is your partner better at apologizing than you are?

the third installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i was going to write today about how my husband is a better apologizer than i am.  because he is.  and i'm trying to get better at it.  but as i was writing a whole big post about that, i figured out something brand new, so now i want to write about that.  here it is:

i am mostly bad at apologizing in this circumstance: when i do something wrong even after a little voice in my head tells me not to.  if i know, on some level, in the process of doing something, that i probably shouldn't be doing that thing, i fightfightfight against the inevitable "i'm sorry" later on.  okay, that's confusing.  here's what i mean:
  1. i bring up a controversial/tender/challenging thing with my husband at the wrong time.  i know it's the wrong time because there's a wise and experienced voice inside my head saying, "don't bring this up.  it's the wrong time."  and then i tell myself we don't have any other time because we must talk about this before [insert someone else's deadline], and i bring it up anyway.  in case you're curious, wrong times include but are not limited to: while racing around to get ready in the morning, ten minutes before we go to sleep way too late in the first place, and three blocks from arriving at someone else's house.
  2. i get mad at my husband for an inadequate, underwhelming, or distracted response, and i await his apology.  this may involve my snippily clomping around the house and/or sitting like a statue in the car.
  3. i wait for my husband to ask me what's wrong, and i tell him how mad i am.
  4. i hear his points about my timing in bringing up the aforementioned controversial/tender/challenging topic, and i have a flashback of that little voice in my head telling me the very same thing before i did it.
  5. reluctantly, i consider the idea that i might be the one who needs to apologize.  this could take 10 minutes or several hours.  all of it takes place in silence.
  6. and finally:  i say that i'm sorry.
all of this seems completely counter-intuitive to me, but after replaying several tapes in my head, i'm pretty sure it's true.  a revelation!  cool.  okay.  good information.

and that makes me curious:  when are you the worst at apologizing?


  1. excellent post! I am the worst at apologizing when part of the issue is that I'm not being true to my real feelings/the main issue in the first place. To clarify: I act horribly rude and entitled and pouty with my husband about issue A, get all kinds of huffy about it, and then later apologize after he's baffled and mildly irritated. I apologize badly, in sort of a "well geez i had low blood sugar, sorry i was such a grump," kind of way, when really the issue I was really mad about was a Much Bigger One. Not a you-didn't-make-me-dinner-and-I-thought-it-was-your-turn issue, but more of a We're Not Having Enough Intimacy Lately and Therfore It's Scary to Me kind of issue. So, when my initial aggression is passive=aggressive, or just side-stepping aggressive, my subsequent apology is half-hearted too. I haven't addressed at all what I wanted to....i've just been a bad mood with a case of deep repression looking for a place to land.

    1. "in a bad mood with a case of deep repression looking for a place to land."

      a crappy way to feel, but an evocative line.

      in general, is it okay to say, "i'm sorry for being a butt about that tiny issue, but i do have this bigger issue i'd like to talk about now (which i might be a butt about, too)."

  2. I read a lot of "undoing" in these examples - the sense that whatever is wrong or in need isn't actually worth being important.

    In example one, you don't make it a priority until you don't have enough time to talk about it - which in some way communicates that it isn't that important. When that message is received it hurts your feelings which creates a situation where you get a little validation, but then you still undo that validation by apologizing for getting mad.

    In example two, the undoing seems to be in both not presenting the authentic concern, and then in creating conflict so you are not able to be heard even if you could present the authentic concern.

    I think the answer to this is to treat these things as if they really are important. So in the first case, you have to schedule time to talk about it. In the second, you have to question what is causing the initial concern/bad mood.

    I have a similar problem. I don't treat my needs as valid, and then behave in selfish ways to compensate which seems to effectively invalidate my original desire. It's hard for me to ask for something when I'm busy apologizing for all the selfish and entitled things I did instead.

    1. derek, my favorite part of your comment is that last line: "it's hard for me to ask for something when i'm busy apologizing for all the selfish and entitled things i did instead." good food for thought.

      and, as for my specific example in the post: yep. i am indeed now trying to schedule times to talk about specific things!