wrong, just own your part of it. The end.
DO attempt to make a repair.
Once you get through the brutal, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” it’s wise to make the next step and ask, “Is there anything I can do to make this right?” Then, be prepared to wear your underwear on your head as you head over to the Starbucks drive-through to order your love his apology Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Asking my husband for forgiveness as often as possible has proven to bring us closer together time and time again. My stubbornness and self-righteousness seem to have done nothing for our relationship at all. So, I’ll be wrong again and again. I’ll need his forgiveness again and again. Hopefully I’ll see it sooner rather than later each time. Hopefully I’ll remember not to add excuses on the end of my apologies. I will ask him to forgive me. I will await his response. I will push past the knots in my stomach to say what needs to be said, because I know I can count on a light kiss on the cheek and his arms around me reminding me that with each time we forgive each other we are committing to #staymarried.