When Your Apology is Used Against You – And WW Linkup!

Love HurtsIt’s never easy to make yourself vulnerable nor to lay your heart out on the table in a sincere and humble apology before the one person on earth who matters most—your spouse. But what’s worse is when your spouse uses your apology against you.

Typically, a spouse won’t do this unless:

  • Your spouse simply got caught up in the heat of a current conflict and spouted off accusations at you and, sadly, your admissions were the sharpest and handiest weapon to grab in that moment.
  • Your spouse doesn’t get the magnitude of how using your admission and apology against you is like stomping on your wounded heart.
  • Your spouse is convinced that pointing out your failures, after you’ve freely and humbly admitted them, is a way to remind you to never do them again. #youareNOTtheHolySpirit
  • Your spouse is bitter and wants to hit you below the belt with his/her anger. {Sad, but often true.}
  • Your spouse is emotionally detached and thus hardhearted toward you, therefore incapable of sensing the insult and wound that using your words against you can bring.

If this happens to you, then here’s . . .

What you should NOT do . . .

  • Feel vindicated in using the same sharp weaponry against your mate—slicing your mate’s heart up just like you’ve been hurt.
  • Stuff your hurt. Nothing good comes of buried emotions. Like rotting food left in a refrigerator too long, your stuffed emotions will poison you and stink to others.
  • Point out, in the moment, how your spouse is wrong to use your words against you. Reserve that for another time and place, when you can be calm and respectful.
  • Find other ways to punish your mate that are passive-aggressive.
  • Find someone else to take the pain away through an illicit relationship. This could fall under the passive-aggressive note, though you might not realize it.

[Tweet “Remember, bitterness often sprouts seeds that grow into an affair.”]

What you “should” do . . .

  • Hold your tongue and prepare your heart.
    Forget “sticks and stones”—words really do hurt, especially in this context. If you are a believer who has the Lord’s love flowing through your heart, then you know that retaliating with words is simply lowering yourself to the level of a “terrorist.” Take the higher road with the Lord holding your hand and leading the way!
  • Create space.
    Tell your spouse that you are deeply hurt and need time to think, pray and calm down before continuing to engage about this issue. Then use that time to find comfort and healing in the Lord before returning to “close the gap” with your mate.
  • Trust God more than ever before!
    This is probably the most important step. You must realize that people will continually hurt you, but the Lord never will. He is always there to bring healing to the wound, to give you the strength to stand and try again—all the while, He is working in the unseen to redeem what was lost. Don’t we serve an amazing God?!

[Tweet “Don’t give up on creating your confessional culture. After all, it’s made up of 2 sinners!”]

 

What would you add to my “do and don’t list” above?

 

What signs or rules-of-thumb should you look for when trying to “create a confessional culture” doesn’t work in your marriage?

 

 If you’re interested in accountability and support from MM, consider joining the C.A.M. Club or “Confession & Apology in Marriage” Club. Click here to go to the Facebook page for this group. Click here for details on MM!

Also, please consider taking MM’s survey, “Men & Openness“—if you are a man in a relationship with a woman. There are only 8 multiple choice questions and your identity will not be known, even though your answers will greatly help us create resources for this challenge.


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  • Mary

    The “what you should do” list gives everyone three important ideas to carry out the confessional culture. Thank you for always turning us back to God in all of your advice. You also challenged us with what not to do which for some is the easy way out. I imagine you are a wonderful counselor and voice of support and reason for many. Love you girl!

    • I simply am sharing what has helped me to create this culture in my marriage, Mary. And without God smack-dab in the middle of it, I would fail every time! I do not have it in me to be humble in those moments when my husband feels I’ve failed him. My gut reaction is to duck and cover! But thankfully, the Lord nudges me out of my turtle shell and into the land of humility and grace. Thanks for your constant encouragement, dear friend. Consider yourself “cyber-hugged!”

  • Just wow, Beth. I’ll be sharing this with clients … and once again, you’re going up on my sidebar. You are a counselor of distinction, for sure. I learn so much from your wisdom … it’s like being back in grad school … but oh so very personal.

