Okay, I admit it: when I was in elementary school, I loved the show Happy Days. Even then, the show was playing as reruns, but I would beg Mom to get us home from school in time to see it. On a slightly more embarrassing note, I’d tape the shows, watch them over and over again, and then torture poor adults by attempting to recite the entire show to them while they were driving me somewhere. Arthur Fonzarelli, “The Fonz,” one of the most memorable characters on the show, was so cool that no woman could resist him, no problem could not be solved by him, and no jukebox dared to refuse to play a song at his command. Fonzie could literally do everything… but apologize. Because he believes he’s always right, Arthur Fonzarelli thinks he has little need to apologize. In some episodes he would attempt to say, “I’m sorry,” but it would take him five or six tries to get the painfully stretched words out.
Fonzie’s character is humorous, but there is a little Arthur Fonzarelli in all of us. We have a part of us that is full of pride: we believe that we’re right; we want others to know we’re right; and, we like to have others acknowledge that we are right. What we don’t like is having anyone show us where we are failing.
Before you get married, you may be confronted occasionally by a parent, a sibling, or a friend; but, most likely, no one will be more faithful to point out your areas of weakness than your spouse. This is not to say that once you get married your loving spouse will turn on you and make it a point to scream out all of your glaring weaknesses (although that scenario can happen, so choose your spouse wisely); however, having a life partner that shares daily activities with you is like having a full length mirror for your heart. As close as you have been to others in your life, your spouse will touch you on deeper levels than anyone else on Earth – and because of this, he or she will find many parts of your heart that you have kept hidden. They may stumble upon your greed, your lust, your anger, and you can be sure they will find your insecurities.
Having someone so close to the hideous parts of our heart can be frightening. None of us enjoy having our sins and struggles exposed. With that being said, you will likely find yourself being defensive at several points in your marriage. Maybe your spouse is just trying to help you better yourself. Maybe your spouse is angry and yelling at you to change. Regardless, chances are that you are going to hurt your spouse several times during your marriage simply because he or she is close enough to touch every part of your life. So, if you are planning on getting married… plan on doing a lot of apologizing.
If you are uncomfortable with apologizing to others, it is important to find out why before getting engaged or married. Most of the time pride is at the center of an unwillingness to apologize to others. Yet, it could also be that apologies in the past did not go well for you or that people have taken advantage of you after you’ve apologized. Regardless of the reason, mastering the art of apologizing to your significant other is something that you should strive for before proposing or accepting a proposal.
If you are currently with someone that refuses to admit he or she is wrong, it is unlikely that this trait is going to go away. If you are not yet married, it is essential to pursue pre-engagement counseling or premarital counseling if you have that dynamic in your relationship. In the premarital process, it is important that you do not make excuses for your significant other or assume that he or she will change. If someone is not willing to ever admit they are wrong before marriage, it will only be worse after marriage (unless God does an amazing transforming work in that person’s life – evidenced by long-term fruit).
If your significant other needs time before apologizing, but does so genuinely after a time of reflection, that is okay. Not everyone apologizes in the same way – we all have different styles of apologizing. What is most important before getting married is answering the question, “Is my potential spouse willing to admit mistakes and willing to apologize for them?” If the answer is “No,” then that is a serious red flag in the relationship. If the answer is “Yes,” then it is wise to explore your different styles of apologizing. Understanding how your future spouse primarily apologizes is helpful because it will keep you from misreading their intentions.
Perhaps they apologize in a way that doesn’t seem like an apology to you? If you understand their style, you can avoid several arguments and hurt feelings. At the same time, if you both attempt to understand how each other likes to receive apologies, you can both practice apologizing the way that best speaks to your partner. Take some time to think about how comfortable you and your significant other are with apologizing and how you apologize. Tomorrow, we will discuss some resources available to you to help you learn more about your apology language.
How do you apologize to others? What element(s) of apology are most meaningful when others apologize to you?