I Said I Was Sorry!

Have you ever heard those words or spoken them?  Why is it that so many times we need to come back and say again, “I SAID I was sorry! What more do you want me to say?”

Cecilia Johansson

Cecilia Johansson

The Apology is needed in every marriage tool box.  Why?  Because we all mess up. We all make mistakes, and do things we promised not to do.  We say things that are insensitive and hurtful, and the list goes on.

Generally speaking, we are not very good at apologies.  We often mouth the words but true repentance is far from reality.  Inwardly we are saying, “I’m sorry, but ….”    So our spouse doesn’t believe us for a minute and thinks if you were REALLY sorry, you’d stop doing whatever and quit making lame excuses.  Ouch.  I guess it doesn’t look like I’m really sorry.

How do we apologize?  I mean REALLY apologize.  So that it is accepted.  How do I honestly convey my regret?

Fortunately, there an app for that!!  Oops, I mean a book for that.  There may be an app for that, but for now a book will do.  I’m referring to The Five Languages of Apology Amazon by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas.  Yes, you’re right.  This is the same Gary Chapman who authored The Five Love Languages.

What an insightful book.  It looks into the ways that we typically apologize, our apology temperament if you will.  Here are the five languages of apology:

  • Expressing Regret – I am sorry
  • Accepting Responsibility – I was wrong
  • Making Restitution – What Can I do to make this right?
  • Genuinely Repenting – I’ll try not to do that again
  • Requesting Forgiveness – Will you please forgive me?

Most of us are looking for an apology to be sincere.  An apology that has an excuse built right into it is worthless.  You are simply absolving yourself on the back end of a hollow “I’m sorry”.

We also like to hear the offender take ownership of what happened and not spread the blame onto others.

There are a series a questions in the book that help you identify your particular language of apology or what’s important to you when someone is apologizing to you.  Is it enough that they express regret, or is it important to you that they also clearly accept responsibility.

And so, I’m sorry for not going in to more detail in this blog.  I know it’s my fault and I could have done a better job. Next time I will.  Will you please forgive me?

Now, go home and tell your spouse you’re sorry.

Imagine

Often song writers are able to capture the essence of some of life’s most perplexing issues.  In a few simple lyrics they can capture the complexity of life, touch our hearts, and move our souls.  I’ll date myself here, but one such songwriter that accomplished this mystical feat was none other than John Lennon of the Beatles.  He wrote a dreamy, idyllic tale of how peaceful life could be in his song Imagine, written in 1971.  He envisioned a utopian world at peace with no hunger or war, nothing to kill or die for; a fanciful happy world where mankind lives with neither territorial boundaries nor possessions.  He admits that he’s a dreamer and invites us to dream with him.  (A footnote here for my purest brethren – He also wanted us to imagine no heaven or hell, something with which I disagree.)

In a world where the only breaking news is bad news and where critical comments dominate our dialogue, we are often caught up in the negative onslaught that bombards our lives every day.  A local town in the Midwest has actually passed a law to fine people for swearing in public because public swearing reached epidemic levels.

Can you imagine a world less negative?  Can you imagine a marriage less negative?

I believe that we need to have a vision for a better marriage.  If you are like most couples, your relationship with your spouse is, to one degree or another, less than perfect.  To be honest, some of you would probably admit that your marriage has hit a few bumps along the way.  And some may further admit that the bumps are so severe that you feel like you’re driving in the ditch.  Still others just feel like giving up.

Here’s where I need all of you to take a step of faith.  Take a step and imagine.  Open your mind and your heart to see a better marriage, to see a closer more fulfilling relationship.  Open up to seeing yourselves as best friends and lovers.  Envision a time when your communication with each other is effortless.  He really does understand you and takes time to hear you and even empathizes with your feelings.  You both have found a way to quickly forgive when wrongs are done and hurtful words are spoken.  There is a daily joy of being together because you know just how to build each other up and encourage each other.  Words of praise are easily spoken; hurts and fears are shared with love and respect.  You have a deep desire to enjoy a passionate intimate relationship and you long to share the joy of holding each other close.  Imagine and have a vision for a marriage that improves and grows better every day.

Now for the reality check.  Don’t get lost in the daydream.  Imagine where your marriage can be and take responsibility each day to do what you can do to make that dream a reality.  Yes!  Do what you can do and day by day you can transform your marriage into what you imagined it to be.

Cleaning up the Mess

Last time we talked about your relationship being like a shop. Over time it gets cluttered with boxes of “stuff.” Hurt feelings and unmet needs hinder a relationship from being close. Some of us begin our marriage with baggage that we carry from when we grew up. We seldom begin with a “clean shop” so to speak. Before we come back from the honeymoon our shop is already piled with clutter.

So how do we apply common sense to clean up the clutter in our relationship?

First, honestly assess the quality of your relationship. Both spouses should independently score themselves from 1 to 10 on the following:

  • overall quality of our relationship
  • time together
  • communication
  • finances
  • physical health
  • free time
  • relatives
  • kids
  • romance
  • sex life
  • mutual trust
  • household chores
  • handling problems and decisions
  • spiritual life
  • church involvement
  • goals
  • dreams
  • desires

Add additional items if you feel they are needed.

Now, each should list about 10 items that you really appreciate about your spouse and any items that are a struggle. Honesty is important. Hiding issues lets “boxes of stuff” remain covered.

Now list four things that you feel would help your relationship grow closer.

And finally, list anything that has really hurt you. This can be difficult. It requires that you dig deep. Often when we have been hurt, we bury our feelings because they are too hurtful to talk about. But these particular “clutter boxes” can be the very issues that keep us from being truly close. We can easily overlook socks left on the floor, but deeply felt wounds are like invisible forces that keep us from being close. (More on Hurt and Forgiveness in a future blog.)

Completing the assessment above is merely a first step to let you know if you have clutter in your relationship. The list and your answers will help you to begin a discussion on how to take a particular area and begin the process of making it a 9 or a 10.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. The shop is “our shop.” It isn’t “your box of junk.” Both must realize that in order to have a close relationship you both need to be responsible to work on getting it healthy. Look at an area of concern in this light: What can “we” do together to work at making this issue less of a hindrance to us having a close relationship.
  2. Patience should guide your actions. It took us a week to clean up our messy shop. Relationships are much more complex and patience is needed to allow time to resolve issues. We bring issues into our relationships that have been issues since we were young children. They take time to work through. Don’t try to resolve them all at once. Take a few steps and be thankful for your progress. Be patient and gracious with each other.
  3. Communicate with each other in a kind, loving, and non-demanding manner. Remember that you are working at cleaning issues up so you can enjoy the richness of a soul mate relationship.