We’ve all been there: you’ve just had a major disagreement with your wife and suddenly, as tension dissipates, you’re left with one of the most challenging thoughts a man can have: “I was wrong.” Don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation. Not only does your behavior from here on out have a profound impact on your marriage, but it can also say more about you as a person than what you do for a living. The best thing you can do is start the process of apologizing as soon as possible, because for marriages and relationships, apologizing is a process, requiring a great deal of time and patience.
There are many reasons you might need to apologize to your wife. They can be incredibly petty, including forgetting to clean up after yourself or neglecting to say “Thank you.” They can also be quite significant, like a secret affair, a lie, or forgetting her birthday. What you’re apologizing for will dicate how long, and in what fashion you’ll want to carry out the apology. But whatever it is, the goal is always the same—to make amends, reconnect and move on. You can think of it as healing a wound.
Like any wound, it’s important to first understand what caused it. Before apologizing to to her at all, take a moment to ask yourself, “What was the specific behavior that upset her?” Make no mistake: she’ll want you to know the answer to this question before you even open your mouth. Nothing will make your wife more aggravated than telling her, “I’m sorry you’re upset. I don’t know what you want me to do.” Instead, get clarity on both what you did and how you’re planning on adjust your behavior for the future.
Relationship Advice for Husbands
Of course, sometimes you’re unsure of what you did or said. That’s when it’s time to go to your “Man Cave.” This emotional sactuary—essentially a place, activity, or ritual that that helps us men get distance from the situation, reflect, and resurface with new insight—can take many forms.
Here’s some relationship advice for husbands needing to apologize.
- Get active. Go for a walk. Kick a cardboard box if you have to. Any form of physical activity will help relieve you of some of that pent-up energy, leaving you feeling more calm, and in a better place for handling the situation.
- Distract yourself. Watch a movie, read a book, or get engrossed in your favorite activity. This will give you a break from the situation and give your subconscious mind ample time to work things out.
- Talk to a good friend. Seek someone out who knows you well, can point out your blindspots, but can also offer you an unbiased perspective.
But before you go to your “Man Cave,” be sure not to storm out the room without giving your wife an indication of what you’re up to. Tell her that you need some time to cool off, and reassure her that you intend to talk when you’re ready.
Next, it’s important to understand that apologizing to your wife is first and foremost an experience for the both of you, just like going on a honeymoon, a dinner date, or spending a quiet evening together. And with any experience, it’s important to take great care in planning it. Be sure to set the mood by creating an environment that’s comfortable for her, before you dive into the apology. This can mean finding a quiet space to talk, sharing a bottle of wine during the conversation, or creating whatever kind of environment that you’re confident will put your wife at ease. It’s also important to plan for an activity that can happen after the apology. Yes, sometimes this means sex, but it can also mean taking her out to a nice meal, or spending time doing an activity that both of you find engaging. The important part is that you’re placing emphasis on the future of the marriage, and what better way to do that than jumping right into a new, meaningful experience?
Take note, too, that when you’re apologizing to your wife, what she needs from you more than anything else is receptivity. You need to be open to compassionately accepting both her criticism of you, and the reality of her hurt feelings. It’s easy to get defensive and make the situation about you, but by focusing the moment on her and the relationship, you’re communicating to her that you sincerely want to move foreward.
Lastly, your wife is going to pay particular attention to the details of how you conduct the apology. Just as you’ll take care to set up the details of the environment, you’ll also need to pay attention to the details of what you say and do. Here are three small, but significant ways you can communicate that you care:
- Tell her the two most powerful phrases: “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.” Yes, they can be difficult to say, but for many people, hearing them from the person they love can be the most re-assuring experience.
- Say something nice to her. Whatever you did to upset her, chances are, she interpreted it to mean that you don’t care for her or that she’s inadequate, or some combination of the two. Saying something nice about your wife can be an elegant way of reminding her what’s positive about the relationship.
- Use physical touch. You know her best, so you’re familiar with what kind of touch she likes, and more importantly, what it communicates to her. Remember, you’re trying to say you’re sorry and that you want to reconnect. What kind of physical gestures can communicate this? Touching her on the small of her back? Holding her hand? Giving her a hug?
Even the most well-meaning husband can find himself in a situation that requires an apology. Apologizing to your wife—whatever you’re apologizing for—is not an easy task and must be done with great care, since disagreements and mistrust can seriously rock the foundations of a marriage. But put in the hard work now, and after reconciliation happens, you’re sure to come out the other side with a stronger, healthier marriage.