“Sorry,” Part 2

Monday, July 21st, 2008 at 1:30 am


In “Sorry,” Part 1,  I mentioned that apology is rare in some  marriages.  Why is that?  After all, during courtship couples create a bond they dearly desire and strive to protect.  I have heard many couples mention that apology occurred more frequently during courtship than during the entire span of the marriage.  Here are some thoughts about infrequent/absent apology.


In some cases the offending partner already feels wounded (traumatized), either by significant others earlier in life, by their current partner, or both.  If we have been fed a steady diet of repair, we learn to repair, and experience its positive impact.  If we grew up with little or no apology—i.e., repair—there is a good chance we will offer little in significant relationships later in adulthood.  Apology/repair leaves the heart open;  absence of repair shelters the heart in a protective callous.  The result is a short supply of empathy accompanied by an absence of apology when one is called for.


Empathy and compassion are part of apology.  Also, they are essential to our emotional lives.  Empathy and compassion toward others rely on your ability to identify, label and express your own feelings.  Equipped to do that you are more likely to have a sense of what your partner may be feeling, and therefore, more apt to provide apology/repair.  Why?   Because you can recognize the emotional signs that your partner may be feeling hurt, you have experienced repair in past experiences of your own hurt, and you pass it on, so to speak.

The long and short of it is this:  If you got empathy and apology/repair, you’re more likely to give empathy and apology/repair.


Defensiveness often replaces empathy and apology/repair when  feeling blamed or attacked.  In addition, some people assume blame by virtue of the fact that their partner is in pain, and automatically feel defensive.  Point is, a defensive posture precludes an overture of repair.

When apology would be just the right medicine in a particular moment, but is not forthcoming, the wounded one often feels more hurt, and angry.  When those emotions are expressed, the situation can become more emotionally intense or escalated, and each partner is apt to crawl away licking their own respective wounds.  The result is distance and disappointment, and a lingering sense of not being understood and loved.  Smoldering hurt can lead to seething impasses, and the repetition of a frequently repeated painful pattern.

“I’m sorry. It was my fault.  How can I make it right?”  If all three parts seem too much to provide at once, start with the first one.  It will go a lot farther toward repair than you think.

Wishing you a satisfy relationship,

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT

©Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT 2008

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