What most people are looking for in an apology is sincerity. But how do you determine sincerity? Research has revealed that there are five basic elements to an apology. I call them the five languages of apology. For an apology to be accepted, you need to speak the language that conveys to the offended your sincerity.
The first language of apology is expressing regret, or saying, “I’m sorry.” It is expressing to the offended person your own sense of pain that your behavior has hurt them.
Without the expression of regret, some people do not sense that the apology is adequate. A simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way toward restoring goodwill. An apology has more impact when it is specific. The details reveal the depth of your understanding of the situation and how much you inconvenienced your spouse.
Sincere regret needs to stand alone. It should never be followed with “But…” One husband said, “She apologizes, then blames her actions on something I did to provoke her. Blaming me does little to make the apology sincere.”
When we shift the blame to the other person, we have moved from apology to an attack. Blame and attacks never lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. When you are apologizing, let “I’m sorry,” stand alone. Don’t continue by saying, “But if you had not yelled at me I would not have done it.”
For many people, receiving a sincere expression of regret is the strongest language of apology. It is what convinces them that the apology is sincere. Without it, they will hear your words but they will appear empty.
Wives can’t change their husbands, but wives can and do have a tremendous influence on their husbands. How can you make that influence positive?
1. Men respond positively to praise.
One of the most common complaints men make in my office is: “Dr. Chapman, in my work I am respected. People come to me for advice. But at home, all I get is criticism.” What she considers suggestions, he reads as criticism. Her efforts to stimulate growth have backfired.
Give him praise. The fastest way to influence a husband is to give him praise. Praise him for effort, not perfection. You may be asking, But if I praise him for mediocrity, will it not stifle growth? The answer is a resounding “No”. Your praise urges him on to greater accomplishments.
My challenge is to look for things your husband is doing right and praise him. Praise him in private, praise him in front of the children, praise him in front of your parents and his parents, praise him in front of his peers. Then stand back and watch him go for the gold.
2. Requests are more productive than demands.
None of us like to be controlled, and demands are efforts at controlling. “If you don’t mow the grass this afternoon, then I’m going to mow it.” I wouldn’t make that demand unless you want to be the permanent lawn mower. It is far more effective to say, “Do you know what would really make me happy?” Wait until he asks, “What?” Then say, “If you could find time this afternoon to mow the grass. You always do such a great job.”
Let me illustrate by applying the principle to you. How do you feel when your husband says “I haven’t had an apple pie since the baby was born. I don’t guess I’m going to get any more apple pies for eighteen years”? Now, doesn’t that motivate you? But what if he says, “You know what I’d really like to have? One of your apple pies. You make the best apple pies in the world. Sometime when you get a chance, I’d really love one of your apple pies. Chances are he’ll have an apple pie before the week is over. Requests are more productive than demands.
3. Love is a two way street.
If a wife wants to enhance her husband’s ability to give her emotional love, perhaps her greatest influence will be in loving him. In my book, The Five Love Languages, I talk about the importance of discovering your husband’s primary love language – the thing that really makes him feel loved: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch, or acts of service. Once you discover it, pour it on. Husbands are drawn to wives who are meeting their emotional need for love.
Can you do it, even if he is not loving you. God did. He loved us when we were unlovely. But that’s God. I’m me. I know, but you are God’s child and He can empower you to love an unlovely spouse. I’ve seen it many times. A wife chooses to speak her husband’s love language, even though she doesn’t feel loved by him. He warms up and in time begins expressing her love language. Can emotional love be re-born in a marriage? You bet. But someone must begin the process. Why not you?
4. Defensiveness reveals the inner self.
A wife says, “Why does my husband get so defensive? All I have to do is mention that the grass needs mowing and he goes ballistic.”
This husband is revealing his self-esteem hot spot. Some experience in his past has tied his sense of self worth to mowing the grass. Your mention of the grass translates “She thinks I’m not doing my job. I work like crazy, and now she is on my case about the grass.” He sees it as a negative statement about his worth.
I know you didn’t mean it that way. That’s why I suggesting you observe his defensiveness, so that you can learn what is going on inside of him. We don’t know these emotional hot spots until we touch one. It would be a good idea to make a list of all your husband’s defensive reactions. Note what you said and did and how he responded. This insight will help you discover another way to discuss the topic that will be less threatening to his self-esteem.
Both husbands and wives hold a tremendous influence on their spouse. However, it is up to you whether your influence is positive.
The idea that the eternal God desires to spend quality time with His creatures is one aspect of faith unique to Christianity. The gods who have been created by the imagination of human minds have always been far removed from people’s daily lives. The gods of the ancient Greek and Roman myths had to be placated or feared. The idea of having a close personal relationship with those deities did not exist.
