For Those Who Can’t Say I’m Sorry


stubborn husband won't apologize, wife won't apologize either

There is pain in our world. There is pain among couples who carry hurt feelings and just can’t heal them. I see this often in my work as a relationship counselor. Another thing I see is a statement from some people that goes like this, “I don’t like to apologize.”

Some are even more emphatic with, “I don’t ever say I’m sorry.” This is not uncommon for some people to think this way. Many people believe that if you apologize, you are showing a sign of weakness. Weakness is something many people believe they have to avoid at all cost.

The Cost of Pride: Emotional Disconnection

I wish I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard this belief. Because when I hear it my heart twists just a little. I feel a slight stabbing pain with a knowing that I will be walking a well worn world of sorrow for the person holding these thoughts.

I know that the person who can’t utter an apology, a simple, “I am sorry”, has spent his or her life feeling disconnected from the person they love and the one they might have hurt. It’s human nature to mix it up with the people we love. No relationship is without misunderstandings.

Apologies, Friction, & Mending a Relationship

apologizing in a relationship

It’s what we do that mends the misunderstandings that determine the health of any relationship. I am interested in how a couple repairs the mishaps because if both people can share their discomfort, there is great hope for the longevity of the relationship.

Unfortunately a lot of couples get into disagreements and then just stay mad. They wait until the intense feelings pass and then start over like nothing has happened. This works for a while but eventually all the hurts start to pile up and each person then starts walking around with a laundry list of wrongs done to them. That’s usually when couples start to talk about breaking up or seeing someone like me, a counselor.

Then they come in with their hurt feelings and want relief. They usually want the other person to change so they can feel better. What we always have to start with is what the couple does to repair the hurts. And that’s where we begin.

Apologies & Compromizing for a Better Relationship

There are steps to saying I am sorry. It’s not just a couple of words said off handedly to the other person. A true apology is from the heart. A real apology includes an acknowledgment of what the person did to hurt the other, like, “I am sorry I said that remark to you. I wasn’t thinking about your feelings when I said it. I am sorry.”

The reason an apology has to include the action that hurt the other person and the words is because when we get our feelings hurt we really need our mate to understand what hurt us. If they get what they did with real awareness and apologize for the moment it happened, there can begin something that most couples long for, and that’s true healing.

And that’s the beauty of an apology. It offers the person who receives it, a salve of love. It offers the person saying it, acceptance and love. And these are the feelings most couples desire and they are the keys to a good, lasting relationship.

Want to know more? Check out Linda’s new book about getting the most out of your relationship: Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.

4 thoughts on “For Those Who Can’t Say I’m Sorry

  1. this is where my wife and i are now,usually its the girl that wants the apology or the thank you,but not this time,years this has been a problem and im sure you all know everyday it gets just a little worse,and if it still hasn’t happened for years, you can guess how that would impact a relationship,well,she took off with the kids,i would take her back BUT how do i handle it when she still doesnt feel for me?, Still no sorry or a thank you——-i don’t want a broken home we have 2 small kids and i want them in my life everyday, and not every other weekend ect.,it sucks to be with someone who makes such an issue over something easy to avoid,that thought makes me feel even worse,but im a person like anyone else, and to be respected must be part of the relationship or there isn’t one,if your spouse cant say thank you or im sorry,tell me how to cope so the kids can have a home with both parents? spank you:)

    • First take it as your first ministry. Pray about it.
      Second, take her out and discuss this issue. Not when there is an outstanding issue but when there is nothing on ground. Explain to her how you really feel when you don’t have that words -I am sorry from her’.

  2. I do appreciate the article and see several truths. I have that laundry list and it’s VERY painful. Don’t know if it’s from her growing up in an abusive home or something else but she absolutely refuses to apologize. When she has “apologized”. It’s a sarcastic “I’m sorry” with the associated sarcastic tone. When the argument is actually over she will claim “I apologized in the argument”. Which is never a focused apology that is sincere. We have a lot of work to do. She always starts it and I’m held captive till she’s done. The fights are always about me being wrong in some way. She even mocks me “playing the victim card.” But when it’s 25 years of it I can’t help but think something is wrong in her head. I truly love her and am sincerely afraid if I ever acted like she does the marriage would be over because she’s more than willing to go and go non stop. I DO know she loves me. She can be the most tender and loving person. She suffered from depression and at the height of our marital dysfunction her doctor put her on antidepressants and within 3 days our marriage completely flipped on its head, the arguments stopped abruptly and it was like I had my lovely sweetheart back. It was just too obvious she was suffering from clinical depression. It happened slowly but they began again and just became more and more frequent. Now we’re kind of back where we were. She can get violent and has even struck me on occasion though I would never take any action against her. She’s just not well. Now our arguments go from 0 to a million miles an hour knock down drag out. I’ve tried to help her get help. The problem is, she focuses on issues which I’m ok with but even when the issue is resolved she will just find another one. I know I’m not perfect but I know I’m a doting husband and I love her dearly. Just wish I could help her see she has some issues from her childhood she needs confronted. Oh well. Here’s to trying again.

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