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All Apologies

January 19, 2010

My husband and I have a difference of opinions when it comes to apologies.  My husband thinks that one should apologize in order to be “diplomatic.” Knowing precisely what one is apologizing for and/or actually believing you did something wrong are not required.  I, however, believe that an apology should actually mean something and should only be doled out when the apologizer is actually sorry for their behavior.  You can imagine how these differences of opinion play out around our house.

When my husband apologizes to me, I frequently don’t know if he really means it or he is only being “diplomatic.”  He believes that it is important to restore order by saying he is sorry, even though he may not actually be sorry for anything.  I have to ask him what he is apologizing for to find out if he actually knows.  When he tries to justify his actions even after apologizing, I know he isn’t sorry at all: he just wants the conflict to end.

My husband throws around the “I’m sorrys” like Tiger Woods sends dirty text messages to his women friends.  I, on the other hand, am distinctly more parsimonious when it comes to apologies.  This is mainly because I rarely do anything I need to apologize for (*wink*), but also because I will only apologize when I actually recognize that I have caused harm.  If, at that moment, I don’t have true regret for my behavior and an intent to not repeat that behavior in the future, an apology on my part is useless.  My husband knows that when I do apologize it is real, but he also has a need to hear those words from me at times I cannot say them.

Just the other day he was demanding I apologize for being harsh on him when he wasn’t feeling well.  I didn’t think I had done anything egregious so I didn’t want to apologize.  This is what I said: “I’m sorry that you were in a bad mood and didn’t like what I said.”  That, dear reader, is what is called “waxing.”  Waxing is a maneuver wherein you apologize but aren’t really doing so: you are actually deflecting responsibility on to the other party.  When someone says, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” you have been waxed.  Waxing doesn’t fly in our house.  Hubby quickly called me on my half-hearted attempt.  Sometime later (another difference between us: I can take a long time to recognize that I need to apologize while hubby is an immediate apologizer), I realized that I had behaved rudely and I went to apologize.  He said, “Thanks, that’s all I needed.”  And it was.

I think I have the short end of the stick when it comes to apologies because I never know if his have any meaning.  He thinks he has the short end because my apologies are so hard-fought and rare.  Sigh.

What kind of apologizer are you?

By the way, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  No, really: I mean that.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Molly permalink
    January 20, 2010 6:09 pm

    Amen, sistah! I’m with you. I can’t stand “waxy” apologies. The word that follows “sorry” should be “I” and not “you.” Otherwise it’s not an apology, it’s merely an expression of sympathy at best, or at worst, an expression of regret for the other person’s apparently screwy thought processes (the latter is usually the message sent when it’s followed by “, but…” which tells the person how they are wrong–NOT an apology). I mean, it’s fine to be sorry someone feels a certain way, and to say so, but don’t expect it to count as an apology and don’t expect it to fix anything!

    Apologies take full personal responsibility without sloughing any off to the other party. “I did this, and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have, and I’ll try really hard not to do it again. I hope you’ll forgive me.” THAT’s an apology.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      January 21, 2010 12:00 am


      Thanks for the comment, Molly!

  2. Jeremy permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:15 pm

    Dig it..

    What do you do when your spouse thinks they are right (regardless of the facts involved) – and will just continue to psychologically pound on you until a ‘waxing’ or ‘non-apology’ is forced out?

    Sometimes I am not sorry for what I said. It may have hurt, but it was the truth and needed to be said. I am sorry it hurt but I am not sorry for saying it.

    Of course, being a man I realize that we can never be right – must always apologize – must always mean it – and can never admit our feelings are hurt (as we were incorrect in having them in the first place.)

    I am sincerely sorry if your ego makes it so hard for you to apologize.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      January 21, 2010 12:00 am

      Jeremy, no one can “force” you to say anything you don’t want – assuming no lethal weapons are involved. I agree with your characterization of being sorry for the hurt feelings but not for having said what you did. In that event I would think “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” would be accurate and appropriate. I’m not sure where your negativity regarding men v. women comes from: nowhere in my post did I make this a “men bad, women good” issue. This is about individuals. In fact, one of my closest women friends agreed with my husband’s perspective while her husband agreed with mine. It sounds like you may have some issues there? I wish you luck with that. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog!

  3. Jeremy permalink
    January 29, 2010 9:15 pm

    Your post led me (and I guess your other female friend) to believe your husband needs someone in his corner.
    You are right and this is about individuals, but please don’t say that gender doesn’t enter into it. My comment was to illustrate an example where you – an individual – are using a gender-centric privilege to exert power and control over your husband.

    This is a very interesting post in that regard if you care to read it.

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