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January 22, 2016

How Learning to Apologize Improved my Marriage: 5 Lessons.

Scott Webb/Unsplash

I screw up sometimes. Shhh, don’t tell my husband!

Just kidding. He already knows.

I was lucky (and intentional) enough to find a confident, heart-centered partner who loves me and all my quirks and imperfections. I can be myself with him and lo and behold he fell in love with the quirks (goofy dancing, super weird sense of humor, embarrassingly snorty laugh) as much as the things that I was doing to trick him into believing I was perfect. You know the tricks. We all do. And, maybe those “tricks” are cool for the first couple of dates…maybe not. But they are definitely not cool for long-term romantic commitment.

Indeed, once my husband and I got married, that desire to look perfect in his eyes began to manifest in an ugly way: I could not admit when I was wrong—not even to myself.

Now, I’m not talking about major screw-ups like infidelity, hiding a gambling habit, or abuse. I’m talking here about the everyday screw-ups: selfishness, painting myself as a victim, misdirected anger, negative projection. If I admitted that I was wrong, two things would surely happen. First, I would lose the fight. Second, my husband would realize how unworthy I was of his love.

Here’s the kicker. Knowing that I’m imperfect hasn’t made him love me less. And, if you’ll allow me to get real for a moment, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Apologizing isn’t about making him love me more or less. Only my ego keeps the how-much-does-he-love-me score. Apologizing is about showing him that I love him enough to put my ego aside and acknowledge that I have wounded him.

When my words (or side-eye or bad attitude) cut him to the core, the apology is the one true salve.

To be clear, I’m not saying that being able to apologize has afforded me cart blanche to do and say whatever lil’ nasty thing comes to mind. On the contrary, learning how to apologize has created a shift in mindset that cultivates a keen awareness of the power of each and every word, thought and energy that I offer to my husband. And that subtle shift has made a world of difference.

Let me break it down for you.

Here are 5 things that I learned when I started to apologize—sincerely, authentically, lovingly apologize:

1. He loves me. He really does.

He doesn’t just love that sexy woman who always dressed up, wore the cute undies and laughed at all his jokes. In fact, the real me—the messy me, the imperfect me—is easier to love than I ever imagined. And the real me is capable of (and has a tendency toward) imperfection. Who knew?

2. Saying, “I’m sorry that I hurt you” is not nearly as scary as my ego would lead me to believe.

Breathe with me here, people. I don’t know about you, but apologizing, for me, was a terrifying prospect (and still is sometimes, truth be told). But, like most things that we are afraid of, the payoff once we push past the fear is totally worth it. On the other side of that apology is a more authentic and intimate connection.

3. Admitting wrong-doing is not the same as admitting defeat. It’s not war, my friends; it’s marriage.

I know, I know. We were all raised with Pat Benetar’s 80s anthem, “Love is a Battlefield.” And most days, our ego would have us believe that it is—but it doesn’t have to be. When I realized that letting go of the need to win the fight would win me my husband’s trust and love, my focus shifted and my heart opened and connected with his. It is powerful, powerful medicine. I promise.

4. Apologizing means letting go of the need to be (or appear) perfect.

What a relief it has been to let go of the heavy weight of perfectionism, at least in this area. I can mess up; my husband can mess up. An authentic apology brings us back to our loving center.

5. When I apologize with love, he forgives immediately. It is, hands down, the number one most effective argument ender!

Early in our marriage, even the most insignificant tiffs could last for hours or even days, because we were too proud or scared to apologize. When we settled down and came back together, we would both confess how painful and confusing that time had been. We both wanted connection, but didn’t know how to get there. A well placed apology has the power to end that disconnection—fast.

These days, we spend less time angry and more time smooching. It’s a win-win!
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Relephant Read:

The 5 “F” Words that make My Marriage Work.

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Author: Jaimee Christinat

Editor: Toby Israel

Images: Nathan Walker/Unsplash // Scott Webb/Unsplash

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