If you have a wife or girlfriend I would like to share with you how to apologize for serious stuff. Let's just be real. You will apologize many times in your relationship. I've been married for over 20 years, which means I've apologized a lot. One of the reasons that I've stayed married is that I've learned how to say, "I'm sorry" the right way. That's right. There is a correct way to apologize.
So if you find yourself needing to apologize but not sure how to do it...read on....
First thing you need to know is that there are three degrees of apologies because not every offense is the same. For example; you can't apologize the same way for forgetting a promise to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen as getting caught cheating on your wife or girlfriend. This is an extreme example but you catch my drift that different offenses demand a certain kind of apology.
First degree apologies apply to offenses that in the perspective of your wife or girlfriend devalue the relationship. Offenses in this category are breaking promises (any promise), forgetting her birthday, or your anniversary, forgetting things that she has asked you to do or dates she has requested you put on your calendar. Most of the serious stuff that you will apologize for in your relationship is in this category. When you commit a first degree offense your wife/girlfriend may wonder if you value the relationship as much as she does. When you forget things she has asked you to do, especially around the house, you know, those honey do lists, she believes that these are things you should do because you value your relationship with her. When you fail to meet her expectation that you will keep a promise, she assumes you don't think that much of your relationship. Make sense? If you're not sure what to think about this, then ask her about it. I'm pretty sure she's going to agree with what I'm saying...most women I know have confirmed this, including my wife.
By the way, if you use this as an opportunity to dialogue with your wife/girlfriend, you will discover, if you haven't already, that she respects your willingness to listen to her.
So how do you apologize for a first degree offense? Please consider this. DO NOT BRING FLOWERS. When you need to make a first degree apology you don't offer a gift. She'll consider the gift disingenuous. Make a point to bring her flowers when you don't need to bring her flowers and you will prove to her you value the relationship. Remember, in her mind, when you don't keep promises, she wonders if you even care about the relationship, so you have to show her that you do. Instead of a gift do what you were asked to do, or promised to do. If you made a promise to fix the faucet, fix it, then apologize. The only exception to the no gift rule is if you forget her birthday or your anniversary. Then get her a gift, but, understand she will be looking forward to next year, so you're really not off the hook until the next birthday or anniversary. If you forget again, I'm sorry for you. You may need to look down to the second degree apology...
Second degree apologies apply to offenses that in the perspective of your wife or girlfriend devalue her personally. If you forget her birthday or your anniversary a couple of years in a row she will feel this way, but, usually this offense occurs during the course of a fight or argument. Everyone fights. But there are rules for fighting in a relationship. Conflict happens and the process should be healthy, but, sometimes we give in to impulse and we say something we regret. A girl wants to know that she captivates you with her beauty, her wit, and her unconditional love for you. If you tell her, especially in the course of a fight, anything that compromises her belief that she is no longer captivating to you, you have hurt her in her most vulnerable place. And this demands a special kind of apology.
How do you apologize for a second degree offense? Remember her perception is that you have devalued her personally. This apology will require a gift, but, it doesn't have to be expensive. This gift has to be a certain kind of gift, so, even though it may not be expensive, this will take you some time, energy and creativity. This gift needs to communicate one thing; You love her as much as she loves you. It could be as simple as a card that you make, or as elaborate as a surprise weekend getaway. For most women, at least the women I know, the gift isn't as important as the meaning behind it. Most women love a good story behind the gift. Again, they want to know that you are head over heels in love with them. You can say I love you, but, sometimes a creative, heartfelt gift can say it even better, especially when you need to say, "I'm sorry."
Third degree apologies apply to offenses that in the perspective of your wife or girlfriend devalue you. This is the most serious of offenses. Cheating on her, abusing her physically and/or emotionally, discovery of alcohol or drug addiction, and using pornography are examples of third degree offenses. These offenses break her trust. Not only have you dishonored your relationship, but, you have dishonored yourself.
So how do you apologize for a third degree offense? Don't even think of bringing a gift, or think that simply saying "I'm sorry" is going to cut it. There are three things that you will need to do to say, "I'm sorry." Please note, that these steps are not a guarantee that your relationship will heal. Sometimes divorce or separation happens no matter what you do. These steps are not necessarily to heal a relationship with your wife/girlfriend, but to heal your relationship with God and yourself. Hopefully, and prayerfully, your wife/girlfriend will allow your relationship to heal. Here are the steps to apologize for a third degree offense.
1. Stop the behavior - this is self-explanatory. Whatever it is you are doing to hurt yourself and her, just stop doing it.
2. Get professional counseling and a support group - If you don't know where to start looking for a counselor try asking a local Pastor. Just make sure that the counselor you choose is professionally licensed to practice in your area. Sometimes pastors or ministers want to help but what we're talking about they're usually not qualified for; unless they have the credentials, look for a pro.
3. Keep her in the loop - keep your wife/girlfriend apprised of your progress. Let her see that you are working on your problem and provide evidence that you are serious about change. Allow her to ask questions about where you've been or what you are doing. Don't get impatient with her when she keeps calling or contacting you, she deserves to know where you are, who you're with and what you're doing at all times, and you owe it to her. She may make rules like managing your computer use at home or asking you to come home right after work. This may take months, maybe even years, but, time is on your side if you are serious about proving to her that you love her. Hopefully, she will forgive you, but, she may not trust you for a long time. If you have beat her or abused her she may want you to move out for awhile. Family Services may even force you to. You just have to be OK with that and allow her the time she needs to heal.
These three things is how you apologize for a third degree offense. All three. At the same time.
After over 20 years of marriage I've learned that just saying "I'm sorry" without the corrective action is simply an empty apology. These are my thoughts.
What do you think? I'm interested in what the ladies think, too. Is there something I missed? Or maybe I'm completely off my rocker...
Good article. Really, it all comes down to learning to respect one another and being willing to compromise with one another. I've never actually been given a gift as part of an apology, and wouldn't expect it. Different personalities, I guess. The important thing is that both husband and wife know the importance of an apology. There is no shame in admitting you are wrong, and that's something people do need to understand. You are quite right, too. If that apology is not backed with action, it is just words. Good advice for your readers. Deb