6. SOFTEN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR SPOUSE BY WRITING A FEW SENTENCES IN A NOTE THAT I WILL HELP YOU WRITE.
What Happens When You Say, "I'm Sorry"?
Something powerful transpires when you say, "I'm sorry." Because of this, if I can be so bold, I want you to apologize. You can do so face to face or via a note.
Five Possible Reasons to Apologize
If you have sounded unloving or disrespectful, please apologize. Based on email #1 concerning your conversational tone, say: "I am sorry about my unloving and disrespectful tone. You don't deserve this. That tone is never helpful or effective. Will you forgive me?"
If you have neglected to fill their emotional tank for love or respect, please apologize. Based on email #2 concerning making deposits of love and respect in the heart of your spouse, say: “I am sorry about stepping on your air hose. Instead of meeting your need for love and respect, I reacted in ways that felt unloving and disrespectful. Will you forgive me?”
If you have wrongly judged your spouse's pink or blue perspective, please apologize. Based on email #3 concerning your male or female approach, say: "I feel badly saying you were wrong. Neither of us were wrong; we are just different in our perspectives. This was an honest difference of opinion between pink and blue. Will you forgive me?"
If you were negative to motivate your spouse to be positive, please apologize. Based on email #4 concerning your default mode of negativity, say, "I was wrong for being so negative toward you as though this would motivate you to be positive toward me. I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?"
If you contributed to the Crazy Cycle, please apologize. Based on email #5 concerning your unloving or disrespectful reaction, say: "I was way too defensive and reactive. Will you forgive me for reacting in such an unloving and disrespectful manner, which triggered your negative reaction, and from there things got crazy? I was wrong."
What If Your Spouse Is Far More Guilty in the Marriage than You Are?
The fact that you are doing the 15-Day Plan suggests you have goodwill and are committed to helping your marriage. And if you are the only one of the two of you going through this plan, it suggests you are less guilty. I salute you and affirm you. However, you can only control your actions and reactions to your spouse. You cannot control the ultimate outcomes in your spouse. Your spouse must make his or her own internal choice to change. You can appeal to them to change, provide motivations, and bring them under the influence but you cannot coerce them. And, the truth is, you don't want to coerce them. If you did you'd immediately say, "You are just loving and respecting me because I forced you to do this." But when you create the most loving and respectful environment, usually you influence your spouse to respond because your spouse wants to respond and chooses to respond. Not infrequently your apology sets in motion a positive response. So try not to keep score at this juncture. Just do what you can do.
Even if you are only 10 percent guilty compared to your spouse's 90 percent, you can energize your marriage by apologizing for your 10 percent. Simply stated, where you have been unloving or disrespectful, tell your spouse that you are sorry.
Be Realistic About the Past
If your marriage has had bitterness and distrust, your spouse may react negatively to your apology not because the apology is wrong but because they don't fully believe it or because it brings them under conviction and they know they need to apologize but are too stubborn to get humble at this juncture. Regardless, your apology is the right thing to do whether or not your spouse responds positively at this time.
There is power in an apology. A wife writes, "I told him that I apologized for being so disrespectful, that I realized that I had been trying to ‘mold’ him into what I wanted, that I really respect him, and I finally realized that he truly does love me. . . . I have to say that evening is the best discussion we have had in a long time. We talked for hours." Another wife said, "My husband and I had a good marriage, but we knew something was missing. Sometimes, we both would be so hurt and not understand what happened. Once I read the Love and Respect book, it all made sense. I instantly started catching myself being disrespectful in my words, my tone of voice, my actions. Each time I acted disrespectfully I apologized immediately. The Crazy Cycle is DONE!!!"
In apologizing, it can entail a longer interaction than desired, but doing this humbly can bring long-lasting healing. A husband writes about his intention to apologize. "I got a chance to put into practice what God had revealed to me about the 'Crazy Cycle' during the week of vacation. It is a long drive home from Montana to Dallas. . . . We began to talk and I listened. I listened to her frustration over the first 17 years. How she felt rejected. . . . I didn't acknowledge her . . . she felt that she wasn't a priority . . . she felt that our marriage wasn't what God intended and that I wasn't the spiritual leader she hoped for. . . . There was a lot of pain she expressed and typically I would feel attacked and would withdraw. But God gave me the ability to listen. He changed my perspective as a result of your description of the 'Crazy Cycle' and helped me to listen for her 'love' language rather than my 'respect' language. She said it was a hard conversation and appreciated how I listened and how I apologized for my part. She had not heard or felt my sincerity for a long time. This conversation was a turning point in our relationship."
Let me encourage you to stay the course! Though this is a 15-Day Plan that can produce great results, see this as a game plan that you repeat as needed. For example, the wife above said, "Each time I acted disrespectfully I apologized immediately." She gets the game plan. Keep doing this, and stay positive and optimistic.
With Love and Respect,
Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Question and Action
- Today's Question: Why would you not apologize for your unloving or disrespectful part
- Today's Action: I will apologize for my part in what I did that fell short in responding with love and respect.
P.S.—After you do Today’s Action, please email me at email@example.com regarding any questions or concerns you have about your needed apology. Thanks.
P.P.S.—One of the deepest commitments I am asking you to make is to maintain an unconditional, positive regard toward the spirit of your spouse. We have referenced this, but in the next lesson I will focus on this.