At some point in your marriage, perhaps many points, your wife or husband will feel hurt and withdraw from you. More than likely, you will feel miserable, either because you hate to see your beloved in such pain or because you feel unjustly accused. The last thing you want at this point is an ineffective apology. It will make both of you feel worse.
Here are three big mistakes to avoid when you offer your apology to your wife or husband.
- The too small apology. Just think of any seven-year-old muttering “sorry” to a sibling. Drawing it out, “soooooooorryyyyyyyyy,” won’t fix this. You must do better than a talking parrot could do, or there is really no point offering an apology.
- The not guilty apology. Don’t pat yourself on the back for coming up with a clever way to express sorrow only for your mate’s self-inflicted distress. “I am truly sorry if you thought I should be taking care of that” will not relieve any of the pain nor reduce this new distance between you, even if you are 100% innocent.
- The appeasement. Avoid proffering flowers, candy, poems, protestations of love, seductions, candlelight dinners, and anything else your mate enjoys. These occasionally will reduce the distance, but they often sweep the pain under the rug, where you are likely to trip over it again and again.
Want something more effective? Try this. “Our relationship is very important to me. Please tell me what I can do to make it right again.”
Stand close and look into your husband’s or wife’s eyes as you say this. Listen closely to the answer, no matter how long. Paraphrase whatever you are asked to do. If you can, do it. If you can’t, jump the net and start a search for a Third Alternative that will make your relationship solid again.