In love relationships, there are several important things to know, the chief of which is that the key to a successful relationship is being able to apologise – saying ‘I’m sorry’ and meaning it. Writes Mary Ekah
Most often in love relationships, it’s hard to say the words we so desperately want to hear. Many times we turn the simple task of saying “I’m sorry” into an uphill task. Sometimes, we use it to make others culpable or withhold it to hurt them. The more intimately you are involved with another person, the more difficult it becomes to say I’m sorry. It is very easy in the heat of battle to hurt your partner in a very sensitive place. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ can be difficult especially when egos are involved.
Apologies take a lot of courage but many people think of the opposite. They feel that apologising or confessing to a wrong is a sign of weakness. This idea is destructive to any relationship. Yes, no individual is 100 per cent right in a relationship, but relationships have been broken over a simple positive attitude that if oftentimes ignored. Saying “I’m sorry” should be much easier than it sometimes is and so, when you say “I’m sorry” it must be done with the sensitivity to the person on the receiving end.
According to a relationship expert, Mrs. Tinuola Agbabiaka of Practical Christian Living Initiative, an apology in your marriage is more than saying “I’m sorry.” It is an attempt to admit you made a mistake, hurt someone’s feelings, did something really stupid and made a bad decision.
Research has shown that it is often easier to offer an apology to a total stranger or a casual acquaintance than it is to a spouse as based on the sentiments that apology reduces the strength of the person saying it in a relationship.
Agbabiaka explained that some spouses view apology as a sign of weakness that brings about a loss of power and status.
“A spouse who has this perspective may equate apology with admittance of inadequacy and incompetence, and thus, be reluctant to apologise for mistakes, failures, or misjudgments. To others, it’s humiliating to tender apology. They may have been ridiculed and criticised harshly by their parents when they made mistakes growing up, and as a result, they try to avoid admitting to such mistakes and the unpleasant feeling that it brings.”
She explained further that contrary to some ethnical or traditional beliefs, to apologise is not a sign of weakness.
“A union between two people is bound to be filled with some disagreements, and that is where apology comes in without denying it. What you are doing is to accept responsibility for your actions, which goes a long way to ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.” Agbabiaka noted.
Agbabiaka listed reasons for the word sorry in any relationship to include:
“To end the hurt and pain you have caused your spouse. When you love someone, you do not want to see the person unhappy.
“You want to do what you can to ensure that your marriage is on solid ground
“When you are genuinely sorry for what you have done or the pain you are causing your spouse,”
“An apology that is not genuine and sincere is not an apology,” she says.
She advised further that an apology between a husband and wife should be in private within a nuclear family. “When extended family members and friends are involved in the apology process, it may heighten the apologising spouse’s shame or embarrassment,” she noted.
While also apologising, Agbabiaka warns that parties involved must accept responsibility. “Use “I” in your apology and don’t try to put any responsibility for your behaviour on your spouse. Start by saying you are sorry for what happened and pledge to make amends or changes. Ask for forgiveness, express your shame, regret, sadness, guilt and emphasise your determination not to make the same mistake again. State what you are willing to do to make things right again.
Whatever you decide to do to make restitution, make sure it is meaningful and something that you will do. Don’t make promises you won’t or can’t keep. Finally, don’t push your spouse for an immediate response. Your spouse may need time to respond,” Agbabiaka noted.
She warned further that when aplogising, couples must not “operate in denial, but must admit responsibility and apologise. “Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Some individuals by not admitting fault pretend they haven’t done anything “wrong.”
According to Agbabiaka, though, it’s just easier to avoid and deny than to admit responsibility and apologise, “It is not the time to laugh or crack jokes. Your apology should come with all the seriousness it deserves to make it genuine,” the relationship expert advised.
She noted that for some individuals, it is easier to say “I’m sorry” while others can’t ever seem to say the words out. “When a spouse is reluctant to apologise, the partner inevitably ends up carrying emotional baggage from the resulting hurt, feelings, resentment, and anger. Also, sometimes when intense feelings are triggered and the emotional climate becomes either icy or raging, the offending spouse may retreat, not knowing what else to do. Or he or she may be afraid of doing the wrong thing and making the situation worse.
Other times, it may not be just about you. Your spouse may be unable to apologise to you because of a lack in relationship skills and not necessarily because he/she doesn’t love you. Whilst in some cases, it can indicate a callousness and indifference to the partner’s feelings, in other cases, it can indicate a lack of relationship skills or unresolved individual issues,” Agbabiaka said.