    Love to you, friend!

    • Really, Linda? It’s a “Wow” to you? I know you’ve got this same wisdom floating around in your brain and heart, but I DO so appreciate your over-the-top affirmation. Kinda makes up for the many times I question myself or the effectiveness of MM–which is more often than I like to admit! Hugs to you, dear friend! Love ya!

  • bluecottonmemory

    I always ask God to show me what is my fault and what is my spouses – and I usually see that there’s more on my end than I realized. Good points, Beth! I’m blessed with a wise husband who doesn’t use my apologies against me. I’m the one who has had to learn to be more wise in my frustrations! God has really helped me with this – it just takes going to Him and asking Him to help!

    • Oh yes! So many people do not do this, though, Maryleigh. They don’t look at their end of a conflict, nor turn to the Lord to illumine their understanding. So, kudos to you, my friend! And congrats on that great hubby of yours too! I don’t think my hubby does this either–or at least not much. And if he does it is because he wants me to “get the mistake I’ve admitted to previously.” He’s a pastor, after all, and teaching comes second nature to him and ME! Yikes! It’s the ugly side of a two-sided coin! Love ya and thanks for joining the conversation. 🙂

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I’ve found that one of the worst kinds of non-acceptance of an apology is…”I’s OK. I’m used to being treated that way.” It’s ‘formally’ an acceptance, but there’s a stiletto in the outstretched hand.

    One change I might make, that’s a bit more complicated than the shalt/shan’t lists…if your spouse is either bitter or detatched, don’t ‘fess up to being deeply hurt, because that may give more information that can be used against you. In that case, it’s best to be noncommittal. Just say, “Well, OK” and weld your mouth shut for awhile.

    In fact, thinking about it, I’d ixnay the “tell him/her you’re deeply hurt” thing altogether. It can easily be seen as an underhanded and passive-aggressive form of attack, from another direction, and if emotions are still running high, it’ll put the nonreceptive partner on the defensive. And bringing prayer into the equation can make things worse, because again, in the heat of conflict, both parties will want to co-opt God to their side….or at least suspect that of the ‘enemy’.

    I was going to suggest keeping a sense of perspective by reading about some of the REALLY nasty things that can happen in life, but this can backfire…it’s easy to go in this direction and make it a de facto high ground, from which one can be satisfyingly patronizing, and dismissive of the root causes of the conflict.

    This is one of the hardest and most painful things that can happen in a marriage, and unless one is married to “drama royalty”, I suspect it’s a sign of a very serious underlying problem in the relationship. We should WANT to forgive our spouses, almost quicker than they can get the apology out. When we don’t, things have gone very wrong indeed.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2015/06/your-dying-spouse-16-someday.html

    • Yes, the simple, “It’s okay”–especially when it’s followed up with another indictment–can be especially deflating and re-wounding. However, I’d have to think that the reason the person said that in that situation is because they fear the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with apologies–something I hope to address in the near future. As always, you land on what is the “pulse” of my posts, Andrew.

      I see your point about not giving the mate who is a boundary-buster or apology-rejector another chance to pounce. But I’m of the mindset that humility means opening myself up to hurt–at least to a degree. If I ever hope to create a confessional culture in my marriage, I have to “take one for the team.” Of course, I also think there’s a point when we must adjust our efforts to create this confessional culture to a degree in our marriages when it’s a lost cause–in favor of a modified version of it. But even the modified version, in my view, includes self-sacrifice and continual demonstrations of humility. It is what Christ calls me to as a believer. And with His love and comfort flowing into the wounded places in my heart, I don’t have to worry about it devastating or destroying me. Healing can continue even if my mate continues to wound me.

