Professor's House

I Am Not Apologizing – Drawing a Line in the Sand with your Spouse

Marriage is a dance between two people that takes a lifetime to perfect. The longer you live with someone, the more accustomed you become to the way they ‘dance’’ so to speak. And these idiosyncrasies and missteps can often cause small arguments, bitter resentments, and irritating bickering. The things that married folk fight over are not always divorce worthy and are often simply about the generalized workings of the household and day-to-day life.

You may disagree on how to wash the clothes, the best way to cut the grass or whose turn it is to change the toilet paper roll. You may be agitated that your husband or wife never fills their gas tank up and leaves the car on empty, or that they leave their dirty dishes in the sink all the time. The list is endless. Chances are you know it well. The problem is that when enough of these little things build up, an argument, even slight can ensue. And how do you end an argument? By saying that you are sorry of course.

But what happens when you are not sorry? What happens when you say or do something that your significant other thinks is wrong but you feel is right? Then, what happens when you hold on the stance that you are not apologizing, no matter what because you don’t feel that you did anything wrong? Is Marital World War I on the horizon, or can couples learn to leap over this hurdle and move on without trite apologies? After all, marriage doesn’t mean that you will agree on everything or see everything eye to eye. So who is to say that your way (or their way) is better and that you should apologize for anything?

Many people, just to avoid being stuck in that sexless, passive aggressive valley will apologize without really meaning it just to move on. In other words, they say the words to end the argument but don’t really mean what they say. Others will of course dig in their heels and decide that they aren’t apologizing no matter what the consequences are. Most of this has to do with personality differences. If two very head strong, right-minded folks are married to one another, there can be many insignificant arguments that cause weeks or even months of marital strife. If nobody can admit they are wrong, then nobody can move forward. But who says that someone has to be wrong? And even more importantly, who says that an apology has to be gained or given in order to make the matrimonial relationship happy again.

can’t you just agree to disagree?

One of the most important and valuable assets to a marriage is realizing that you really can hold on to your convictions especially about the small things like the proper way to change the sheets or clean the kitchen, and disagree with your spouse. Disagreeing with your spouse and thinking you are right is not necessarily the end of the relationship. Especially if you just agree to disagree. Truth is that there will be things in your life and marriage that the two of you are just not going to agree upon. And no amount of arguing or talking or reasoning is going to change it. And that point, and when you realize you have stumbled upon one of those un-agreeable things, the best thing to do is just let it go. No one should have to apologize for having his or her own ideals and belief systems. More importantly, believing what you believe and your spouse believing what they believe, should not be a source of anger. Especially if it is about things that are insignificant or otherwise silly. Obviously, if you are talking about big issues in the relationship then the two of you need to sit down and talk things out.

Also, realize that a spouse giving you a half-assed, un-heartfelt apology simply because they are tired of the silent treatment or because they want to end and argument or disagreement is just a manipulative measure. You wouldn’t really want your spouse to tell you things just to make peace if they are not true, and you shouldn’t want an apology unless it’s meaningful.

If you continue to run into the same old arguments time and time again and neither of you are willing to budge on your positions then it might be just time to let it go. Being able to let go of certain things that involve the ‘I am right and you are wrong,’” mentality says a lot about the level of respect in the marriage. If you can do it, it speaks volumes about the fact that while you may disagree with your spouse, you still love and respect them and value their opinions, even if they are different from yours.

At some point, couples need to learn the invaluable lesson that marriage does not instantly morph two people into one. Just like you had ideas and opinions and ways of doing things all your own prior to marriage you have them after. Apologizing, either idly, or simply for the ‘shut up and move on already’’ factor shouldn’t be a requisite of a happy relationship. Two people can be right about the same thing (at least in their opinion) and think differently and nobody should have to apologize for it. End of story. If this makes or breaks a marriage then chances are you have more problems than what is the best way to replace the toilet paper roll.

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