It takes some practice to apologize.
Many people struggle to admit when they make a mistake.
Do we believe it is a sign of weakness?
Could we believe we don’t need to apologize?
Do we believe apologizing to someone means they are better?
Why do you hesitate to apologize? Why does your spouse?
“. . . Having the courage to go up to someone and say sorry is a strength.”- Eileen Parra
What are two common misconceptions about saying “I’m sorry”?
The first lie about apologizing is that it designates a “winner” and a “loser” in a relationship.
In any relationship, there are disagreements. And that conflict can be good if handled well. It’s a lie to believe that conflict is a lose/lose situation.
When you’ve been wounded in a relationship, it takes great courage to approach the person who hurt you and apologize for your part in the conflict. Great courage. I believe many people struggle to understand that conflict doesn’t have to be I win/you lose. Good conflict results in both parties winning. No one loses.
But there’s another fallacy to guard against when it comes to saying “I’m sorry”: it’s not just about the words.
When a porn addict says, “I’m sorry,” it isn’t enough. That sounds harsh. But here’s what I know from experience. When my husband apologized, even though I believed it was sincere, the apology didn’t bring healing to the chasm in our relationship.
Here’s why. An apology starts as just words. An authentic apology gets backed up by actions.
Words are cheap. We can say just about anything.
Like these catchphrases:
- How are you today? (Do you really care?)
- Bless your heart. (Do you mean that, or are you being sarcastic?)
- I’m fine. (Really? Or is this your standard response?)
- I got it. (Do you or are you afraid to ask for help?)
- It’s all good. (Seriously? It’s not always all good.)
Too often, we say words to be polite, not because we mean them. The same can be true for “I’m sorry.”
After Dave’s confession, my counselor forbade me to use the word “fine” because she realized it was my escape phrase to get out of a conversation. How are you? Oh, I’m fine.
I defaulted to that quick standard response because I didn’t know who to trust. Also, I didn’t have a clue about my true emotions. To discover how I really felt on any given day, my counselor gave me a series of questions designed to unlock the emotions I’d bottled up for so many years. While that was a painful process, learning to honestly assess my emotional and mental health brought freedom. Instead of using cheap words, I learned to speak truthfully and appropriately in each situation.
Are the addict’s “I’m sorry” just words? Or is it supported by actions? Actions prove the apology is heartfelt.
Too often, we speak a quick apology not because we regret our actions but because we got caught.
It’s a quick way to diffuse the situation and hide embarrassment.
When it comes to breaches of trust in a relationship, quick apologies mean nothing. You don’t believe him. And most people sense insincerity more quickly than we give them credit for. You can smell a scam a mile away. You sniff out when another person tries to skirt an issue. Expect honesty, not a knee-jerk response.
Actions prove the apology is heartfelt.
Notice I said “actions,” not “perfection.”
In 1 John 3:16-18, we read that our actions reveal our love for another person.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This passage encourages us to love with truthful actions, not many words. Actions prove our thoughts and decisions. They reveal what’s really in our hearts and mind.
In recovery, truth and actions mean far more than words.
As I work with clients, I hear this dichotomy in every conversation. Key indicators of the conflict between words and actions are:
- But—what follows often contradicts the previous words.
- It’s okay—no, it’s not. If it were okay, you wouldn’t feel the pain you feel right now.
- He didn’t mean it—excusing negative behavior won’t resolve the issue.
- He promised me he’d stop—is there evidence?
When actions don’t back up the words, further relational damage occurs. The addict can only restore trust through daily, consistent actions that show the addict means to change their behavior.
Trust is built by proving his behavior has changed forever, not for now.
He demonstrates true remorse when he places your (or your family’s) or another’s good above his comfort and needs. A remorseful person will seek to serve first, knowing that as trust is built, you both reap the benefits of a restored relationship. You each own your mistakes and visibly change your ways.
A true apology takes more than a few quick words, heartfelt or not. Changed behavior, thoughts, and beliefs prove sincerity.
The courage to heal the breach in your relationship takes more than a few words. This courage requires life change evident to all.
- How do you stop using “I’m sorry” to fill gaps in your relationship and really mean it?
- What does that look like?
- How do you create an environment where you both are safe to say it and mean it?
There is a way. I coach women whose husbands use porn. And, sadly, there are more of us than I can count.
We walk through the specifics of healing and creating a successful marriage. I help wounded women heal from this horrible pain. I offer resources, a tender heart, and one-on-one help through my short-term Aftershock Recovery Method coaching. You can heal. You won’t feel like this forever. I can help.