Tonight when Wyatt got done with work, he immediately set himself on the couch and started playing. (Yay video games…but I know, I know, it’s still so new that he wants to play all the time.) I wasn’t mad. Honest to goodness, I was NOT mad. Not even a little bit annoyed. But when I looked over to see him in the middle of a game and I said, “dinner’s almost ready,” and he replied with “I just started a game, so I’ll be ready in less than ten minutes,” I was immediately fuming.
To me, it looked like he could have stopped right then. To him, he had already hit whatever button starts the live play and was waiting for the game to begin any second.
I huffed back, “In ten minutes, I’ll have to reheat everything!”
“And he said, “whoa, there….”
And then I was mad.
And I stayed pretty mad through the next ten minutes of trying to keep everything hot and get the plates ready. I nursed my hurt feelings while we ate, and when he insisted on doing the dishes (which, hello! was the right thing for him to do so I should have just accepted), I was angry that he was trying to “make it up to me.”
But I apologized.
Not because I felt sorry.
Not because I was ready to move on.
Truth is, I’m not really sure why I did it. I guess I was hoping he’d say, “No, I’m sorry, honey, you were right, I should have quit my game right then and come to dinner, and what can I do to make it up to you, you know, after I do the dishes and vacuum the floor and dust and…
Ok, I’m kidding.
It doesn’t matter what we’re fighting about, or for how long, it seems that no matter what, I apologize first.
Is this bad?
I don’t think so. Someone has to, and it might as well be me. As long as Hubs is willing to have the “I’m sorry conversation,” I think it doesn’t matter which one of us “caves” first.
That being said, I don’t always enjoy being this person when I’m still feeling angry. And you know what? I think that’s my fault.
The whole purpose of the apology should be to move past the argument, not work through it. I’m doing it all wrong.
When should you say sorry? It isn’t to spur the other person on to apologizing so I can feel justified in my anger. It isn’t to inspire guilt in my Hubs so he feels bad about whatever made me angry in the first place. It’s to express to him that I am ready to make up and move on, that the argument is resolved, and my heart is ready to be at peace with whatever situation we’re dealing with.
So, how do I work on this?
I pride myself, and I’m proud of Wyatt, that we do our best to fight fair. We don’t bring up past hurts (if we’ve truly forgiven, those past hurts should be just that, in the past), we don’t take personal hits or attacks, we try our best to stay on topic, and we listen to what the other is saying, staying as calm as possible in our replies.
But if I’m honest, this practice of preliminary “sorry’s” isn’t fair to him. Or me. And especially not to US.
Marriage is about being honest and dealing with things head on. There’s no room for this kind of trick. No good can come from pretending to be sorry before I am. It’s just going to make me more likely to pick a rebound argument a few minutes later, like I did tonight. And then we’re right back to where we started.
And even worse, Wyatt’s more confused than ever.
When I say I’m sorry, I should mean it. I shouldn’t be secretly still harboring the same hurt feelings.
I think something more productive would be to say, “Honey, I want to talk about this. I think my feelings were hurt because……what do you think about it?”
As I write this, I’m struck by how surreal and cheesy it sounds.
But you know what? I don’t care. It’s WAY better than the alternative, staying mad. Or worse, hurting my husband and myself. Plus, of course it sounds cheesy. Our culture has learned to accept, appreciate, and even thrive on unhealthy, loud, dramatic arguments. (That’s why reality TV shows are the way they are, and why they’re so popular.) But I don’t live in a reality TV show. And thank goodness, because most of those families end up falling apart. And how could they not? Have you seen the way they fight?
The truth is, in marriage, there’s going to be arguments. There’s going to be hurt feelings and anger. They aren’t the problem. The problem is when we don’t know how to react. And are Hubs and I perfect at this? Obviously not, did you just read the above post? But we’re trying.
Now I have another whole topic to focus on when we’re in a conflict. (It’s so much easier to just be happy!)
What about you? What are your tips for fighting fair? Have you done this and realized you really weren’t sorry yet? How do you move on from there?