Jesus’ Prayer Jesus indicated that the desire of the entire Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—was to “abide” (make a home) with anyone who responds to God’s love. Jesus promised never to leave His followers, and told them that He would be with them forever. In one of Jesus’ prayers, He said, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Clearly, Jesus desired quality time with all of those who responded to His love.
Love Expressed The Psalms often speak of God’s love for those He created and His desire to draw near and spend quality time with them. For example, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” The New Testament describes a similar relationship with God as James promises, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
Do You Desire Quality Time? When someone’s primary love language is quality time, uninterrupted times of communion with God are not difficult, but joyous. They are not burden-causing, but burden lifting. Recently a woman told me, “I feel closest to God when I have my daily quiet time with Him. It is the most important part of my day. When I miss that time, my whole day seems empty and I don’t feel as close to God. It is in those personal times with Him that I feel His love.” Not everyone would echo this woman’s sentiment, but it is certainly true of those individuals whose primary love language is quality time. Those who seek time with God will discover that He is ready and waiting to meet with them. Quality time is a love language that He is always prepared to speak.
Before marriage, they agreed on everything. After marriage, they fought about everything. Why do we have conflicts after marriage that never appeared before marriage? After marriage and after the “in love” obsession fades as it always does, we revert to our natural tendency to think that “my way is the best way.” We seek to use our persuasive logic to convince the spouse. When they are unconvinced, we get angry and often use cutting derogatory remarks.
Want to solve your conflicts? Here’s an idea: never discuss conflicts “on the run”. Rather set aside time specifically for resolving conflict. I suggest that once a week you have a “conflict resolution session.” The rest of the week you can focus on the things you like about each other. Make positive comments about your spouse. This creates a healthy climate in which to discuss your conflicts. Every resolved conflict brings you closer together.
The Way to Discuss Problems
When you sit down to discuss a conflict, take turns talking. Start with five minutes each. Then you can have as many turns as needed, but don’t interrupt each other with your own ideas. Wait for your turn.
Ask questions to help you understand your spouse. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse and see the world through their eyes. Try to understand what they are thinking and feeling, and why it is so important to them. Never condemn their feelings or thoughts. They are unique and will not see the world as you see it. The point is not to condemn, but to find a workable solution that addresses both of your concerns. When you have listened, try affirming your spouse’s ideas and feelings. Sympathetic listening and affirming statements create a positive climate in which to look for solutions.
Goal: Finding Solutions
Humans are all unique. We see the world differently. The common mistake is to try to force one’s spouse to see the world “the way I see it.” Resolving conflicts requires that you treat you spouse’s ideas and feelings with respect, not condemnation. The purpose is not to prove your spouse wrong, but to find a “meeting of the minds”, a place where the two of you can work together as a team. You don’t have to agree in order to resolve a conflict. You simply have to find a workable solution to your differences.
“What would be workable for you?” is a good place to begin. Now you are focusing on resolution rather than differences. Two adults looking for a solution are likely to find one.
Possible Proposal? Here are six questions you should ask before popping the question.
1. Are my partner and I on the same wavelength intellectually? (Try one of these exercises: Read a newspaper or online news article and discuss its merits and implications; read a book and share your impressions with each other.)
2. To what degree have we surveyed the foundation of our social unity? (Explore the following areas: sports, music, dance, parties, and vocational aspirations.)
3. Do we have a clear understanding of each other’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses? (Take a personality profile. This is normally done under the direction of a counselor who will interpret the information and help you discover potential areas of personality conflicts.
4. To what degree have we excavated our spiritual foundations? (What are your beliefs about God, Scripture, organized religion, values, and morals?)
5. Are we being truthful with each other about our sexual histories? (Are you far enough along in the relationship to feel comfortable talking about this?) To what degree are you discussing your opinions about sexuality?
6. Have we discovered and are we speaking each others primary love language? (It is in the context of a full love tank that we are most capable of honestly exploring the foundations of our relationship.) meaningful to that person?
Many wives ask me, “Dr. Chapman, how do you live with a workaholic husband?” They will talk about a husband who spends long hours at work and short hours at home. He sees his children only when they are asleep, and his wife sees him only when he is exhausted. The workaholic doesn’t understand why his wife is not happy with his accomplishments and all the material things that he provides. She, on the other hand, is dying for a relationship. This week we will explore the possibility of bringing balance into the life of the workaholic.
1. Praise and Criticism The workaholic is usually well respected in the community, and he often receives accolades from his employer. On the other hand, his wife is likely critical of him because he invests so little in their relationship. Her criticism is part of the problem. Oh, I understand why she is critical. But when she criticizes him, or his job, she is criticizing the one thing in life that brings him recognition. Her criticism strikes at the heart of his self esteem. Let me suggest a better approach. Stop being critical of his work. Praise him when he receives awards at work. Then request that he do something with you and the children. When he does, and he will, then give him praise. Praise him for little and you will get more.
