I’ve never had trouble apologizing. If I disrespected my parents, I would apologize. If I accidentally bumped into someone in the school hallway, I would apologize. If someone accidentally bumped into me in a school hallway, I would apologize.
I learned from an early age that this is the way to prevent further conflict and to even fix a bit of the conflict already brewing. Therefore, my pride rarely ever gets in the way of a heartfelt apology.
As a child, I was patted on the head for this. After all, isn’t this how teachers, coaches, and babysitters make your resolve conflict. “Just apologize to each other and move on.” It is bred in some of us from the get-go.
However, many people are nothing like me. This was a weird realization. Some people find it incredibly hard to apologize, and they will run the logic game over and over in their head before apologizing to make sure that an apology is deserved in the situation.
These were the “bad kids” when I was growing up.
These were the kids that didn’t apologize in the dodgeball game if the kid that they hit in the face deserved it.
These were the kids that spent the rest of PE in the corner.
This was my husband.
Conflict is handled very strangely in my relationship. It consists of me apologizing, him accepting it… then silence.
After the silence comes pure anger over the fact that I’m sorry and he is not.
This is followed by words, actions, and thrown objects that I will surely be apologizing for in the next hour.
This is also incredibly unhealthy, and for years I blamed this relationship issue on my husband, on his pride, and on his refusal to just apologize.
Two words, right. You can do it. It won’t kill you.
It took some deep soul searching, and a bit of professional help, to understand that my constant apologizing could be the deeper issue when I pushed through all the emotion.
My apologies became a surrender, and if you know me, you would know that “flight” is not my first instinct. I’m a fighter, I have been since childhood because for years fighting was just as easy for me as flighting. But apologizing made flighting an easier escape. I no longer had to grind out a whole conflict. If conversation got uncomfortable, apologize. If the words that needed to be said hurt someone, apologize. If the words that needed to be said hurt me, apologize.
The issue is, relational issues don’t disappear with these apologies, they get pressed down and they destroy us from within. I’ve had countless friendships be demolished because the end to the conflict was never a resolution. It was an apology—usually a premature one at that.
And a sad scary truth is if I didn’t marry a man who believed me, and my conflicts, and my relationship with him was worth more than bandages of apologies, it would have demolished five years ago.
My husband puts thought into the words, “I’m sorry,” and he only says it when he is truly sorry, and though this has caused frustration over the years, it has forced both him and I to pull some of the grossest, hardest, most tearful and heartbreaking demons out of the deepest pits of our relationship so that they can no longer be silently eating at our marriage for the years ahead.
Our first months of marriage has been easier than our whole relationship leading to this day because we left our honeymoon stage before the marriage began. He made me face some gross things in him and myself that I would have happily slapped an “I’m sorry” sticker on and called it a day.
He puts thoughts into his apologies because he’s not always wrong, and neither am I. He puts thoughts into his apologies because our relationship is worth the conflict and resolution that “I’m sorry” saves you from. Our relationship is worth the hard conversations.
After all, if you surrender your defense on every issue that matters to you, how long will it take to surrender the whole relationship?
Follow this logic—I would do something not worth an apology, but my instinct would be to automatically apologize. This would lead me to believe that my husband was angry at this tiny mistake, and then I would be angry that he was angry and determine that my husband has a grace issue. This would become the biggest fight over something as small as spilled water. But it wouldn’t stop there. It became a deeper issue.
I began to be angry with myself for always upsetting my husband, even though I wasn’t. I believed that I was more than just “sorry,” I would believe that I was a “sorry person.” I would believe that my husband saw me as this sorry and clumsy human, and then I would be angry that he sees me in such a bad light. When the truth behind it all is this is just how I saw myself because over and over at least ten times a day I was repeating the words, “I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry that I spilled the water.
I’m sorry that I was in your way.
I’m sorry that I burnt the asparagus.
I’m sorry that the house is messy.
I’m sorry that I haven’t fed the dog yet.
I’m a sorry wife.
I’m a sorry cook.
I’m a sorry housekeeper.
I’m a sorry dog mom.
I’m a sorry human.
We command our own thoughts about ourselves, and through your verbal words, through your verbal apologies, as innocent and respectful as you might believe you are being, you are commanding this less than ideal image of who you are.
Stop apologizing for who you are.
I fed my dog about an hour late because I was working. I’m not sorry, I’m hardworking.
I burnt the asparagus because I was trying a new recipe. I’m not Sorry, I’m bursting out of a comfort zone.
The house is messy because I’m taking the time to be present over perfect. I’m not sorry, I’m with you.
My husband understands this about me, even when I’m not understanding it about myself. He never demands these apologies, I demand them, culture demands them, but never him. He wants logic. He wants deliberate thought. He wants structure so that things can be improved, but never apologies, never shame.
It becomes instinct. There is no thought to it. It is just so easy, but the side-effects that we don’t even think we are developing because of this constant apologizing, those are hard. Hard to face, hard to overcome, hard to understand.
Beautiful girl, you’re not saving your marriage with your surrender. It’s not always compromise, it’s relenting. You’re not saving your relationship with it.
Think it through. Why did you burn your asparagus? Why did you spill the water? Why did you say those words? Really consider whether it needs an apology.