It’s So Hard to Say…I’m Sorry
I hate when I have a taste for something, only to discover that someone else had the same idea and left none to spare. This particular Saturday it was a box of Frosted Mini Wheats that my boyfriend decided would make great dinner all week long. My teased tongue was soon lashing all kinds of insults, many which had nothing to do with breakfast cereal and soon he was digging up every flaw he could find about me to throw in his defense. I lie to you not; we were cursing each other out over cereal. It may start with a slick comment, sharp sarcasm or blatant disrespect and before you know it you’re in the midst of a knockdown drag out verbal beat down that leaves both you and your partner furious and full of pride and in opposite corners of the ring licking your wounds and coddling your bruised egos. Sooner or later that pride can make your relationship feel like a prison while you both play the waiting game to see who will make amends first, because of course that means that person was wrong, the one who is weaker or both.
Sorry isn’t for “suckas” and of course an apology doesn’t make you a loser in the game of love, nor does it mean you are entirely at fault, but it is a first step towards making things right. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the best relationships involve a whole lot of practice apologizing. Unfortunately when the art of apology is abused, it can become like band-aid on a broken bone: a mockery of a huge problem. The following tips may make that pride a little sweeter to swallow and help you rectify the situation the right way:
1. Don’t apologize unless you truly mean it.
A quick, “I’m sorry” is usually not the most sincere, it’s simply a nicer way of saying, “I’m tired of hearing you yell and complain. Please shut up.” When an apology is made at the height of emotion, you often haven’t had any time to reflect on the error in your ways, how the miscommunication occurred, or that part you played in the conflict. Making a habit of apologizing just so you won’t make waves is not only insincere to your partner, but unfair to you since you never take advantage of the opportunity to express your distress in the relationship. Apologizing even when you feel you aren’t wrong may make future apologies seem fickle at times when you really are sincere.
2. Don’t accept an apology until you’re ready to move forward.
You know those pictures of his ex he said he threw away? Well you discovered he threw them all the way to the bottom of his underwear drawer. After you flip out about lies, the past and Polaroids and he does some much needed groveling and shredding, you move forward. Or at least he thought, until several arguments later you keep bringing up “Booty Shot Brandy.” Past mistakes shouldn’t be kept in an arsenal for you to sling whenever you feel slighted. If you’re not truly over something, don’t pretend like you are.
3. Just because you forgive doesn’t mean you forgot.
You’ve probably heard that forgiveness is more about you than your perpetrator, but just because you aren’t allowing a transgression to take over your life doesn’t mean you can’t file it away for future reference. The saying is true: First time your fault, second time my fault. You can leave the problem in your past, while still making a mental note of how to protect yourself in the future.
4. Focus on you.
Don’t get into the habit of throwing your guy under the Greyhound and playing “tit for tat.” You know, that irrational mentality that tells you instead of admitting your faults, to simply seek revenge and make him feel worse than you do. If your apology includes the phrase “but you…” it’s clear you’re more interested in shifting the blame off yourself. The point is YOU knew what YOU did is wrong, regardless of what your partner was doing. Mature adults take responsibility for their own actions.
5. Learn from your mistakes.
Truly take the time to acknowledge the part you played in the conflict. Although you may feel like you weren’t in the wrong, take into consideration how your actions made your partner feel and what you can do to improve.
6. Acknowledge when it’s time to fold.
There’s an ugly turn in every major argument, where it stops being about trying to reach a compromise and expressing your grievances and it starts being about winning. Words can’t be taken back and in the process of trying to prove a point you may end up causing some irreparable damage.
7. Understand that sometimes no one is to blame.
Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. Just because you’ve decided that you’re right, doesn’t mean the other person is wrong. Life and love are full of “grey” areas where the answers aren’t always clearly defined. So stop waiting on an apology that may never come or may not even be necessary.
8. An explanation isn’t necessarily an excuse.
An excuse is a justification of a wrongdoing but an explanation simply clarifies why the wrongdoing took place in the first place and sometimes there’s a valid reason. Before flying off the deep end, try listening to your partner’s reasoning. It may help you avoid an altercation altogether.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.
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