After a couple of uncalled disagreements and misunderstandings with Mark, we have come to a conclusion: something is different, something has changed. Trials and challenges aren’t harder but they have become more stressful. Even a simple misunderstanding between chores, or a feeling of offense towards wrong use of tone has led to unnecessary pain and discomfort in our marriage.
We couldn’t figure out what was wrong at first. We have blamed it on time for a while, that maybe there really comes a point in any relationship when things get stale and things feel harder than usual. Maybe the flame in our marriage was dimming. Maybe the honeymoon stage really does wear off, and maybe when it does, it’s hard to get it back.
Last year, Mark and I hoarded christian books on self growth, parenting, and marriage. We have finished a lot and only have a few left to read. We agreed that we wouldn’t purchase again until we finished all of them. So one fine day, I scanned through the pages of a book about apology. There, I found out exactly what was wrong..
My husband and I stopped apologizing to each other.
Our apologies were shallow, empty, and sometimes even insulting.
“I’m sorry. I should have responded better. If only YOU did not do that, I wouldn’t have done that either”
“I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. You know why I’m like this? Because YOU are like that.”
“You’re right, I should be more intentional in speaking your love language but it’s just YOU have a lot of expectations from me”
The apologies we gave each other weren’t really apologies after all. They were attacks to make one another feel guilty. I had no sense of responsibility and lacked humbleness and willingness to change.
To be honest, I was the tough case on this at first. I didn’t realize what it meant when Mark told me that I should know how to apologize and that I needed to be sincere. I always replied with, “Hon, what do you mean I didn’t apologize? I said sorry”. In my heart I have always been sincere, it’s just that, I want to be able to explain my side. I wanted him to know why I acted the way I did. No words of Mark were enough to make me see the bigger picture. He’s been insisting that I read the book on apology is pretty good since he already read two chapters on it. I didn’t because I was focused on other books. And so, it has remained this way for months until Mark has adapted the habit too. The sad part is, we didn’t know it was wrong.
One night, after a heart to heart talk, I’ve found myself asking Mark, “aren’t you even going to apologize?”. Then he said, “I’m sorry hon, I should have reached out to you sooner but YOUR vibes felt like YOU weren’t ready”. I felt so attacked and said, “that’s not even valid anymore since I had to ask for it.”.
Another night during a walk around the neighborhood, I talked to my husband about how much I’d appreciate it if he becomes more intentional in speaking my love language. I remained quiet to give him time to talk. When he did, he said “I’m sorry honey. You’re right, it’s really something I should improve on.” Wowiieee. I felt a lot better. But only after a few seconds, he added “but it’s so hard for me when YOU feel sad when I don’t. It’s not easy for me when YOU act that way”. I didn’t speak but he really insisted in knowing what I was thinking of. I said, “you know how I feel? That I have to be responsible for all your mistakes. You just can’t be wrong just once, can you? I always have to do something with your bad behavior. You’re this because I am that”.
This situation made me reflect on my own behavior, too. This must have been the way Mark felt when I apologized that way. I never knew that bad apologies can hurt others. I never knew that I sucked so bad at apologies.
We decided we had to do something about it and that it was indeed a crucial part of marriage we had to learn. We needed to learn to be responsible of the pain we cause each other and to properly make up for our mistakes.
Every Wednesday is what we would call our “Devo Day” (devo for devotions). It’s a night when we meet our discipleship group leaders, pray for each other, open up to each other, and learn together. So we spent a few Wednesdays reading on The Five Love Languages on Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. Reading it was one of the best decisions we have made in our marriage. Haha! We have learned how great of an impact the right apology can make.
We started being specific about what we are apologizing for
We’ve stopped with the usual “I’m sorry”. It’s usually now followed with, “I am sorry I’ve said that honey, I was out of line. I was tired but I should have been more sensitive towards you”. It gives us the affirmation that we know what we’re apologizing for and not simply throwing the words “I’m sorry” out in the air so that the conversation could finally be done.
We stopped bringing ‘YOU’ in the apology
A big take home we had from reading the book was that an apology turns into an attack when we partner it with “but you”. Apology is meant to express regret in our own actions. It’s not meant to make someone else feel bad. Apology is meant to say, “I have done wrong. I regret that I have made you feel this way. Let me make it right”.
Apology, sincerity, and responsibility go hand in hand. The sad truth is, not a lot of people are willing to take responsibility for the pain we cause others. That includes both my husband and I. We say we’re “sorry”, but we were not willing to take responsibility for the pain we cause each other. Our apologies have become superficial, and the wounds are left open.
To be honest, it took practice to get this right. And I think it would take a life time of practice to get it perfect. We had to try and try until we learned what it meant to take responsibility of the pain we cause each other.
On my end, I like expressing how I feel first. Then, I proceed with my apology. “I really felt like I was being attacked. That hurt me a lot. But still, that’s no excuse to how I could have responded better. I am sorry, baby. I should have been more careful with my words”. That makes a huge contrast to what I’ve used to do, “I am sorry I said that but you really hurt me and you attacked me”.
