Learning to Accept an Apology You’ll Never Get Don’t 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 you’re loveable and that your partner loves you, an apology becomes less desperately needed.”
You’re 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, you’re 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 don’t 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 they’ve hurt us (i.e., by receiving an apology), with the hope that they won’t 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 —elements that, if present, probably would never render an apology. Below are three ways to accept an apology you’ll never get:
1. Apologies and love are not directly connected. What’s most important to understand about not getting an apology is that it’s not necessarily connected to how much your partner loves and cares about you. If we think that those two are directly connected— "an apology means that he loves me"—then we’re 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 you’re constantly looking for external validation that you’re loved, and even if you’re receiving that validation in the form of apologies, it could be an indication that you’re trying to fill an emptiness inside that makes you feel you’re 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 you’re 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 you’re not verbally getting, then look for the subtle cues in your spouse’s 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, you’ll be contributing to a more harmonious relationship with your spouse.
A lot of turmoil could be avoided if we didn’t 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, it’s 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 didn’t kiss you upon arriving home from work, or he’s focused on TV and not on your conversation).
We’d all love to be totally understood and receive appropriate apologies for all wrongdoings from others, but that’s a fantasy. The reality is that by understanding that apologies don’t equate to how much you’re loved, and learning to discriminate between what renders an apology and what doesn’t, you’re going to be more accepting of the apology you’ll 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+.