Q&A: The art of apology

Question: When my wife and I fight, it takes days for one of us to apologize. And when we do, I’m usually the one who says sorry first. Isn’t it reasonable for me to expect my wife to apologize first sometimes? Why should I be the one who always has to swallow my pride?

Answer from Mitch Temple: Healthy couples recognize the value of mutual apologies. No matter how well a spouse communicates, he or she is bound to make mistakes in word choice, tone or body language. When that happens, a simple apology can help restore unity and peace. If a spouse never says he or she is sorry, something is wrong.

What is the best way to breach this topic with your wife? Let me offer some things to consider:

  1. Ask God to reveal any pride, resentment or unforgiveness on your part. Not dealing with your own “stuff” will come through in words or behaviour.
  2. Consider the possibility that your apologies in the past have been seen as insincere or as a way to stop the discussion dead in its tracks. Ask for the wisdom to deal with the issue the way Christ would.
  3. Communicate your concerns to your wife at a time when things are going well, not when you are upset. When raising the issue, use a friendly, caring tone, with words that will not cause her to be defensive. Try beginning with “I feel . . .” instead of “You always . . .”
  4. Your wife may have grown up in a home where apologizing was not modelled. If this is so, she will need time to develop the skill. Understanding her background may not resolve the issue, but it can give you a new perspective on why she does not apologize.
  5. Take a “couple assessment” – a test that evaluates your marriage’s strengths and weaknesses. For a good couple assessment, visit the Focus on the Family Canada online bookstore. Talking with a Christian counsellor can also be helpful. Both steps may provide the opportunity to raise your concerns with Christian guidance.

Though this issue may seem irresolvable, it is not. If you are willing to model the right kind of behaviour, be patient and seek the proper guidance and help together, there is hope.

Mitch Temple is the director of Focus on the Family Colorado’s marriage department and a licensed marriage and family therapist.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Focus on the Family Canada free monthly marriage email

Focus on the Family Marriage podcast

Focus on the Family Canada marriage books, cds, dvds

Couple Checkup Online Marriage Assessment

TOLL-FREE 1.800.661.9800

Privacy Policy & Terms of Use

Focusonthefamily.ca is a service of Focus on the Family (Canada) Association.
It is intended as a general, practical reference and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, mental health or legal advice.

Focus on the Family (Canada) Association is a registered charity (#10684-5969-RR0001)