When to NOT apologize.

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.

But seriously.

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?

Categories: Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “When to NOT apologize.

  1. I think you have to learn to pick your battles – I think all wives do. Men are men, plain and simple. They are going to do things to upset us whether they realize it or not. I’ve found that I usually overreact in situations where I’m left feeling upset and that a lot of the emotion I’m feeling is self-inflicted and not something hubs has done or hasn’t done. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m able to realize when I’ve done this and I apologize right away and explain how I might have overreacted. That being said, I also make sure that I’m honest with hubs and explain how we could have handled a situation better. I don’t like staying mad long – I usually end up getting more upset if we’re purposely not speaking to each other, even for 2 minutes. I think you had a right to be upset over his response when you told him dinner was ready, but how often do you have hubs doing house stuff or running errands with you? (this is really often for me) If he often does those things for/with you, then reheating dinner maybe isn’t THAT big of a deal. Is it worth being upset during dinner or acting mad for the rest of the night? It’s all about balance. 🙂

    • I know what you mean. It’s important for us to talk about what I’m feeling, whether or not it’s his “fault,” because as my helpmate, he’s responsible for helping me to realize when I’m out of line and then to help me calm down, although perhaps in a bit more gentle manner. Thanks for the nice comment!

  2. I haven’t quite got the knack of fighting fair. My mouth gets me in to trouble! Heck, I’m just tired of fighting period. I give…not really, but working on it!

    • Good for you! I think that’s all we can do, “work on it.” We’ll never learn to totally control our emotions, at least I don’t think so, but we can learn how to move past it when we make a mistake.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I’ve learnt that the best thing to do is to apologize when you mean it. I don’t have loud arguments with my guy, and sometimes the whole thing is just me having hurt feelings from something I thought. Love and patience, as well as good communication are needed, so I think you’re doing okay. We may not always get it down perfect, but we can make it right.

  4. Melissa

    Wow! This was truly a blessing for me to read this post. My husband and I have the same problem. Reading this just gave me encouragement to talk about this with my husband.

    • That’s great! I’m so glad you found it helpful. It’s certainly something we’re still working on, too! Glad you stopped by and thanks for commenting!

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  7. Ahh! This is almost a year after you posted this but oh well 😉
    I’m a newlywed. Like 3 weeks in. We’re happy and giddy and love being married, but holy crap this is such an adjustment!!! We dated for a little over a year before we got married and we’ve never been in a fight. Of course we argue over stupid stuff and bicker sometimes but we both HATE fighting. I honestly don’t know how to fight fair. I’m the most sensitive person I know and even writing this comment I kind of want to burst into tears! Why?! Not sure. I just read through a lot of your blog and I’m feeling the exact same way you did. My husband and I are both photographers, we run a business together, we work full time from home, in the same room, we share the same struggles daily…it gets really tough sometimes. Sometimes I want to start a huge fight just to get out my frustrations but most the time it sits inside me and I get bitter. Both aren’t good 😦 I want to just talk it out but I don’t want to be nagging wife either. This learning how to live with a boy thing is hard!! Not sure where I’m going with this but I’m enjoying your blog and it’s helping this newlywed figure crap out 😉

    • Rachel–hi! I’m so glad you stopped by and left a comment! Welcome!
      Fighting fair is certainly HARD! I still ask for forgiveness after snippy remarks and negative assumptions in our arguments and fights. Of course, we’ve never really had a yelling-screaming fight, but we certainly still mess up…a lot!
      I hope you’ll keep reading as I transition over to the new blog soon and I want to wish you a somewhat late, but entirely heartfelt congratulations on your marriage. It’s hard sometimes, but so worth it. Don’t give up, and never stop apologizing!

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