A husband and wife are seated on opposite ends of a maroon-colored couch in a counselor’s office. The conversation escalated, and his voice while reacting to his wife hits a high in both volume and anger.
She just wants him to be sorry, genuinely sorry, for the way he flies off the handle. She wants him to get help and work on controlling it, but his half-hearted apology just isn’t cutting it.
Just praying for peace isn’t going to do it. Having peace in your marriage requires you making a decision to live that way. If you don’t make the intentional effort, you won’t have it, and if you do have it right now, it won’t stay that way without you doing something to keep it going. Peace is a victim of entropy.
According to the dictionary, entropy is a lack of order or predictability. It’s a gradual decline into disorder. So, the law of entropy says that when left alone, everything will become more chaotic.
You’ve seen this in your house. If you don’t work at keeping it clean, it becomes messy and dirty.
It’s why our bodies break down as we get older rather than improve. There’s certainly enough money wrapped up in the anti-aging industry to show that truth!
Entropy happens to your marriage too. The more you neglect it, the worse it gets. The less intentional you are about keeping the peace, entropy will take over and shatter that desired peace.
Take action and work toward the peace you so desperately want.
Make a Decision
Decision is one of our seven mindsets for marriage growth. It means that you recognize that anything worth doing is worth doing right. You have to decide that you want certain things in your marriage, and your actions must be integral to achieving that goal.
Keeping the peace is an example of a decision mindset. Make a conscious decision to take steps toward peace. You can’t just sit and expect it to happen. God rarely makes changes in your marriage instantaneously. Pray about it, and then take action to make it happen.
And the first steps you need to take are those required for making a change in yourself.
The Bible tells us in Romans to live at peace with everyone around you.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
And as I always say, that goes twice as much for how you treat your spouse.
One significant way to keep the peace in your marriage is by apologizing. The movie Love Story starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal has an iconic line about apologizing. It says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
A lack of appropriate, meaningful apologies can destroy a marriage. Apologizing is a powerful social skill that we’ve never really been taught to do well. This lack of skill could be a partial reason for the high divorce rate nowadays.
Why Apologies are Essential in Marriage
While there is a lot of things that can go wrong when apologies go unsaid in a marriage, there is infinitely much more potential for things to go very well when one of the spouses chooses to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness.
Since you can only control your own thoughts and behaviors, not your spouse’s, you should take a hard look at yourself and see if there is something in your relationship that someone should apologize for. Then decide to take that action yourself.
When you are not sure what to do next in your marriage, apologies are a good first step.
Here are some benefits that apologizing can have for your marriage.
Apologizing will improve your spouse’s physical health. When someone receives an apology, studies show that their blood pressure lowers, their heart rate slows, and their breathing becomes steadier. These benefits show that a simple apology from you reduces their stress level.
Emotionally, your spouse will reap many more benefits. When you apologize, you show that you agree with them that the hurtful actions are not ok. That understanding between the two of you will increase the trust your partner has for you.
Saying you are sorry for something you said or did helps your spouse move past the anger they have towards you and opens the door to forgiveness. It also helps them to stop living in the past and begin focusing on their future with you.
Apologizing for the unkind word or deceit that you were guilty of makes your spouse feel that you have respect for them and their emotions. It makes them see that you empathize with them, and seeing their point of view helped you decide to apologize. They will begin to believe that they are your priority over your own personal comfort and pride.
As far as your relationship goes, the apology is the best way to get you and your spouse talking again. It will set some groundwork that will help prevent future misunderstandings. It demonstrates a commitment to working on your shortcomings and make yourself a better spouse.
While apologizing cannot undo what you did, the apology can help to undo some of the adverse effects your actions had on your spouse. It also gives you a chance to discuss what happened and set some boundaries that may help prevent it from happening again.
When you need to Apologize
Anytime that you have demeaned or injured your spouse, you need to apologize. Going without apologizing puts the marriage relationship in jeopardy.
Some examples of times you may need to apologize include times when you ignored them while they were trying to share something important with you, or you belittled them in front of your kids or other people.
Maybe you betrayed them by having an affair or just sharing something you knew they had told you in confidence.
Perhaps you went as far as humiliating them in public with your words or behavior.
Have you done something to your spouse that fails to live up to your Christian standards? Are you neglecting the fruit of the spirit with them?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
If you are impatient and unkind to your spouse, you need to search your heart and find out why and apologize for these ungodly actions.
Why Apologizing is so Hard
Apologizing is just hard. It takes courage for any of us to admit we are wrong. When we know we have to apologize, we understand that we are risking humiliation and rejection. Those are not exactly things we look forward to, and our minds want us to run away from that danger.
Often, we mistakenly believe that we are better off ignoring the times we’ve hurt our spouses. We think that if we sweep them under the rug, no one will notice, or if they do notice, they won’t let it bother them.
Many people think of apologies as a sign of weakness, but a proper apology and a sincere effort to make things better is a sign of a person with a strong character.
Sometimes people believe that if they apologize for their part in the event, they are admitting responsibility for the entire problem. This is not true. You can’t shoulder the whole blame, but you should admit anything that was your fault.
How to Apologize Effectively
If you want to salvage or restore your marriage, it’s time to drop your pride and humbly ask for forgiveness.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
Never apologize just because someone told you to or because you think it’s the “right thing to do.” People see through false apologies quickly, and it won’t help the state of your marriage. They will think you are just trying to manipulate them.
Find a time when you can be alone with your spouse when you can be free of distractions and focus on being there for a serious conversation. Then, use the three Rs of apologies to give a heart-felt, honest apology.
Whether you meant it to or not, your action hurt your spouse. Let them know you are sorry. Design your apology to acknowledge that fact.
Express genuine regret by revealing your feelings of guilt and shame. Share how you have been suffering because of what you did.
Be specific in what you are apologizing for. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry for what I did.” Say things like, “I’m sorry I made fun of you.”
Don’t blame your spouse for what you did. Don’t make excuses. Accept full responsibility for yourself. Only you can ultimately control what you say or do.
Make sure they understand that your behavior is not a reflection of their worth. When spouses are hurt, they often take it very personally, and you want them to know that you treasure them.
Identify a Remedy
You can’t relive the past and undo what you did. Whatever happened, you hurt your spouse, and all you can do is try to make it up to them.
Ask yourself what you can offer to make it better. Make sure what you suggest is something you can do and are willing to do. Emphasize your determination never to do anything like this again.
The success of the apology depends on the overall relationship between you and your spouse. Sometimes an apology will take your spouse a while to completely process and digest. They may need to be alone for a time, so be ready to give them some space.
Once you’ve apologized to your spouse, it’s time to forgive yourself. Your spouse needed your apology to move on, but it will be much more difficult to go forward with them if you keep beating yourself up over your bad behavior.