Chances are you were always forced to “apologize and make up” after a childhood argument. We are also willing to bet that your apology was often less than sincere. In a marriage, your adult partner won’t be so easily fooled by your half-hearted “I’m sorry.”
Knowing how to effectively apologize and repair the mistakes you made is essential to getting your relationship back on track. Marriages take work in the form of open and honest conversation and heartfelt apologies every once in a while. Owning up to your mistakes, whether minor or major, can help keep both you and your partner living in wedded bliss! One study from the University of Michigan found that couples where both partners used constructive conflict resolution had lower rates of separation and divorce than couples where one or both partners withdrew from talking about problems. Of course, destructive problem resolution, like contempt and criticism, lead to much higher rates of marriage and dissatisfaction.
We know apologizing isn’t easy; take it from Elton John, who said, “Why can’t we talk it over? Always seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but these four simple steps should help!
Four Steps To Saying I’m Sorry (Sincerely)
To apologize effectively, aka, like you mean it, you’ll need to do four things.
1. Own Up!
When we were young, an “I’m sorry” wouldn’t get us off the hook. Inevitably the next question would be, “for what?”. Acknowledging your mistakes is a vital first step. You don’t only need to own up to the behavior but also show that you understand why it could have been upsetting.
Using “I” statements can help; just ensure you’re doing so correctly. For example, “I didn’t clean up all my clothes on the bedroom floor” shows ownership and understanding a lot better than “I forgot you nagged at me to pick up my clothes.” Your priority is to keep the focus on your behavior, not point fingers.
2. Show You Know
Next, show your partner that you know the behavior was upsetting to them, and express remorse. Empathy is when you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You don’t feel bad for them. Instead, you try to understand why your behavior was hurtful to them.
Pro-tip, skip the “but’s.” For example, “I’m sorry I didn’t show up to dinner, but I got busy at work.” Right now, your partner doesn’t want to hear excuses, no matter how truthful they are. They can detract from your empathetic sentiments and dilute your apology. Along with the extenuating circumstances, don’t include accusations either. You’re going for genuine and humble here, not critical of your partner’s feelings.
Think of the 1970’s song by Player, whose insightful lyrics said, “Baby come back, you can blame it all on me!”
3. Time for a Change
Sing it, David Bowie!
(Turn and face the strain)
(Just gonna have to be a different man).”
We can’t resist the lyrics about love. The third step in a heartfelt apology is making amends in the form of telling your partner how you’ll do better in the future or what you’ll do right now to make things right. In most cases, their feelings will be more hurt than something physical. This means you’ll have to do some creative thinking about how to make things up to them.
Alternatively, you can ask your partner what they would like you to do. Sometimes, they don’t need you to “fix” the problem; simply acknowledge their emotions and allow them to feel heard. After all, one of the key ways to better communicate with your partner is occasionally to just listen. Hold space for their feelings regardless of your perspective on the matter.
4. Pinky Promise?
Promises can seem like scary things. But usually, this is only if you make pie-in-the-sky promises that are overly ambitious. Also, you’ll need to do more than merely state what you will do differently. You need to act on those promises.
Maybe it’s calling if you’re going to be late for dinner or making a better commitment to prioritize your partner over work. Whatever you promise, make sure it’s something that you have a fair chance of being able to keep. Setting unrealistic goals can cause you to not follow through, which in turn may lead your partner to question your trustworthiness.
Any final words, N’Sync?
“And I promise you never
Will, you hurt anymore.”
That may be a little overboard. Remember, realistic goals are key.
Tips for Apologizing to Your Partner
- Do it as soon as possible, don’t let wounds fester.
- Don’t be vague; take responsibility and ownership.
- Don’t turn the conversation back to you by over-apologizing and being hard on yourself. Now is not the time for a pity party.
- Don’t expect instant results. Forgiveness can take time!
When Forgiveness Doesn’t Come
We sincerely hope that forgiveness does come as a result of your apology. But what happens when couples cannot move on from mistakes? In some events it results in the D word… Divorce.
No one likes to think about what could go wrong with their marriage before the ink is even dry on the licenses, but divorce does happen. There are a lot of misconceptions about prenups, so it’s a good idea to learn how a prenup works. But in the most general terms, a prenup can protect your assets and save you considerable headaches in the future! Think about it as marriage insurance. You hope nothing goes wrong, but just in case…
Prenuptial agreements cover a range of financial issues, from property and cash to obligations like debt. Without one, you’re at the mercy of your state’s divorce regulations and laws. Sometimes the laws work in your favor, and other times they don’t (*ahem, what’s mine is ours!). Talking about a prenup during your engagement can be a great way to build a deeper connection and understanding of where your partner is coming from – ready to get started?
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected]