Dear Women and Men, I Won’t Apologize To You.

Via Jayson Gaddis
on Jun 25, 2012
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photo by J. Gaddis

Dear Women and Men,

It’s time to get more creative in healing the divide between our genders.

First things first. I won’t apologize to either gender. Not yet.

Here’s why.

I’ve grown tired of apologies.

People apologize too quickly in this culture. The new age spiritual scene is all about it right recently. Examples include the Dear Women video, Dear Divine Feminine, I’m Sorry, Letter of Apology to Men, the Hoʻoponopono method, etc. And, while I like the Call to the Sacred Masculine from Lori Ann Lothian, I also felt a bit boxed in and missed (my video response to her here).

I do love the intent however. I so appreciate the attempts to clean up the rift between us in order to love deeper. I’m a yes to that. Thank you for the effort. And, if it truly worked, we’d be in a different place. We humans are a funny lot, we need more than just an apology to come back into love and openness.

Apologies can work….sometimes. It’s understandable why we want to apologize and make amends. That’s what we all learned as kids. Everyday I see grown ups teach their kids to apologize first and foremost once the children have done something the big folks perceive as “wrong.” Then, the kids go back to playing, but something got missed…

What gets glossed over?

My own take is that adults expect kids to apologize fast because we are, by and large, an emotionally constipated culture.

Adults and teachers are straight-up afraid (i.e. very uncomfortable) to validate or “stay with” someone’s pain so we want to fast forward the process when people are upset. “Hurry up and get back to your happy place, you are making me uncomfortable.” Apologizing is a “get out of jail free card.” It lets you of the hook. We don’t need to own anything. Somehow, we get to clean our hands of our mistakes because “hey, I apologized.”

Another hidden cost of the rapid-fire apology is that if we have been on the receiving end of pain by another person and they rush to apologize (because they are uncomfortable and want us to be “okay”) and we are not “over it” at that point, we are victims, whiners and weak. It’s a strange trap—we get hurt by their actions, then blamed if we take too long to “get over it.” I certainly have done that one to my partner many times, and even my own children.


I can do better and we can do better.

Earlier in our relationship, when my wife and I fought and I tried to speed up the process of reconnecting because I was uncomfortable with her upset, she felt missed, became irritated and the rift between us increased.


So, I had to go back to the drawing board and listen to her feedback.

Photo: Johanna Reimer

Aha, impact and validation. Right, she loves it when I see, get, and know her experience best I can. She wants me to know that my actions have impacted her in some way.  As I get her experience, she softens, her nervous systems comes out of fight or flight, and she is available for connection again. I’m the same way. Don’t rush me. I’ll get there eventually. When I begin to understand the impact of my behavior, an apology is often not even necessary.

So, we can apologize all we want to women or to men, but without first getting the impact and truly understanding what we did or have done from their perspective, our apology is premature.

It is my strong opinion that what we need is not apologizing, but instead listening.

Deep listening to each other’s rage, grief, hurt, and pain. In my view we need serious gender healing where we really get the impact male behavior (personal and collective) has on women, and female behavior (personal and collective) has on men.

I know for me that when I feel heard, I relax.

Think about it. We, as a collective, are like one big scared animal—like a giant porcupine with its quills out, on alert, defensive and protecting deep hurt inside. Saying “I’m sorry” has only gotten of few of you to relax your quills. The rest of us need to be known. Our hurt needs to be seen, acknowledged and received by another human being. Then this giant porcupine that is you and me can begin to relax, open and trust.

So here’s my advice. Yes, this is straight up advice.

1. Stop apologizing. Set it on the shelf until we’ve done the next three steps.

2.  Do whatever inner work we need to do to genuinely listen to the other gender. This will include reconciliation/integration with our own inner man or animus (i.e. introjected father or male figures in our life) and our own inner woman or anima (i.e. mom and introjected key women from our upbringing).

In other words, when I’ve been hurt by, or mad at, “the feminine,” thus carrying a resentment toward “all women,” the path to resolve it was not to ask women to be different, but to heal me by going inward.

If you think “masculine” or feminine” are false constructs, no worries, just focus on the yin and yang inside of you, or pick whatever split is going on in there. Dark/light is very useful for some.

I personally start by accepting I have a polarity existing within me. I want the entire polarity (both sides) to be known and integrated as much as possible as I grow.

3. Be aware of the trap of asking the other gender to be different than they are.

As a man, I can want my wife to be different, but I don’t need her to be. At the end of the day asking the opposing gender to be different is a slippery slope into a familiar dead-end. Accepting my wife as she is is the way out. When I accept her as she is, I’m cast back on myself, and instead of struggling to change a world I can’t control outside of me, I get to change what’s going on inside of me.

4. Listen deeply with unflinching curiosity.

We all know that when we come in angry at the opposite gender with our guns loaded and blame ready in our quiver, it ain’t going to go well, period. Unless he/she is really available to listen without getting defensive, she/he will not hear you. He/she will respond in kind with his/her own shit and your rage will provoke his/hers. You want to fight? Do what you’ve always done and blame him/her. Anyone can play that game and we all know where this leads us—right where we currently are.

Try approaching a scared animal with blame or aggression and the feedback will be instantaneous—it will get more scared and, in turn, aggressive.

Instead, let’s get creative in our commitment to really hear their side. What effective listening tools do we have at our disposal? How about we try some new ones? NVC, imago and circling, are some of my favorites. I am willing to do whatever it takes to deeply listen and receive someone’s pain. When someone is upset, whoever they are, let’s attempt to get their experience. Get curious and stay curious.

Will the above suggestions really do anything? In my opinion? Yes. And, I don’t have any illusions to solve all gender challenges. I just want some freakin’ traction here. Our scared animal needs some serious love people!!!

Gender healing conferences and workshops

Here’s my final suggestion– An experiment called “Healing the Divide” that I have done successfully on a small scale.

In the past, academics and intellectuals have done most of the “gender work” analyzing the problem from 30,000 feet. While incredibly valuable, this does little to heal the wounds between us. I believe we need real, raw, face-to-face interactions with artful facilitation in a “safe” space where we can clear the logjam between us. I know it’s possible because I have seen it happen with real people in real time (More on my proposal here).

In my experience with couples and workshops with men and women, the deal breaker is when one person lays down their sword and gets the other person’s experience. And for some of us, we need to express our hurt or outrage before we’re able to hear someone else’s. It can be very tricky work. But the willing folks come out the other side more connected, less resentful, and move toward more integration and wholeness inside.

So, before I apologize to you women, I need to know what I have done. Keep in mind, some men might not be ready or willing to listen. I’ll speak for myself. I am. I want to hear it. Bring it. How have I personally hurt you, abused you, betrayed you, and caused you undue suffering? I’m here and I’m willing to listen as best I can. One condition: in person, face to face. And, if you don’t know me, and the man who has deeply hurt you is not present, I’m willing to stand in his seat so that you can be seen and heard by a man willing to receive all of you. I know dozens of men like me, ready and willing.

The entire point of an experiment like this is to eliminate projections and get us connected again. Let’s clear the subtle or overt ways we might still be blaming women or men for our own challenges in life.

And for now, I suggest we pause on the apologizing before we really know the impact (and it will be different for every person). If we are going to use “divine” and “sacred” to describe each other, let’s act like it by getting into our human bodies where our pain and hurt live. Only there, in our immediate somatic experience can we release the pain, one step at a time.

That was my take, let’s hear yours.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, founder of The Relationship School® , and host of The Smart Couple Podcast , is on a mission to teach people the one class they didn’t get in school--”How to do intimate relationships.” He was emotionally constipated for years before relationship failure forced him to master relationships. In 2007 he stopped running away from intimacy, asked his wife to marry him and now they have two beautiful kids. When he doesn’t live and breathe this stuff with his family, he pretty much gets his ass handed to him. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or sign up for a free training here if you are dealing with an emotionally unavailable man like Jayson used to be. You can also become a fan on Facebook here: Jayson Gaddis Fan Page.


