by Tara Pringle Jefferson
I don’t want to put my husband on blast, but for most of our relationship (6+ plus years) I’ve felt his apologies have been lackluster.
Now, I’m not asking that he get down on bended knee with a tray of brownies (yum) and a bouquet of lillies, and beg my forgiveness. One, our arguments have never been that deep, and two, that’s a bit much, don’tcha think?
Instead my husband was King of the “I’m sorry you felt that way.” Ugh! Drove me crazy that every apology seemed to have a hint of “Boy, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
But this year, I had a breakthrough. I wanted us to keep growing in our marriage but if we could never really get past our disagreements (if I was still hurting after the conversation was over), then how could we grow?
So my husband and I sat down and we talked. And we talked. And we talked. And when we finished talking? We talked some more. And we finally got to the bottom of his weak apologies:
It was me.
Now, no one was more shocked than I was. I discovered that the reason my husband never apologized for the real issue that was bothering me was because I NEVER TOLD HIM THE REAL ISSUE.
Say, for instance, we had a disagreement about him inviting people over to the house (and expecting me to cook and entertain) without asking me first. I would voice my disapproval about it and ask that he keep me in the loop. He would say, “I’m sorry you feel I don’t keep you in the loop even though you knew three weeks ago I wanted to invite the guys over….” And then we’d be back where we started.
But the real problem wasn’t that he invited people over, it’s that I value my weekends and my downtime and I felt he wasn’t respecting that. But would I tell him that? No. Hence the apologies that didn’t feel real because he was apologizing for the WRONG PROBLEM. Duh!
So what do we do now?
1) Dig deeper and figure out what you’re REALLY arguing about. Sometimes we let small problems become our focus when our real beef is much larger. Our outrage about the socks on the floor is really just a symptom of our larger issue with you confusing us with the maid. If you’re upset that your wife doesn’t wear sexy lingerie, are you really upset that your sexual frequency has decreased?
2) Use words the other can understand and grasp. As I’ve learned, you can’t get a quality apology (and therefore move on from the situation) until you voice a concrete concern. I used to say to my husband all the time that my feelings were hurt. “My feelings were hurt when you blah blah blah…” But he never really understood what I meant. So I had to change it to “I felt disrespected when you blah blah blah…” It’s a subtle difference, but I learned what words have impact with my husband and now I use those.
3) If you can voice what’s wrong in one sentence, use one sentence. I ramble when I’m upset. I go on and on and on about why I feel hurt and what I think we should do and all the while I see my husband’s eyes glazing over. Then that creates another problem because I’m upset he’s not listening! But who can blame him? I had to learn to get straight to the point so he could understand, apologize quickly and we could move on.
We’re still not perfect, but we’re making the effort to love each better. That includes learning to apologize like we mean it.
BMWK family – do you give genuine apologies? Does your spouse? How are you trying to do better?
Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer and blogger living in Ohio with her husband and two children. Visit her blog, www.theyoungmommylife.com, to read more of her observations about life, motherhood and love.