“Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego.” – Unknown
I love this simple quote, but I find that our Bethesda MD couples’ therapy clients often do not want to apologize despite obvious “mistakes” they have both made during an argument. Perhaps blaming your partner is easier on the ego – but the long term damage on a marriage can be irreversible if apologies never happen and some responsibility isn’t taken.
What is this ego thing we hear so much about? Ego refers to your sense of self. People who are more self-confident and secure in who they are generally become less defensive in arguments. Their sense of self can withstand saying, “I am sorry,” or “I messed up.” Individuals whose ego is insecure (perhaps whose self-esteem is low) tend to feel the need to defend themselves more – they have a harder time seeing that an apology does not make them a lesser person. They generally do not understand that, in fact, the ability to apologize means they are a strong person.
Oftentimes, to end a standoff, one partner has to put any threats to their ego aside, take the first step and offer an apology. This step, in turn, lowers defenses in the other partner and they generally will apologize back. I tell my Bethesda MD couples counseling clients that they don’t have to apologize for something they do not feel they did wrong, but that there is almost always a mistake they made that they can specifically apologize for, ie “I realize I raised my voice, and I should not have done that” or “The comment I made about your mother was uncalled for and I did not mean that.” Again, this does not mean that the point you were trying to make was right or wrong, only that you behaved poorly at some point. The apology is part of taking appropriate responsibility for your actions and your relationship.
Which brings me to my next quote:
The damage that builds up from never apologizing and never taking responsibility for your wrongs will destroy a relationship. Resentments build and wounds grow deeper. Each member of a couple should look closely at how their ego (pride) impacts their ability to resolve an argument. Examine why you feel that you always have to be right – could it be that your self-esteem needs to be strengthened so you can feel okay with not always winning? Talk to a couples therapist in Bethesda, MD about this because my guess is that it does not just impact your romantic relationships but is detrimental in relationships with kids, family, and work as well.
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides individual, couple, and family therapy in downtown Bethesda, MD. Call or email us today to find out how we can help you!