- Gender and Relationships
My Husband Never Apologizes! (Or Does He?)
It's Hard to Say "I'm Sorry."
When we have done something wrong, the last thing we need is to feel harassed about it. In fact, the more we feel attacked, the likelier we are to dig in our heels and try to justify the reasons we acted as we did. Somehow, this almost never works.
If you find yourself wishing your partner would just apologize so the argument would end, here are some tips that can help you avoid those battles by recognizing a genuine apology - including when your partner won't say the words, "I'm sorry."
Apologies are usually needed to heal minor damage after a misunderstanding or thoughtless moment. Sometimes, however, damage can happen when two people are incompatible or when abuse exists. No amount of apology will fix abusive or incompatible relationships.
When your partner has been insensitive in some way, consider whether he or she might not have understood that you'd be hurt by their actions. Sometimes we assume others "should" know to behave in a certain way, but this kind of thinking doesn't work. Very few people are mind-readers. You can fix this kind of situation the first time it happens with a simple statement: "I was hurt by your thoughtless remark. Please don't let it happen again."
Your partner may or may not apologize. Don't ask for or wait for one, though, because you'll see whether they are apologetic through their future actions. If you find that they continue to say hurtful things, you may be seeing incompatibility or abusive behavior.
Apologies Mean Different Things to Men and Women
For women, apologies are a social nicety, a way of acknowledging a minor inconvenience we might have caused by accident. Sure, some are more serious than others, but since we are used to saying "I'm sorry" for trivial mishaps, the words are just... words.
Men, on the other hand, experience something completely different! Raised to be competitors who can't show weakness without getting kicked off the team, so to speak, the words, apologies feel like failure - something that makes him "less of a man."
If you're a woman trying to understand your reticent husband, son, boss, or another guy who doesn't apologize, consider for yourself which is harder:
A) Apologizing to a stranger for bumping into them in a supermarket checkout line.
B) Apologizing to your husband for accidentally running over your pet with your car.
In both cases, you're apologizing, but which one is harder to do? Would you spend more time figuring out just the right words, or waiting until the right moment, for one but not the other? If you're a man, every apology may feel like the "B" apology.
Healing Without Apology?
How to heal relationships when the other person won't apologize.
Why Won't He Just Say Sorry?
Often, a person who recognizes that you didn't like something they did will feel too vulnerable to say so. Instead, they'll make a gesture of reconciliation. They may do something they think will please you to show you that you're important to them. By acknowledging their effort, you can demonstrate that you understand.
Here's an example: Recently my husband made a thoughtless remark in front of other people. I felt hurt, and immediately said, "I didn't like that remark." Instead of apologizing, he defended his actions.
Rather than engaging in an argument, I decided to give him (and myself) space by not trying to talk to him. In fact, being the hotheaded type that I am, it was clear that I was not going to speak to him until I calmed down.
As it happened, our disagreement took place just a couple of hours before bedtime, and the only thing I said to him the rest of the evening was "Goodnight."
I stayed up for a while after he went to sleep. (I told you I have a temper myself, right? I still hadn't cooled down.) An hour or so later, I decided to crawl into bed. As I opened the bedroom door, I discovered he'd left a light on so I could see my way, even though he prefers to sleep in the dark.
He left for work before I awakened, and when he called me the next morning, I said, "Thank you for leaving the light on. That was nice. And I accept your apology."
Huh? He never said he was sorry!
Actually, he showed it instead of using the words. When I made that bold statement on the phone, he replied, "Yeah, sorry about that." His tone was casual, about the same as if he'd bumped into a stranger in the checkout line.
Lingering resentment? Not a chance.