21 Responses to “Dear Women and Men, I Won’t Apologize To You.”

  1. Jayson, Thank you for this step by step, very real, very intimate approach. I feel met, heard, understood and excited by your ideas. Thanks for putting this delicate subject into words that are so easy to relate to, understand, and implement.

  2. cathywaveyoga says:

    this is really good! i almost didn't read it however as the title implied to me that it was some satirical piece about or from an egotistical viewpoint which might pontificate that everyone should apologize to them selves or get over everything or something sort of 'smacky'.

    Thank you again..

  3. April Ritchey says:

    Beautiful….we are different and we are the same in our humanness. Relationships are such a dance we just need to learn the steps better thats all! LOVE

  4. HI Jayson: I liked this one, and yes of course apology, like any action, can be a by-pass around instead of a route through an upset.

    There are times were I am Sorry is a part a healing….and yes, times where it misses the mark. I have been through many gestault style cathartic exercises over the years, aimed at getting in touch with and expressing the psychic pain of being human. There comes a time too, when that pain is spent. A time when we can heal ourselves with a softer touch. I am sorry is a completely valid and heart-opening way to feel through the anger, blame, shame and guilt to the greater truth that no harm was ever done–not from a God's eye view..from that vantage, we are innocent and sin is simply missing the mark. We get to aim ourselves again and again, and mistakes are simply chances for re-takes.

    On a funny note, in draft yesterday I started a piece called Sorry is NOT a DIrty Word. LOL


    Lori Ann

  5. holly says:

    This resonates. A great piece in how you describe all areas of human behavior with apologies. Rarely have I have said to someone, " You owe me an apology". When I did. It felt off. I was raised with that quote by a parent who would never apologize. Not even days later. I would rather someone say " I thought about what we had conflict with and here's where I am at. This is what I think/feel."
    Then there is cheap apologies to ease discomfort. I read a lot about this when I was trying to heal myself from my husbands infidelity. He was not apologizing, or expressing and understanding for the damage. I was apologizing to the left and right, up and down. Simply because I was so full fear, discomfort and heartbreak over what had happened to us and "what would happen next?????". I grew to discover that this quick fix made my own healing, my own repairs delayed with resentment. Ultimately it ended up creating a cycle where I went through all the pain again and he had moved on and we were now at a place where we had worked on staying married. He had said his apologies when he meant them. I said them to move through the paces so I could try to control the crisis. It did not help having 2 small kid one just diagnosed with autism. I still may be working on the people pleasing fear and doing quicky apologies from time to time. But I am much more in tune with the need to wait it out and learn.

  6. jaysongaddis says:

    you are welcome. 🙂

  7. jaysongaddis says:

    sure thing. i know right? the title could be a bit misleading right?

  8. jaysongaddis says:

    true enough Lori. I'm not talking about gestalt type screaming, although if someone wants to do that, it's okay with me, so long as they stay present and in their body. Either way, I like an apology AFTER I get you.

  9. Reuvain says:

    Thanks for putting this apology piece out there. I think it's dead-on. I love how you take a deeper look at things that matter, and then share with us what you've come up with. Serves me.

  10. lisa lindenlaub says:

    I love this this Jayson. When a desire to be heard is met with the desire to understand (true listening) their meeting place is forgiveness. True forgiveness is not something we do, it is what happens when we look deeply and discover there is nothing to forgive. Just saying that is not enough. We have to discover it for ourselves with emotional integrity and not stepping ahead of ourselves using conceptual evolution. It just dosnt ultimately work or satisfy our genuine nature. Thank you so much.

