When was the last time a complete stranger walked up to you, punched you in the face for absolutely no reason, and then told you to apologize?
Odds are, this has never happened to you; am I right? On the incredibly small, basically zero-probability chance the above did occur you would be fully justified in telling the person that there is no way you are going to apologize since you truly did nothing wrong at all to the other person.
Now let’s exit the absurd and reenter reality.
In a real relationship, where two people interact with one another on a regular basis there are going to be times when those two people hurt each other (hopefully just emotionally), no matter how much they love one another. During those times of injury, unless one party is like the jerk in the previous absurd example, in some way both people contributed to the perceived wrong.
You are probably thinking of examples right now where you truly believe you weren’t in the wrong at all – your spouse simply didn’t understand, took it all wrong, blamed you for something you didn’t do, etc. But here’s the thing; a perceived hurt still hurts and the person feeling wounded – even if it is totally illogical – still feels wounded. That means that in some way you may have contributed to the bruised feelings (even if only 1%).
As a loving person, what do we do when we realize we have hurt someone we love – whether unintentionally or without knowing we even did it? We stop ourselves from the gut instinct of “fighting for our rights” and “proving our point” and “trying to win the argument.” We stop because we know that even if we “win” we lose because we will have only succeeded in demonstrating how unloving we truly are towards an already hurting person.
Instead, we ask questions to clarify the hurt that we are being told that we contributed towards and then offer a sincere “I am sorry for (enter specific).” In doing this simple (yet often difficult) step we can put salve on the wound and draw close to the one we love.
Sometimes the apology is all our loved one really needs to hear. Other times we may need to apologize and then ask what we could do differently in the future. Still other times we may need to apologize, ask what we could do differently in the future, and then ask permission to clarify our perspective (but not to “win” or prove our perspective is right).
When we build the habit of quickly and sincerely saying “I am sorry” hurts that can so often cause a couple to pull apart can become opportunities for couples to draw closer together and be knit together in stronger bond of love.