In a marriage, there is a time for all things. There is a time to stand your ground, a time to say you are sorry…and unfortunately, a time to admit you are wrong. Confucius said, “A man that commited a mistake and doesn’t fix it…is making another mistake.” The first step in correction, especially within a marriage – is admitting to the wrongdoing.
Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are as serious as infidelity, while others such as telling a white lie, - seem small and insignificant. The thing is that marriage is always built on trust and couple should feel both honest enough and safe enough, to admit wrongs to their partner. For many people, they can apologize – but they cannot admit that what they did is wrong. What this normally translates to is that they are sorry for being caught – but not necessarily convinced that what they did is wrong. And so, how is a partner supposed to feel assured that the consequences of having to apologize and lose face are high enough for the wrong partner, to not do it again. It is similar to a child being caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They may apologize, but until they can understand WHY their hand shouldn’t be in there, they will likely continue to do it.
Swallowing your Pride
Admitting you are wrong does take a bit of pride swallowing. Yet remember, that love is not proud and when it comes to you and your partner – the two of you should be naked in terms of whom you are. There should be no judgment and only unconditional love. Rarely is that the case, but that is the way it should be. And, the only way to get remotely close to that kind of relationship is to have immense mutual respect. Most of the time people lie in a marriage because they feel that their partner will judge them. They lie because they know that their partner has a belief system that is different from their own; and feel wrath will be placed upon them for following their own beliefs. The problem with this, is that when you do make a mistake and try to hide it; you truly will not believe that what you did was an error. And then admitting you are wrong becomes something you just say and don’t really mean. This is why it is important for you to be honest, completely honest with your partner. No one said you had to agree on everything – or even half of the things in life…but you should be able to be honest. If you cannot, you may want to take a little marital inventory.
One thing about admitting you’re wrong to begin with that you may not realize, is that it is the easiest way to gain back some credibility with your spouse. Self-justification and placing blame on others, quickly leads to arrogance, which is not attractive in any relationship. You have to wonder, why it is so difficult for people to admit that they are wrong?
Well, the truth is that it has something to do with the human psyche. Our innate psychological wiring is one that uses cognitive dissonance to help us make every decision in life. This means that our minds are constantly programmed to find applicable reasons for why we do what we do. So even if we are making a mistake, we have developed some sort of thought process that makes us feel right in our doing. For some people, this cognitive dissonance is so strong – that they are inherently unable to admit that they are wrong. Even if they utter the words, it is more to avoid a ‘consequence’ than to take steps to remedy the situation.
If you look back through history, you can learn a tremendous amount about admitting you are wrong in a marriage from the actions of President Kennedy. Instead of deflecting attention AWAY from a wrong – he candidly and emphatically admitted his mistakes and ownership for the disasters that followed the Bay of Pigs invasion. He believed that it was important to be candid about errors and did so. Even though the situation could have meant a catastrophic political career for him, by admitting he was wrong – his popularity directly after the event increased tenfold.
As it pertains to your marriage, you may want to be aware that cognitive dissonance exists in every human, including yourself to some degree. When you notice yourself apologizing for something without admitting you are wrong, perhaps you need to think about why it is so hard to admit you were wrong in the first place. Review the reasons that you made the decision to do what you did; and try to find something in the mistake that the marriage can grow from. As a society, we are far too concerned with labeling mistakes or errors in life as strictly negative; when the truth is there is much that can be gained from making them. Especially in a marriage.
In many relationships, the ability to apologize or admit that you were wrong is lopsided. One-half of the while may be willing and able to admit their mistakes, while the other cannot. When this occurs – the couple normally forms a strong and valid point of disconnect, that shuts down normal communication in most facets of the relationship. This can be very difficult to recover from, especially after many years. The point is not to say you were wrong, (which anyone can do) but to understand like the kid with the hand in the cookie jar – why your actions were wrong or hurtful! When you and your partner can admit you are wrong to one another and can discuss calculated efforts to move forward, you relationship will not just be stronger and more honest – but more meaningful as well.