Sorry can be the HARDEST thing to say to your spouse – I’m sure you all agree!
By saying this, you’re admitting that you’ve messed up and have hurt one of the people you love the most. It’s never easy.
But the thing is, we’re all human and we ALL make mistakes. And unfortunately, sometimes we make mistakes that really hurt our spouses.
When this happens, it’s our job to accept responsibility for our actions and apologize – EVEN when your mistake is so BIG you feel like there is almost ‘too much’ to apologize for.
It’s true that the deeper the hurt, the longer the healing process will take.
But whether it’s after a six-month affair or after forgetting your anniversary, the steps you need to follow when apologizing to your spouse are the same.
Continue below to find out what these steps are, and feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences at the end.
1. Forgive yourself
You might be thinking something like; “How on earth could I ever forgive myself?” or “How can an apology begin with ME?”
But there are several reasons why it is necessary to try to make peace with yourself after you have made a mistake.
First of all, dwelling on self-loathing and remorseful thoughts is going to use up all of your emotional energy.
This is NOT going to be helpful for you or your marriage, as it keeps the focus on the PROBLEM, rather than what you can do to FIX it.
If you can accept the mistake you have made, you will be able to then focus your energy on what you can do to make up for it.
Let me be clear here. By forgiving yourself, you are not clearing yourself of any blame… You freely admit that you’ve made a mistake.
But you are also acknowledging that the behavior you’ve done wrong does not mean you are a bad person as a whole – and you have the opportunity to be your best self from now on.
2. Apologize to your spouse and accept full responsibility
When it comes to saying sorry, the sooner the better. However, an apology needs to be said with genuine sincerity and feeling to be effective.
So you need time to calm down before you apologize to your spouse, take this time. An angry or sarcastic apology will only make the situation worse.
As hard as it is, look into your spouse’s eyes when you go to apologize to them.
Say sorry and explain exactly what you are sorry for. Express regret for what you’ve done and show an understanding of the impact your behavior has had on your spouse.
For instance; “I’m so sorry that I forgot we had plans for dinner tonight. I know how much you had been looking forward to going out and how disappointed and hurt you must’ve felt when I arrived home late”.
Lastly, never never NEVER say “I’m sorry” and follow it up with a “but” or an excuse.
For instance; “I’m so sorry that I forgot we had plans for dinner tonight. I know how much you had been looking forward to going out and how disappointed and hurt you must’ve felt when I arrived home late. BUT the reason I forgot about dinner is because YOU didn’t remind me this morning. You know I’m busy with work and find it hard to keep track of what is going on sometimes”.
This will make your apology meaningless, and even imply that you are BLAMING your spouse – which is only likely to push them further away.
So accept full responsibility for your actions… Do not try to downplay your mistake to make yourself feel better (because believe me, it won’t work!) And focus only on YOUR actions, not your spouse’s.
3. Make promises for the future
Come up with a plan to ensure your mistake will not be repeated in future and communicate this to your spouse. Just make sure any promises you make can be followed up on.
For instance; “I will have absolutely no further contact with that person. I will delete him/her from my phone, Facebook, Twitter, and will let you know immediately if he/she ever tries to get in touch with me.
I am happy to give you open access to all of my accounts and my phone if that would be helpful to you. I promise to keep in regular communication with you about what I am doing and from now on I will always be at home when I say I will.
I really want to make this work and will do whatever it takes. I will clear my schedule outside of work so I can spend as much time with you as possible – as much time as you are comfortable with right now.”
4. Accept your spouse’s reaction
A common assumption that a spouse often makes is that as soon as they have apologized, their husband or wife should stop being angry or sad and give them forgiveness.
And when this doesn’t happen, the apologizing spouse explodes and says something along the lines of; “I’ve just apologized! What more to you want me to do?! Why can’t you just accept it and move on?!”
The thing is, you can ask your husband or wife for their forgiveness, but you can’t FORCE them to forgive you. Whether they do or not is their choice.
So don’t expect anything from your spouse right now.
Yes, you are making yourself vulnerable and yes, it may feel excruciating being met by your spouse’s silence or angry words. This truly is the HARDEST part about saying “I’m sorry”.
But you NEED to accept your spouse’s anger without reacting. Remember, their anger is born from pain.
So avoid acting defensively AT ALL COSTS, even though this may be your first instinct - as it will only undo the good you have just done by apologizing.
And now is definitely not the time to start pointing fingers and trying to get back at your spouse for anything they’ve done.
All you can do right now, as hard as it is, is give your spouse time to come to terms with your apology and see for themselves the changes in your behavior. Forgiveness will come with time.
5. Follow your apology up with positive actions
Saying sorry is important, but it isn’t enough on its own to heal your spouse’s hurt and move forward.
It is the ACTIONS that follow that actually do most of the relationship repairing.
Apologies need to be backed up with positive changes in behavior, as otherwise your spouse will lose faith in you and will become more hurt and betrayed as a result.
If you’ve betrayed your spouse in some way, the biggest key is to be ABSOLUTELY transparent with your spouse in future – do not try to hide or cover anything up.
Keep the lines of communication open and be honest about everything – where you are, what you are doing, who you are with, what you are spending... EVERYTHING.
This might seem over-the-top, but the truth is that your spouse is likely to be feeling very vulnerable right now, and their trust in you has been shattered. So in order for their trust to be regained, you need to leave literally zero doubts in their mind.
And remember, one big gesture of flowers and chocolates after you’ve messed up is nice, but it’s not going to have the same impact as continuous small steps to improve your behavior and show your spouse how much you value them.
Even if your spouse does not accept your apology straight away, DO NOT GIVE UP. By continuing to show how sorry you are through loving actions, you have the best hope of regaining their love and trust.