I have been happily married for five years. I attribute most of our success to apologizing when need-be. Showing you’re sorry is the best way to show you are willing to let go of hostilities and end arguments.
When we first started dating, I was a lot more stubborn. I didn’t want to show sorrow because it made me weak. I needed to be the strong and righteous one because I thought that was my role in the relationship. Showing defeat by apologizing was a shortcut to being walked over and mistreated.
After a while though, I learned that deflecting responsibility is often a lose-lose for everyone involved. The longer I built a wall, the more the stress of the conflict would build up. Minor conflicts would escalate to hours of arguing, and we would go to bed upset. I wouldn’t sleep well and the next morning would have a rickety start. Eventually, we would make up but it seemed like a sad and preventable waste of time.
A thought began to enter my mind that would change my perspective forever. What if this were our last night together? What if I died in my sleep, or she did? This petty argument would’ve been our last conversation and what one of us would remember for the rest of our lives. I am not sure which scenario is worse, me dying and her left with this last memory, or vice versa. Either way, it’s terrible.
I make it a point now to never go to sleep fighting and angry at each other. No matter how dark and ugly it gets, I find a way to make amends before we go off to bed. I can’t tell you how much energy and stress I have saved from apologizing and making up early-on. Even if you argue and you both live through the night, there’s a big possibility it will lead to resentment regardless. The holding out of your apology holds an allure in the short-term. Within this power dynamic, the one who apologizes first or cares more loses. But in a long-term relationship, this holding out will lose its power as you show willing you are to abuse the trust of the rleationship.
I have extended this sentiment to my friends and family as well. You never know when the last conversation you’ll have with someone you care about will be, and leaving it negative will carry a lot of guilt and emotional scars. People, often the ones closest to me, get on my nerves but I strive to always leave things on an even keel and apologize when I’ve wronged someone.
If something is wrong, you need to meet it head-on. “Kill the monster while it’s young.” You either pay now or pay later with interest. The short-term discomfort of confronting conflict and admitting you’re wrong is minor compared to the draining feeling of unsettled guilt or hostility. Catharsis may be the most important human impulse, and it cannot be reached by harboring mistrust and facilitating dissolution.
Ask yourself, what am I fighting for? What is feeling right worth? It will vary depending on how strongly you feel about what you are arguing about and how much you love the other person. In most cases, I don’t find feeling right is worth very much when you think about what’s at stake.