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How to Apologize

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Saying, "I'm sorry," and apologizing to your spouse when you've wronged him or her could save your marriage. "Apology is the willingness to value the relationship more than the need to be right," says John Kador, author of Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, May 2009). "If you're interested in being right, then God bless you, but I don't think you'll have much success in marriage."

Why People Don't Apologize

The most powerful words are, "You were right, and I was wrong, and I'm sorry," adds Kador, who has been married himself for 38 years and oversees the Effective Apology Web site. Still, many people have trouble apologizing to anyone, let alone their spouse. Sometimes, people think that apologizing and admitting you're wrong is the launching pad for a long, hard penance, writes Lauren M. Bloom in The Art of Apology (Green Angel Media, May 2008).

"'I'm not going to apologize,' a friend recently said about a cruel joke he'd made about his wife having gained some weight. 'She'll never let me forget about it if I ever admit I was wrong.' He was afraid his wife would use his apology as a weapon for months, if not years, to get the advantage in any further disagreements," writes Bloom in the book.

Others won't fess up to wrongdoing or say, "I'm sorry," because they see it as a sign of weakness. The person waiting for an apology is put in an awful position, as a result. "When a husband treats a wife unfairly, in her hurt and anger, she is pulled between a longing for justice and a desire for mercy," writes Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas in The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships (Northfield Publishing, September 2006). "On the one hand, she wants him to pay for his wrongdoing; on the other hand, she wishes for reconciliation. It is his sincere apology that makes genuine reconciliation possible. If there is no apology, then her sense of morality pushes her to demand justice."

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