Welcome to Relationship Helpers! If you are joining us for the first time today, you are catching us in the midst of our dating series, “Eight Warning Signs You Might Need to Break Up.” Today we discuss if your significant other apologizes and changes their behavior after their apology. Your hosts, Vincent and Laura, are marriage therapists and have been married thirteen years.
A THERAPIST WITH BAD COMMUNICATION CAUGHT
Laura begins with a situation that happened just last night. Vincent arrived home after each of them had a L-O-N-G day. He greets Laura with a hurried, “Hi, I love you. DID YOU GET THE MAIL?” Laura was upset by his obvious agenda.
It seemed more important to ask her about the mail than to wish her a warm, affectionate greeting. Vincent explains that there had been a few evenings where the garage door was left open because he had forgotten to shut it because Laura had already gotten the mail, and that was why he greeted her the way he did.
Laura encourages Vincent to consider how he would have felt if he were in her shoes. Vincent is able to reflect how disingenuous the greeting would sound to him.
Even though the Relationship Helpers are marriage therapists, they still have to work on communication—especially in moments where they are tired! Vincent notes how we addressed the situation last night and how because we are able to communicate our feelings, it did not become a cause for resentment later.
TROUBLE THINKING UP OFFENSES
In coming up with this episode, Vincent and Laura had trouble coming up with situations where they had offenses against one another because they have become adept at communicating well when their feelings have been hurt. This means a lot of conflict resolution skills have been acquired.
It has not happened overnight, however. If you had interviewed them earlier in their marriage, it would be a totally different story. You can overcome conflict by learning how to communicate more clearly.
Do They Apologize?
The ability to apologize and change behavior after the offense; to improve interactions later, is important. Is your mate FAT (Faithful, Attentive, Teachable)? This is an old acronym about how to be a good disciple, but this also makes a good spouse.
DO THEY HAVE A GOOD SELF-ASSESSMENT BAROMETER?
Laura mentions how there has been a shift in focus by educators and parents towards self-esteem in children and how that it has backfired. It’s created a false sense of self. Rather than improving character, it has created a few generations of people lacking in empathy.
As a result, we have a large population of people unable to be in healthy relationships. Kids grow into adults who have not been given a measured sense of reality. They’ve not been given opportunities to learn from failure.
Instead of always praising them, they need healthy, constructive criticism so that they can learn to measure themselves, rather than thinking they are the greatest at everything they do. (Say bye-bye to participation trophies!) Then they will learn how to accurately assess themselves, having developed a barometer for their performance and abilities.
STEPS OF AN APOLOGY
How does this pertain to apologizing? When you are able to be self-critical in a non-judgmental way, you’re able to 1.) recognize when you’ve hurt someone, 2.) accept it, 3.) acknowledge it, 4.) be direct with the person you’ve hurt, 5.) explain how you’ve done it, and then 6.) show them how you’re going to change so it does not happen again.
These different components of an apology get lost in someone who has not learned to accept their failures and mistakes.
Why Don’t People Apologize?
Pride— It can be particularly difficult for men to admit they are wrong. They are afraid they will lose respect. Men really value respect. Men have a fear of being controlled. They feel like they have to be “big decision-maker”, not asking for help as should. (Think the man who won’t ask for directions.)
It is difficult for women to admit they are wrong because may feel that they are losing control. They may be afraid of being “used.”
Another Therapist In The Wrong
Vincent references the book “Making Magnificent Marriages” by Dr. Jared Pingleton. In it, Dr. Pingleton describes a time where he is watching a baseball game on tv. His wife approaches him and begins to talk. She is upset as he did not appear to hear her (he did not look at her while she was talking.) Afterwards, Dr. Pingleton told her what she said verbatim. During the next game, he had to prove a point to her. He put two tvs together and watched two games at once. He kept box score tallies up for both games at the same time to show her he was able to pay attention to two things at once.
Ladies hearing this will find this absurd and can understand Ms. Pingleton’s continued dismay. Dr. Pingleton didn’t get the point—he obviously does now, as he is a couple’s therapist and is an expert on communication and sees the errors of his ways! In other words, he learned that his body language needed to be validating to her. First, he had to get past his pride that he could prove to her that he could listen to her and a baseball game at the same time.
Loss Of Respect?
For men, apologizing can really feel like a loss of respect. For women, however, apologizing feels like they are losing control. Women have a tendency to be more on top of keeping home-life together, and don’t like it if they don’t seem “put together.” They may take it to heart, feeling that they are a bad mother or bad wife.
Another reason some women struggle with apologizing is that they have experienced trauma or have been “burned” in other relationships. Sometimes this means they hide behind this tough facade to hide any sense of vulnerability.
WOMEN NEED TO HEAR “I’M SORRY.”
“Women need to hear “I’m sorry.” They are wired to need “peace” in the relationship. They need resolution between parties. There is a biological difference in how women are “wired.” Generally speaking, men are built with greater upper body strength and larger statures.
In the Bible it says that violent men take by force. Men have a tendency to do more damage. However, Dr. Jordan Petersen says that women are more likely to be aggressive in relationships. When a man is aggressive, it’s likely to be more damaging.
World Is More Dangerous For Women
The world is more dangerous for women. Laura describes a message that went viral recently on social media. A sociologist stood in front of a white board and asked a large room full of men what they do to avoid getting sexually assaulted. The room was quite for a moment. One person jokingly stated, “Don’t go to prison.” That was their only answer.
The sociologist asked the same question to a room full of women, and the women completely filled his white board up with things women do to prevent sexual assault. Women face the threats of pregnancy and many times the results of STDs are more damaging to women.
Female Nervous Systems Not Adapted For Women, But For Babies
Further, women’s nervous systems are adapted to the survival of babies. it’s meant to help them communicate with the infant. Women are sensitive to environmental threats in order to care and protect children. Women are the emotional barometers of relationships. They need their partners to be vulnerable.
Some people “over-apologize”. It can be received much like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
Apology Worn Out
The value of the apology lessens when someone apologizes too much. Over-apologizing may be a habit, but to the listener, resentment builds because these apologies seem meaningless.
Consider Other’s View Point
They need to consider how the other person feels about hearing so many apologies. In other words, they need to put themselves in the shoes of the person who hears all of these apologies. Also, they need to re-evaluate their apologies based on whether they are actually changing their behavior after the apology.
Conflict Resolution—If you’re dating someone who is unable to apologize and/or unable to change their behavior after an apology, it is a predictor that the future of your relationship is troubled.
Understanding Where They Are Right & Where They Are Wrong
If they apologize, they can recognize their part in the conflict. Maybe the fact was right, but method of presenting wrong. A “right” apology means changed behavior.
Address The Concern
If there is a lack of apology and/or changed behavior, it will be important to address it. Starting a conversation with “I’ve noticed that when I tell you that you’ve said something to hurt my feelings you don’t change that…”
How your partner responds to this conversation could tell you how teachable they are—how willing they are to bend. Ask yourself “Should I be in a relationship with a person who is unwilling to be in a healthy relationship?”
Be ready to say I’m not ready to make this a committed relationship until changes are made. Be prepared for your mate to continue to make mistakes after apologies. Having the conversation about apologies and changed behaviors is an ongoing thing. It is not something that happens once and is perfected.
If you’re dating or a parent anticipating the dating years for your child, we hope that you’ve gained some new tips and insights into this very important topic. Be sure to check into our next episode when we discuss when your boyfriend or girlfriend excessively checks up on you.