The Art of Apologizing
My husband had a very difficult time ever admitting to being wrong. No matter what I said to convince him that he hurt me or our girls, he would adamantly deny it.
Instead, he would turn it around and tell me that I was the one who was sensitive, crazy, complaining, negative, or unhappy.
When he refused to admit his wrongs, I would try harder to convince him he was wrong, which only made him more defensive.
What options do you have when your husband refuses to apologize?
You can lecture him, retaliate against him, refuse to apologize when you are wrong, and build up resentments by keeping a list of everything he’s done wrong. None of which are helpful for your marriage.
It’s interesting to note that there are differences between men and women when it comes to apologizing.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about the differences between men and women when it comes to apologies and admitting wrongs:
- It is harder for men to admit they are wrong than it is for women. For men, admitting a wrong equates to losing honor or respect. For women, admitting a wrong is a way to heal.
- Men forgive each other without going into all the details about what was done. When they decide to let it go, men resume their relationship. Women tend to feel an apology is not acceptable without full acknowledgement of all details.
- Men often do something to show they are sorry like buying flowers. Women say they are sorry by verbally expressing their apologies.
- Men are motivated to change by appreciation of what they do right. Women are motivated to change by a loving discussion of what they do wrong.
When you realize that men and women view apologies differently you can do the following to improve your marriage:
- Don’t demand your husband apologize in the way you need him to. Accept his gestures such as flowers, washing dishes, or being nicer to you, as what they are – his apology.
- After your husband apologizes, don’t lecture him about what he did wrong. Instead, thank him for apologizing.
- Only ask your husband to talk about what he did wrong after he apologizes, if you need to discuss it further to heal your marriage.
- Apologize when you are wrong without demanding an apology from your husband. I began to say, “I’m upset about what you did, but I didn’t handle it correctly. I’m sorry for what I said in response.” Then I walked away.
- Before you bring up something your husband did to hurt you, ask yourself if it is important. If it isn’t, let it go. If it is, pray for God to help you bring it up in the right way at the right time.
- Instead of lecturing and berating your husband when he hurts you, use an “I” statement that expresses how you were hurt such as “I was hurt when you ignored me at dinner.” This helps you take responsibility for your feeling instead of accusing your husband of being wrong, which in turn makes it easier for him to say he is sorry.
- If your husband continues to do the same thing to hurt you and refuses to admit he is doing it, consider whether you need to set a boundary. For more information and help on boundaries, read this post, and then this post.
These steps helped me to handle apologizing differently in my marriage. I didn’t demand that he apologize to me. I set boundaries in the areas that I needed to and let go of the things that weren’t a big deal. I stopped lecturing him about what he was doing wrong and noticed what he was doing right. When he did anything to show he was wrong, I accepted it without demanding a long explanation. Eventually, he started apologizing without me asking him to.
Wife Step: If there is something you need to apologize to your husband for, do it without demanding anything from him. If there is something you would like an apology from your husband for, look over the suggestions and decide how you will handle it differently than you usually do.
Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.
Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.
She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.
Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.