I’ve been married for over seven years now. Within the next few years, I will have known Elaine for more than half my life (and we basically knew that we were “together” almost the moment we met). We met when I was 15 years old, about to turn 16. As a young teenaged boy, I was often foolish and arrogant. I refused to take the blame for things that were obviously “not my fault.” I was easily angered, and very immature. I’m really lucky that Elaine stayed with me through all of that — she somehow could always see the man that I could become (the man I am still not now, but slowly growing into each day).
Through some of that arrogance and anger, I quickly learned in my relationship with Elaine one key thing that I think has held us together all these years. This thing has made us not only remain connected and close, but has also helped us through difficult personal hardship. It is simply this: I’m willing to tell Elaine “I’m sorry,” and “I was wrong.”
Apologizing is easy enough (though maybe not for some people). I frequently make dumb, selfish mistakes, or simply do not think at all. Saying “I’m sorry,” is one of those practices I attempted to develop long ago, knowing that it was simply important for me to recognize and own up to my own faults.
The second one, I tend to think, is more difficult for most people for a few reasons. First, saying “I was wrong,” is a pride-killer. Apologizing can theoretically happen without the admittance of wrongdoing (or wrong-thinking). Admitting you are wrong is an immediate way to both humble yourself and show your spouse that you are more interested in reconciliation and connection than in maintaining your “rightness.” And even more — I think this is true even when you think you’re right.
Attempting to force your spouse to see that you are “right” in an argument or in some situation where the both of you are on opposing sides will rarely — if ever! — result in reconciliation. There have been many times in my own life with Elaine when I can see that she is visibly upset about something I have said or done, and in the moment, I thought my actions were not only acceptable, but correct. However, I also have learned that my own sense of “rightness” in that situation (i.e., my pride in being objectively correct within the argument or action taken) was far less important than letting her know that emotional connection and reconciliation with her were more important. I value connection with her at the expense of my own pride. I value reconciliation with her at the expense of some false sense of “rightness.” Even if, in that moment, I am completely convinced that I am right and she is not.