It’s Okay to Say a Genuine “I’m Sorry” – God Resists the Proud but Gives Grace to the Humble

As we all know, statistics are often all over the place. But consistently, statistics state that the average married couple fights one to three times a week, and as often as 130 times a year. That’s exhausting just thinking about it – expending all of that mental and emotional energy.

And let’s define “fight.” This is not a matter of who’s controlling the remote or who didn’t take one minute to change out the roll of toilet paper. Those are minor disturbances (but yes, they can turn into full-blown blowouts too). But these fights are defined as actual arguments in which one or both parties strongly articulate a difference of opinion. It’s bound to happen - wires get crossed, what was intended gets misconstrued…

Which brings us to the topic of today’s blog, two of the most important words in all of marriage – and all of life.

I’m sorry.

Truth be told, a marital relationship without arguments is rarely healthy.  "Fighting" gives couples a forum to speak about unmet needs. Very often, that forum can be complicated by misunderstandings, previous trauma, hurts, habits, and hang-ups that have been created from difficult upbringings or previous relationships.

Couples who never bicker are often the ones who make the mistake of believing that not having disagreements means that everything is okay. Sometimes, it’s the total opposite of that. It sadly turns out that one or both spouses were secretly unhappy or unsatisfied for many years.

A healthy and functional marriage needs an occasional and genuine “I’m sorry” for reconnection when disconnection occurs. Truth be told, there are multiple approaches a spouse can take when he or she has wronged their mate. It’s good to know your spouse’s apology language.

A couple who consistently utilizes the appropriate apology language has a far better chance of weathering the storms and staying together.

So, what is apology language? JUST US LIMITED appreciates the work of Dr. Gary Chapman, the man who brought us the five love languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch). Chapman also gave us the five apology languages. Here they are – let’s translate:

According to Chapman, the apology languages are:

1. Expressing Regret. A “wronged” spouse wants to know that you know they felt wronged. For them, it is enough to hear a heartfelt “Honey (or whatever your pet name is for your spouse), I’m sorry.” Acknowledgement of the wrong is sufficient, and the case is closed!

2. Accepting Responsibility. This apology language says that you are fully aware of what you did that capsized your mate’s feelings. Beyond “I’m sorry,” your mate needs to hear you say exactly what it is you’re sorry for.

3. Making Restitution. A spouse who prefers this apology language has a need to know that they are still loved, in spite of your poor decision or bad behavior. Your apology needs to be two-fold – 1) explain why you are sorry and 2) let them know how important the marriage relationship is to you.

4. Genuinely Expressing the Desire to Change Your Behavior. This apology language comes with a reassurance that you won’t go down that bad road again. It gives them some concrete steps you will take to ensure this does not happen in the future. Your spouse needs this extra layer to feel that your apology is real.

5. Requesting Forgiveness. Your spouse wants to hear you say “I am sorry, and will you please forgive me?” He or she needs to “feel” your sincerity and your repentant heart along with those words.

One of the deal killers for any of the apology languages is a “but.” Yes, you may feel equally wronged but making an apology means putting your mate first and is not the time to demand fair but equal treatment. Chances are, if your marriage is healthy and functional, he or she will come around when they are the recipient of your humility. In the early years of our marriage, I was definitely a “but” man – but I’ve learned better.

We recognize that there can be many factors that make an apology difficult. But there are so many more reasons why it is well worth it to humble yourself. For a Christian, humility is of utmost importance, called out three times in Scripture (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5).

The impetuous fisherman Peter, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said this: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Unless you are the perfect spouse (spoiler alert: you’re not), it is so important to be willing to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship. If you find it objectionable or difficult to reach out to your spouse with an “I’m sorry,” JUST US LIMITED is here to help.

There is a wonderful quote from German novelist Erich Maria Remarque that defines the heart of a sincere apology.

“An apology doesn’t mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means that the value of your relationship is more important than your own ego." Touché, Erich. Touché.

There’s another statistic far more startling even than 130 arguments in a year. Each year, an average of more than 750,000 couples divorce in the United States, with the actual percentage of marriages that end in divorce between 40 and 50 percent. With those kinds of statistics staring us in the face, being able to say “I’m sorry” carries a lot of weight.

The best way we can counter those statistics? By not becoming one!

Do the right thing. When you make the occasional relationship stumble, fumble, or bumble, say “I’m sorry.” And mean it.

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