Did you know that the best predictor of whether or not a marriage will last is the way the couple speaks to one another?
I learned this the hard way when my husband and I saw our marriage nearly self-destruct. Fortunately, we found a great therapist who helped us identify that our issue was the way we were communicating with each other.
We were shocked because we certainly didn’t view ourselves as verbally abusive. Not to mention that neither one of us is a yeller.
Still, we couldn’t deny that
our relationship had ongoing, underlying tension and resentment. So, we decided to explore our interactions, and it turned out that our therapist was correct. The way we interacted was causing small doses of hurt feelings and resentment that we didn’t notice were there, but were building up and causing major damage in our marriage.
Fortunately, our therapist was able to help us identify some phrases that are truly harmful, not just to marriages, but any relationships:
1. “I’m sorry, but…” or, “I’m sorry, if…”
When we use phrases like this our intention might be to explain that we didn’t intend to cause hurt. We might want to mitigate our actions in the eyes of the person who has been hurt so that they know that there were no malicious intentions.
Then again, maybe it’s a matter of not feeling very sorry at all. Maybe
we feel that the other person is being oversensitive, or that they just took things the wrong way. Maybe the unconscious goal is to deliver the apology in a way that makes the person feel silly for being upset in the first place.
How would you feel if you were genuinely hurt or inconvenienced and the person who caused that delivered an apology that was full of excuses and qualifications?
Instead we learned to validate, acknowledge, and then provide assurance that the harmful action wouldn’t happen again. Then, if possible, make amends.
“You are really upset because I forgot to pick up dinner and now you have to cook when you planned to relax tonight. I’m so sorry. Next time I will write it down. I’ll run to the deli and pick up some sandwiches for us.”
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