Communication is an essential part of any successful relationship and marriage is no exception. Normally, I tend to recognize communication elements that I need to add to how I communicate with my wife. But sometimes, it’s just as important to recognize a bad habit and stop doing it. In this case, I have made a conscious decision to stop saying two words to my wife – I’m sorry.
It’s easy to get lazy with your word choice. There’s a tendency to flippantly use words without consideration for what they really mean. In the 1987 romantic comedy, The Princess Bride, Vizzini repeatedly uses the word “inconceivable” when things don’t work out the way that he intended. Each time, Inigo Montoya replies with the line: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”
Sloppy word choice is annoying when talking with an acquaintance. It’s problematic when interacting with a friend. But it can be poisonous for a marriage. You have more opportunities to interact, creating more opportunities for conflict. Word choice is essential.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. -Proverbs 12:18
I’m sorry. Also, I apologize.
“I’m sorry” is an incredibly weak phrase. It manages to express the bare minimum level of apology without really saying anything of substance. Depending on the intention of the person uttering the phrase, it could be saying any of the following:
- I’m sorry you got hurt
- I’m sorry you found out
- I’m sorry you’re so emotional
- I’m sorry we’re having this conversation
The phrase “I’m sorry” doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. It’s a verbal band-aid that is often applied casually and even excessively as some sort of panacea. It offers no attempt to connect with the source of pain. No recognition is given to how your spouse was hurt, nor is any overture made regarding how to improve in the future.
As a joke, I have sometimes told my wife: “I’m sorry. Not only that, but I apologize.” Because the phrase could even be interpreted as an indictment of yourself (i.e “I am a sorry person”). This is further evidence of the weakness of those two little words. If they could just as easily be interpreted as self-condemnation as an apology, then they aren’t really pulling their linguistic weight.
“Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” – Psalm 141:3
An apology should connect with the heart
When done right, an apology should reach out to the wounded party and connect with the source of the pain. Acknowledge the wounding and express sorrow over the hurt. Next time you have wounded your wife, try one of the following:
- It hurts me to see that I hurt you.
- I apologize for being so inconsiderate when I …
- Please forgive me. It was really selfish of me to…
- I had no intention of hurting you when I … Please accept my sincere apology.
- I never meant to hurt you. What I can do different next time to handle the situation better?
Choose your words carefully and choose them lovingly. I’ve made the decision to stop telling my wife “I’m sorry”. Instead, I choose to connect with her heart and extend a genuine apology whenever it is needed.