Marriage involves two people from different backgrounds which means that on several occasions, one will step on another’s toes. While that should not be reason for alarm, how we respond after hurting one another matters. Here is how you can make that apology matter and have a lasting impression.
How you phrase your apology matters. For example, whenever I said, “If I did (ABC), forgive me”, my spouse’s face fell. That alone means you do not see reason for apologising but you will anyway.
Another phrase could be, “I am sorry you feel that way” which means if they chose to ignore what you did thus have unfazed feelings, you would never apologize.
The same goes for, “I am sorry you took it that way”, and “I am sorry I said it that way”
I have come to learn that the most meaningful apology is either, “I am sorry, I did........” or “I am sorry, I said....”
Mind your tone
Irrespective of the correct wording, Perez Isiko, a marriage counsellor, says an apology made in say, a rude tone is insincere. “You are in the wrong for hurting your spouse, so a rude tone is simply adding insult to injury,” he says, adding that if you are not ready to apologise and make it matter, then you are better off waiting it out.
Consider your partner’s feelings
Understandably, you are apologising for the wrong done not your spouse’s feelings. Isiko says acknowledging their feelings allows you to be more empathetic. “Understanding how your partner feels about your actions allows for fences to mend faster because it draws meaning into the apology. An off-handed apology is avoided when you put yourself in your spouse’s shoes,” he says.
Sometimes, our well-meaning actions or words may come out the wrong way. That is why Tina Namulindwa, a counsellor, says making yourself understood is important. “You do not have to do it in the heat of the moment but let it be known. That way, your spouse will not regard you as one out to malice them or think you are in the habit of hurting them, should this happen again,” she says. She believes that in such instances, the other party ought to be willing to listen as well.
Get to the bottom of it
Reading a poem, a line caught my eye, “words leave scars that run so deep”, and the same goes for when we hurt our spouses. While they may react in the moment, they will have time to reflect on the actions or words. Namulindwa says after the apology, one should go the extra mile and ‘wipe the after effects’.
Make an effort to change
Now that you understand what injury you have created, make a resolve to start dealing with what lies behind the curtains (priorities).
Isiko says it could be statements such as, “I will put more thought into my words,” or “I will rearrange my weekly schedule for more time for us”.
“Nonetheless, whatever the resolve, put your heart into it to follow through with it. Otherwise, you become a liar and your spouse will start to doubt you.”
Most importantly, Namulindwa reminds spouses to always appreciate one another to ensure tension does not build up in the relationship.
“You are not buying an apology but ensuring any blockage within your relationship is flushed by these kind gestures,” she concludes.
When you come into conflict with someone, usually there is a boundary that is crossed. If a social rule is violated or trust is broken, an apology helps to affirm what kind of future behaviour is preferred.
Discussing what type of rules you both will adhere to in the future will rebuild trust, boundaries, and positive feelings, and provides a natural segue out of the conflict, and into a happier future in the relationship.