life advice
'I'm Sorry:' Expressing Regret the Right Way
How you can craft a successful apology and strengthen your marriage.

When conflict arises in your marriage, are you the person whoís quick to apologize, wanting to sweep everything under the rug so the tension goes away? Or are you the one who tends to hold that hurt for a while, allowing the offensive words to gain a life of their own?

Many of us identify with one approach or the other when arguments happen in love. The problem is neither response leads to a true reconciliation that enhances the relationship, leading to a better understanding of each other.

The good news is there a method to apologizing that will not only allow your words to be heard, but also lead to emotional healing. The key is to learn how to ask for forgiveness that conveys the message of regret in a manner your significant needs to hear to accept your apology.

Asking for forgiveness is a lifestyle choice because a sincere apology carries with it the motivation to turn from the former way which caused the distress and go in another direction. The trust in your marriage grows when you demonstrate change in your actions and behaviors.

As a relationship coach, I have advised individuals to remember that whenever one overreacts to a comment or situation, there is something else that is triggering the reaction. Itís not in the current moment; you just put your finger on the button.

Have you had this experience in your marriage?

Youíre engaged in some teasing banter with your loved one that goes a bit too far. You know just as the offending comment came out of your mouth you said the wrong thing and a blow up was about to take place.

Perhaps this type of episode?

During a pleasant evening together you say something that triggers an eruption from your loved one. You are so surprised that all you can say is, "Iím sorry," which your sweetheart canít hear in the heat of the moment. You donít know what you need to be sorry about, but know it was the wrong thing to say.

Those episodes can shake the marriage emotionally, but can be ideal opportunities to achieve closeness if you learn how to communicate your regret in the right way. Hereís how you can communicate a successful apology:

Donít get defensive. Donít underplay your spouseís feelings and try to wiggle out of the conflict. Just because what you said wouldnít hurt you, those memories and emotions are very real and deserve your compassion.

Take ownership of your words. Include in your apology the words, "I am sorry that my (behavior/comment/tone of voice, etc.) hurt you. Period. Do not add the "but" disclaimer as it cancels out the apology. Communicate your understanding of what caused the distress and admit you are remorseful.

Ask for forgiveness. Itís hard to ask for forgiveness when you believe you have not done anything wrong, but that approach communicates a lack of respect for your loved oneís feelings. Itís just not your emotional hot button we're dealing with. Marriages have a way of balancing out when you practice love and compassion over the need to win every battle.

Donít panic. The eruption may need a cooling off period before your relationship gets back to normal. Sometimes you may need to write out what you said so the apology can sink in.

No one likes tension in a marriage, however rushing the process of working through the trial can lead to resentment. Glossing over blowups, coughing up an apology out of obligation and not looking at the deeper meaning behind the argument can easily lead to emotional separation.

Ideally, I encourage couples to use these experiences to deepen their marriage. On the other side of the argument is an opportunity to learn more about the emotional trigger from your spouse's perspective.

Every situation that happens in your marriage is a point of learning about yourself. Even if you initially reject the accusation, it is important to honestly assess if there is truth in those statements. Your willingness to embrace a teachable attitude will enrich your marriage and lead to a more fulfilling commitment.

Nancy Pina is a highly recognized author, relationship coach and speaker. She is dedicated to helping individuals attract emotionally healthy relationships through her practical Christian-based advice. Visit for articles and exercises, her recent book and app.

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