  11. achapska says:

    You article just verifies the collective thought / consciousness for me that much further and deeper. Just last week, I was pleading, crying, mumbling, but CLEARLY stating…"I just want to be heard! I want you to see me! I want you to understand my experience and not dismiss it as one that is not valid because it is not yours!" Just as I was on the verge of walking out and leaving everything behind, still feeling unheard, my therapist suggested empathetic listening and took us on a ride that I've been desperately waiting to go on. Not the reactive bullshit or the repetitive game where I eagerly wait for him to finish talking or complaining so I can respond without actually listening and vice versa, and in that missing the entire experience, but instead, really listening and acknowledging one another's experience and feelings, without a personal, ego-centered response. Phew! The thing is, when one is asked to understand another's feelings or experience, it has to be clear that they don't have to go inside of the experience and actually feel those feelings, but simply witness it and acknowledge it as one that is profoundly deep and solidly valid. I have heard the "I'm sorrys" but they don't mean anything when I'm still feeling unheard and the sorry is just a cop out. Thank you, Jayson, not only for listening and seeing, but for sharing the tools and insights for others to do the same. Aho!

  12. Vesco Bondov says:

    Hmm, Jayson, now scrap that and say it in 30 words … I more and more do not get it – the initial call was an Invitation to Dance from Woman/Women, yet every single male response so far has been, "Aaam, I do not know the steps to that dance" or "Agghh, I do not dance" … No wonder women are crying out their silent screams to this and the other world and beyond… Wasn't it a French saying that "The one who apologises, insults twice". There's even a shamanic energy fact that an apology hinders the retrieval of the power lost in the original situation … What has an apology to do with anything, boys! Yes, that cannot be a Man's response… Yet, all this taken as a symptom indicates only one thing – Men are lost. Scared and Lost. Which is fine. The power balance is shifting. For those of us who do not immediately jump and take her hand for that Tango into the Unknown, the only way is down. Down feeling that Lost-ness. Praying that an encounter with a healthy masculine will happen in that free fall … It's not as if Women are not used to Men disappearing periodically. She will cope. But this time it is not about Her or living up to some ideal to please her. This time it is about us, Men. Probably for the first time ever it is about us (at least in the last 26,000 years). Feel how precious it is to carry the essence of the Masculine in this life, feel it and rise by falling to that challenge.

  13. Darryl Fry says:

    Thanks for your post Jayson.
    I see a lot of teachers coaxing meaningless peer to peer and even peer to teacher apologies out of their students.
    What are your suggestions for changing this culture, partcularly if the students are pre-adolescent?

  14. Emily says:

    Thanks for writing this piece. I'm in the middle of a messy divorce and I just wish he would have heard me. There was one night where he did but then a couple hours later went right back to blaming me as if the conversation never happened. I teared up when you said,"And, if you don’t know me, and the man who has deeply hurt you is not present, I’m willing to stand in his seat so that you can be seen and heard by a man willing to receive all of you." Thank you. I hope someday I can find someone as willing to do the work as you are.

  15. Vesco–I feel your passion and your anger here, it's a "basta" kind of energy, one that says enough already. I wrote A Call to the Sacred Masculine as an invitation, but yes a daring one. Some men took it personally, as if I was telling them what was wrong with them instead of pointing to an archetypal maleness and asking, would you step up to this possibility.

    The Apology bit is because Jeff Brown wrote a piece Dear Divine Feminine, I'm Sorry, and Freya Watson followed up with her version apologizing to me.

    Lori Ann

  16. jaysongaddis says:

    thank you brother.

  17. jaysongaddis says:

    right. well said about forgiveness. nice!

  18. jaysongaddis says:

    yes sister. yes. I want to hear you and know you (even more than i already do!)

  19. jaysongaddis says:

    change myself. then teach my children a new way.

  20. jaysongaddis says:

    omph. that sucks and doesn't suprise me. again, your man has had few tools and been trained by his culture to be a certain way.

    my guess is that if you keep growing, you will attract a partner who is willing and able to meet you.

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