Learning to Accept an Apology Youíll Never Get Donít let the lack of an apology hurt your marriage. Instead, learn to discern what deserves an apology and how to move on from the small stuff with these 3 tips. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
If you feel you need an apology for something minor, it may mean you're trying to fill a void within yourself.
“ If you can learn to validate your own knowingness that youíre loveable and that your partner loves you, an apology becomes less desperately needed.”
Youíre in a healthy relationship with your spouse, but the two of you periodically have disagreements and heated arguments about money, chores, kids, sex, differing viewpoints, lack of consideration, etc. Most of the time, however, youíre able to reflect upon and own up to your part in the fight, which maybe includes a verbal apology to your husband or wife. Why do we feel we need an apology at all? And what about those times when you donít get the apology you feel you deserve?
Accordingly to Dictionary.com, an apology is "a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another." If we have been hurt by our spouse, we want them to acknowledge that theyíve hurt us (i.e., by receiving an apology), with the hope that they wonít do it again. It also indicates that they are able to step in your shoes and see your point of view, which validates your feelings; as long as there is not a chronic pattern of blaming, shaming, and needing to be right at all costs óelements that, if present, probably would never render an apology. Below are three ways to accept an apology youíll never get:
1. Apologies and love are not directly connected. Whatís most important to understand about not getting an apology is that itís not necessarily connected to how much your partner loves and cares about you. If we think that those two are directly connectedó "an apology means that he loves me"óthen weíre going to fight for that apology to get that validation of love. This belief can end up causing more discord in the marriage than accepting you may never get an apology about certain things.
2. The importance of self-validation. If youíre constantly looking for external validation that youíre loved, and even if youíre receiving that validation in the form of apologies, it could be an indication that youíre trying to fill an emptiness inside that makes you feel youíre not loveable. However, if you can learn to validate your own knowingness that you are loveable and that your partner loves you, an apology becomes less desperately needed.
3. Look for the subtle cues. If you understand that an apology is not directly related to how much your partner loves you and youíre not looking for an apology to fill a void within yourself, but you nevertheless feel that a disputed issue deserves some type of apology that youíre not verbally getting, then look for the subtle cues in your spouseís behavior. Perhaps you argued the night before, and your husband wakes up and brings you a cup of coffee. Or, if you can tell by her demeanor that your wife feels bad about what happened and is being especially attentive, then accept that as her form of an apology. Simply put, if you can let go of your own picture of what you think the apology should be, youíll be contributing to a more harmonious relationship with your spouse.
A lot of turmoil could be avoided if we didnít expect an apology for every change of mood or supposed wrong from our spouse. This is not to say that your partner should never give you an apology; after all, there are issues and behaviors that definitely render an apology. But a lot of the time, itís just the stuff of daily living that causes arguments for which an apology might not be given. The key is learning to distinguish between what "deserves" an apology (i.e., your husband made a mean comment, backed by "I was just joking;" or he was rude to you in front of others), from an apology that is needed because of our insecurities/neediness (i.e., your husband didnít kiss you upon arriving home from work, or heís focused on TV and not on your conversation).
Weíd all love to be totally understood and receive appropriate apologies for all wrongdoings from others, but thatís a fantasy. The reality is that by understanding that apologies donít equate to how much youíre loved, and learning to discriminate between what renders an apology and what doesnít, youíre going to be more accepting of the apology youíll never get.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.