2. Deep Roots Many workaholics are suffering from a deep sense of inferiority. Work is an effort to overcome these feelings of inferiority. Many workaholics also feel unloved. Understanding this should help a spouse know how to minister to the workaholic. He certainly does not need condemnation, but rather praise.
3. Return to Intimacy If you want to pull the workaholic away from his job, let him know that you admire his success. Tell him that you realize that you have been negative toward his work, because your own needs have not been met, not because he is a bad husband. Tell him that you believe he can both meet your needs and be successful in his vocation. Now you are on his team and will likely find intimacy returning to the marriage.
Is it possible for two parents who have very different approaches to child-rearing to find a meeting of the minds? The answer is an unqualified “yes.” In my marriage we discovered that I tended to be the quiet, calm, “let’s talk about it” parent, while my wife Karolyn tended to be a “take action now” kind of parent. It took us a while to realize what was happening, analyze our patterns, and admit to each other our basic tendencies. When this was done, we began to concentrate on the question: “What is best for our children?”
Using Love, Words, & Actions
No pattern of teaching and training will be highly effective if the child does not feel loved by the parents. Love really does cover a multitude of sins.
The two wheels upon which the chariot of parenting rolls are teaching and training–using words and actions to communicate to the child. It is not uncommon that one parent will emphasize words and the other actions. One will want to talk the child into obedience, while the other will simply make the child obey. When taken to the extreme, this can lead to verbal abuse on the part of one and physical abuse on the part of the other.
The better approach is to bring words and actions together. Tell the child exactly what is expected and what the results will be if they disobey. Then if they do not obey, kindly but firmly apply the consequences. When you are consistent, your child will learn obedience. Of course, all of this works best when the child feels loved by both parents. Parenting is a team sport.
Agreeing on Principles of Discipline
Mature parents are always seeking to learn. Administering discipline is a point where many couples have disagreement. Talking about and agreeing upon some principles for discipline can be helpful. For example, how about agreeing that all discipline should be done in love, and the word love should always be used while administering the discipline. Love and consistent discipline, accompanied with information, is the road to responsible parenting and a growing marriage. You owe it to yourselves to be teammates in parenting.
I want to conclude our week with two principles of discipline. The first is that positive discipline must always seek to explain. Tongue lashing does not correct behavior.
The second principle is that we deal only with the matter at hand. Don’t bring up past failures. Make room for your child’s humanity. Agree on the principles and you can be teammates in parenting.
When your spouse gives you the “silent treatment” there are always reasons; usually a historical reason, an emotional reason and a contemporary reason. The contemporary reason is that something has just happened that the spouse finds objectionable. For Mike, it was Jill’s announcement that she was going to spend the weekend at the beach with her girl friends.
The emotional reason was that Mike did not feel secure in Jill’s love. He reasoned, “If she loved me she would want to be with me.”
The historical reason was that Mike had learned the “silent treatment” in his childhood. His parents would not allow him to argue with them, so when he felt hurt or angry, he learned to be silent.
If you have been given the “silent treatment” by your spouse, here are the three questions you need to answer:
1. What have I done or failed to do that my spouse might have found objectionable?
2. Have I been speaking my spouse’s love language lately?
3. What do I know about my spouse’s childhood that might help me understand his silence?
Have you ever heard the expression don’t get angry get even? Well, there may be a better way to deal with that unexpressed anger than vengeance. Let’s look at two negative ways and one positive way of responding to anger and bitterness.
First, there is unexpressed anger; holding it inside and letting it smolder. When we do this, the bitterness becomes like a malignant cancer slowly destroying the fiber of life. Then, there is uncontrolled expression of anger. Like an explosion it destroys everything in its range. Such an outburst is like an emotional heart attack and may produce permanent damage.
There is a better way. It begins by saying to yourself, “I’m extremely angry and bitter about what my spouse has done. But I will not allow their wrong to destroy me and I will not attempt to destroy them. I will turn my spouse over to God who is just, and I will release my anger and bitterness to God.” The Biblical challenge is “get rid of anger and bitterness” (Col. 3:8).
Confess to God that you have held your anger inside and that you are bitter. Ask His forgiveness for handling your anger in a sinful way. Then confess your bitterness to your spouse and ask forgiveness. Find a counselor or trusted friend who can help you release your spouse and your anger to God, in order to live a constructive life in the future. Let me admit that a one time confession of bitterness may not eliminate all hostile feelings. If the bitterness has been there a long time, the hostile feelings may die slowly.
Paul said, “Never pay back evil for evil… Never take your own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17,19). You may have been greatly wronged by your spouse, but it is not your responsibility to punish them for their sin. They must face God with their sin, and God is a just judge. Verbal retaliation accomplishes no constructive purpose. Seeking the good of your mate, which the Bible calls love, has much potential for good.