How to Apologize in Your Marriage

Updated 11/15/19
Credit: Christian Vierig. Getty Images

Apologizing is something everyone in a committed relationship needs to learn how to do, as it can help end arguments and make your partner feel better when their feelings are hurt. If you have an inkling that you owe your spouse an apology, don't put it off. They are best when they are issued sincerely, and after analyzing why an apology is warranted in the first place. This will make your "sorry" a bit more authentic and heartfelt. But not all apologies are created equal, and knowing exactly how to apologize in a marriage is the first step towards successful conflict resolution.

What Is an Apology?

An apology in your marriage, or other important relationship, is more than simply saying "I'm sorry." An apology is an attempt to admit you made a mistake, hurt someone's feelings, did something really stupid, made a bad decision, or something else you know is not right. When you apologize, you are accepting responsibility for your actions and showcasing that acceptance to another person. You are owning your mistake and displaying that ownership to the person you may have hurt. 

Why People Apologize

Some people apologize because they just want to get out of the problem they are in, or because they want to present a caring and repentant image to others. Focusing on your own needs when you apologize isn't truly apologizing to the other person.

Other people apologize because they want to put the past behind them and begin again. Many are genuinely sorry for what happened, want to accept responsibility for their actions, and want to make amends. 

Hopefully, you want to apologize to your spouse because you want to help ease and eventually end the hurt and pain that you caused. Because you love your spouse, a true apology can help to ensure that your marriage is on solid ground. These are positive reasons, and can help the other person accept the apology and move on after it. 

How to Apologize

An apology between a husband and wife should often take place privately. Make sure you are free of distractions and find a time when you feel a serious conversation is appropriate. When you apologize to your spouse, your apology should be genuine and sincere. Use "I" in your apology and don't try to put any responsibility for your behavior on your spouse. 

If it's more comfortable for you to be sure all of your emotions are expressed, apologizing in the form of a letter is acceptable. However, if possible, you should be present when the letter is read by your spouse. If that is not possible, be prepared to discuss the letter in person, after your spouse has had a chance to read it. 

After the Apology

As a productive part of the apology, it can be helpful to state what you are willing to do to make things right again. You should emphasize your determination to not make the same mistake again. Whatever you decide to do to make restitution, make sure it is meaningful, and something that you will actually do. Don't make promises you won't or can't keep. Finally, try to forgive yourself. It can be difficult if your spouse has moved on, but you are stuck in the past. 

Some apologies take time to digest. Don't push your spouse for an immediate response. Your spouse may need time to respond and work through the change in your relationship. Be patient with your spouse, and yourself, and keep the lines of communication open.

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