5 Tips to Apologise Well to Your Spouse

Misunderstandings are a given in any marriage. No matter how intimately connected two people are, there will always be areas of differences that can cause conflict.

One time, Joy and I were finishing up a meal at McDonald’s with the kids. Holding a pack of wipes, she turns to me and asks, “Have you wiped Caddy’s hands?” I bristled at the question, feeling accused of not having done something—something that I believed was not my responsibility: Caddy is our 10-year-old daughter, whom I know is perfectly capable of wiping her own hands! Looking back, I don’t remember exactly what I said next, but by the time we were walking home, Joy and I were hardly talking to each other.

Now, you might think that was a trivial thing to get worked up over. But isn’t that how many of our arguments start with our spouse, with something that, looking back, doesn’t really seem to matter? Of course, some of our disagreements may be more serious things. Either way, we believe that one of the most important communication skills to learn as a couple is how to apologise and be reconciled.

It’s not about who’s right or wrong, but about who’s willing to make things right.
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5 Things to Remember When Apologising to Your Spouse

Here are 5 important things to remember when you apologise to your spouse:

1. Take responsibility. 

When we apologise, it means we understand that something we did was either wrong or was hurtful to our spouse. Sometimes it may take time for us to see exactly what it was that offended our partner; but the first step of taking responsibility will help you check your role in the argument.

I always like to say this: it’s not about who’s right or wrong, but about who’s willing to make things right.

2. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings.

In a misunderstanding, feelings tend to flare up. Understand that feelings are never wrong or right, but they are simply how a person responds to things around him or her. In reconciliation, we give room for our partner to express his or her feelings. Listen and acknowledge the feeling; this helps open the door for him or her to accept your apology, because they know that you understand how it affected them.

3. Apologise for what you did.

Some people are used to saying, “I’m sorry if you are offended.” Do you know that this is not really an apology? It’s like saying, “I’m sorry that you’re so sensitive!” The truth is, we apologise not for how someone else feels, but rather we need to apologise for what we did.

Compare that with this: “I’m sorry if what I did offended you.” This second way of phrasing things takes responsibility for what you did and how it affected your partner.

4. Say it like you mean it. 

Sometimes we apologise just to get it over with. I admit, I’ve done it a few times myself! I could be so impatient and just spit out, “I’m sorry already, now can we get on with things?” But that hardly ever helps matters!

Instead, when you apologise, take a deep breath and put yourself in the right frame of mind to say it like you mean it. It will make a world of difference.

5. Don’t force forgiveness from your spouse. 

Patience is not my strong suit. During an argument, I can be in a hurry to get it resolved and pressure Joy to express forgiveness right away. The problem is, like giving a half-meant apology, this is another way to compound the anger and hurt feelings—prolonging the misunderstanding instead of promoting peace and reconciliation!

Instead, set yourself to apologise and honour your partner’s process of accepting it and extending forgiveness. (Of course, if you’re the offended party and your spouse is the one giving the apology, we encourage you to express forgiveness as soon as possible!)

Practicing Healthy Apologies

There’s a healthy way to apologise and also an unhealthy way. We hope these tips can help you with best practices for apologising to your spouse. It takes time and effort, but trust us, it will be worth it!

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