Why We Apologize

When I got married 4 months ago the last thing I wanted to do is hurt my wife.

But no matter how hard I try, no matter how much effort I put into our relationship, no matter how many skills I put into practice, I inevitably say (or don’t say) or do (or don’t do) something that causes her pain.

Interesting thing about us humans, when something causes us pain, we instinctively or pull away from it.

So, when you get burned by the stove, poked by a needle, or punched in the face you flinch. You protect yourself. You put distance between you and the threat of pain.

You do this because your brain hates pain.

Here's a crazy thing about the way your brain processes pain… it isn’t biased… emotional pain and physical pain trigger the same response in your noggin, so your reaction to getting hurt physically or emotionally is the pretty much identical.

That means when you hurt your partner (whether you mean to or not) they will instinctively withdraw.

So, if you want any sort of closeness or intimacy in your relationship we need to deal with this whole “emotional retreat” thing, or it will cause us some problems.

So now it’s time to bust a big myth about apologizing Adam Savage style:

Your whole life you’ve been taught to apologize when you’re wrong, or when you make a mistake. This is great advice! Being accountable for your screw-ups is a trait found in good humans everywhere. But it’s not why you apologize to your partner.

You apologize to your partner because they are experiencing pain, and they’ve pulled away from you.

You apologize to them because, whether you meant to or not, your words or actions were the emotional fire, the needle, or the punch to the face that caused the "flinch." 

If you want to restore the intimacy and closeness needed for your relationship to work, you need to say, “I’m sorry.”

You must apologize to offer your partner the gift of healing.

You must apologize when you offend her or hurt her feelings on accident.

You must apologize when you disrespect him or emasculate him unintentionally.

You must apologize even when you’re right. You must apologize when your wrong. You must apologize any time you hurt your partner, because when you cause them pain and don’t heal that pain, you create emotional distance between you and your love.

You jeopardize the strength and integrity of your relationship.

Give yourself, your partner, and your relationship a fresh start. Apologize. Heal each other. It’s the most beautiful gift you can give the person you love.