      And I most certainly do NOT think that removing prayer–when authentically or even secretly sought (and not used as manipulation or supremacy)–is ever a good idea. Sure, our spouse can use prayer as a way to hurt us, yet again. But that’s our spouse’s problem and not one we should worry about. If our heart is sincere, prayer can be one of the most healing tools our Father uses in our lives and marriages. So let’s agree to disagree on that one. 😉

      And you are right about it being one of the hardest things that can happen in a marriage. It’s like kicking a wounded man … in the wound! And I also agree that it’s a sign of a very serious problem in the relationship–depending on the reason they are doing it. Thanks for jumping in the flow of conversation and adding some great insights, my friend!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Oh, Beth, I phrased that badly…I don’t mean to say that it shouldn’t be used! It’s that I have both seen and experienced the words “I’m going to pray about this” be seen as an attempt to gain the moral high ground.

        What I meant was to pray, but not to give that information.

        When the situation is so serious that a sincere apology was rejected, my thought was that it was simply best to disengage at a low ‘external’ emotional temperature.

        Certainly the hurt is there, and my thought is that part of the self-sacrifice required is not to ‘claim’ the hurt, and implicitly – or explicitly – assigning blame to the other party. “I am deeply hurt.” is followed by the unspoken “and YOU did it.”

        It’s kind of an attempt to share the pain…or it can be seen as such.

        I hope this makes sense? It’s not a good day, and pain’s making it a bit hard to concentrate.

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  • Marissa

    I really love your graphic at the top of the post! I know that sounds like a super basic comment, but I’ve seen a bunch of posts today and this one really did catch my eye. Thank you so much for hosting this link up each week!

    Marissa

    Reading List

    • Thanks so much, Marissa! I’m happy to get a comment on the graphics I create, since I don’t think I’ve had but one other person affirm me in that area. My bachelors degree was in Fine Art and I am learning little by little how to create graphics that are compelling. So you are affirming me in an area that I truly appreciate. Thanks again!

  • Ruthie Gray

    Apology is a very humbling, necessary part of marriage. I’m not good at it, but after 28 years, I’m growing in that department! What you have to say in this post is so important for anyone at any stage of marriage. This is the first time I’ve run across your site, and I love your title and header. Also what you are doing to minister to marriages. Thank you for posting, I’m your neighbor on Coffee and Conversation today!

    • Thanks, Ruthie! I appreciate that! I’m glad you found me over at Coffee and Conversation and now I’m going to try and track your place down over there. 😉 It’s always nice to meet new friends in the blogosphere!

  • I really cannot think of any other thing to add Beth. This is as detailed as it can be…
    A very important issue to the growth of our marriages. We must pursue peace at all times, when that is the intent, to an extent we will be guided appropriately.
    I love practical marriage topics Beth, thanks for sharing.
    Love

    • Yes, that’s a good point, Ugochi. What we are after is “peace” in our marriages–not peace at any price, but peace that is “Christ-like” and sacrificial. I love practical marriage topics too! That’s why I find your blog such a pleasure to visit! Thanks for your kind words, my friend! Be blessed!

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  • Stacey Fowler

    Thank you. I’m unfortunately the one who sometimes throw it back. My husband sometimes apologizes more to end an argument than to actually apologize and will continue doing whatever it was he did before. I need to learn to try to keep the peace though.

    • Thanks for admitting that, Stacey! That’s testament to your vulnerability and humbleness. As far as your husband is concerned, we are all broken and try various ways to “cover over” our weaknesses and sins. That happens to be one way he likes to do it. One thing that has helped me to accept my husband’s failures is to see the ways that I try to “cover my sin.” I do it all the time, unfortunately. It’s more than “second-nature” it is my nature! 😉 And as far as keeping the peace, I’d much rather that you “make the peace.” Keeping the peace implies, to me, that things are kept status quo. That’s not always healthy either. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, my friend! Glad to have you visit!

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  • Beth, this is really good relational advice. The tongue can start a fire, right. But, our words, when spoken from our true self in Christ, can be a source of healing too. I love this post. Thanks.

    • Thank you, Scott. Coming from you, that’s a huge compliment! And yes, that darn “tongue” of ours really can get us in trouble and thankfully bring peace and calmness to a relational fire as well. I appreciate you joining the linkup and adding to the discussion, my friend!

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