Only mature people can handle responsibility. Immature people go around looking for other people or things to blame for their misbehavior. That was us. When I forgot to do a chore I have promised to do, “I am sorry but you know how I have lots of homework”. When Mark ran late of a time he promised our daughter and I, “I am sorry but I couldn’t leave because of my friends”. And then we get upset because the other one couldn’t be more understanding that “it’s not our fault”. What difference could it have made if we resorted to “I am sorry I forgot to do this, I should have balanced my time better. I shouldn’t have made a promise I couldn’t handle”, “I am sorry I didn’t keep my promise of being here on time. I should have planned my time better. I shouldn’t have depended my time on theirs”.
But praise God because now, we have grown out of immaturity and have the courage to admit we have done wrong and take responsibility for it.
We really made an effort to improve and were vocal about it
For a while, we didn’t want to voice out what we wanted to change. I wanted to practice being more loving and Mark wanted to practice being more intentional on speaking my love language. But none of us knew that because no one had the courage to say “Hey, I’ll do my best to improve on this because I love you”. We were scared we’d end up disappointing each other so we’d rather work on it in the dark. Hahaha.
The result? The words “you don’t appreciate me” visited our home often. “Don’t you know I’m trying?”. Uhhh, no. I actually don’t. The person wouldn’t know you’re making an effort to make a change if we don’t let them know. There’s nothing wrong with letting others know that we’re trying. It’s actually a really good thing to hear! One night, Mark cooked a really tasty meal for me and he said, “I am doing this because I want to make you happy”. Mark always make delicious food for me but it somehow felt ten times better whenever he is vocal about his intentions.
We never gave up on trying to improve. Change doesn’t come overnight. We’re two different individuals living together and there will always be minor and major improvements needed for the better; a better marriage, a better family, and a better self. We can fail on what we’re trying to improve today, but we’ll always try again tomorrow.
I’ve stopped apologizing for the sake of getting things over with
I like taking the short cut. I don’t like cold wars. It’s really uncomfortable and it feels like I’m being pinched inside. But apologies are meant to be heartfelt. On the first year of our marriage, I like saying sorry just so I’d stop feeling so bad already. Whether it was my mistake or Mark’s, I’d just rather get it over with. “I’m sorry, okay? I already said I’m sorry. Let’s stop this”
Seems good, right? NOPE! First, it’s insincere. Second, it’s selfish because my goal was only to lift the weight off my chest. Third, I’m robbing off my husband the chance to learn something from his mistakes. Fourth, we don’t learn the lesson we’re supposed to get out of the trial. Truth is, trials are allowed in marriages to make room for growth. When I try to take the short cut, we miss on many important things. But when I take a healthy amount of moment to breathe and think things through, it gives my husband a chance to come through and realize his own share of mistakes. Ever since I’ve learned this, our reconciliation had been more genuine, my husband has been growing more mature, and we have started growing more together.
My husband started being more responsible and being more confident in himself
Once in a while, Mark would have apologies where he would say, “I’m sorry I was dumb”, “I’m sorry I’m not good enough”, “I’m sorry I’m your husband”. There are two ways we miss out on taking responsibilities:
I’m sorry but you and I am sorry that I am so low
The first one is an attack to the person. The second one is an attack to what the person does for you.
Whenever my husband gave me apologies like this, I always feel so guilty. Like maybe I am not loving, appreciating, or taking care of him well. Instead of feeling how sincere he is, I feel worse.
I love how Mark learned to be more confident and have become more courageous in accepting his mistakes. “I’m sorry I hurt you” is actually enough to console me. Plus, he’s always more attractive when he’s confident and courageous. Hehe.
We are sharing this realization with you because, well… Like I’ve said, for many months we felt like our marriage was going downwards and we didn’t know the reason. Ever since we learned all this, the flame of our marriage has burned even brighter.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
I encourage you to talk about this with your partner. Maybe even your sister, brother, or friends. All of this are helpful for all relationships. It would make a big difference. Let me know how it goes. 😉
Before I end this post, here’s a short story on how our valentines day went. It might give you a good idea on how to have a budget-friendly yet really meaningful date with your loved one. Hehe
We live in a studio type apartment. Since we live in Manila, we know how crowded Valentines Day can be. Besides, we don’t really believe that it’s a must to celebrate Valentines. It’s good to celebrate it but it’s something we can live without. We believe things like this should be done even on normal days. We decided to have a simple dinner at home for our February date night.
Mark said that I should just sit back and relax while he prepares all my favorite dishes that he makes- steak and creamy carbonara! Before dinner, he took out a plastic that had my other all time favorite- cheese tart! I’ve been talking about cheese tarts for a long time and I literally jumped for joy when I saw them. Hahaha! They’re really that delicious. While having dinner, I told Mark “You know what honey? I’m glad you got me these instead on flowers. I mean, I’d be glad if you got me flowers but I appreciate all of these more. Flowers are everywhere, on each corner of the streets. But these… you had to take time to make this. And you had to travel after a long day at school and miss gym to get me cheese tarts. I’m really happy”.
As you can see, we live in a really simple place. We only have a laptop table that serves as both my study table and dining table. We had a bottle of mud shake, candles, Christmas lights, a romantic music, and the presence of each other. This is my ideal date night- simple, quiet, and sincere. We had a Korean Series marathon after dinner. Little not-so secret: Mark lovessssss K drama! Hehe.