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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Learning to Say That You’re Sorry

Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

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It’s inevitable that sometimes couples will step on each other’s toes; especially during the first year of marriage, where newlyweds find themselves tip-toeing around their spouse’s emotional roadblocks. Don’t forget that it takes time to learn about your spouse’s idiosyncrasies and how to respond in a way that makes him or her feel at ease.

Here are some of the common mistakes people make in marriage:

1. You forget about for an important appointment and your spouse is furious.
2. You make up a time they will call you and you forget to turn on the phone.
3. You invite your in-laws for dinner and forget to tell your spouse.
4. You forget to bring her flowers for Shabbos or Yom Tov.
5. You leave the dishes pilled up in the sink.

Despite your mistakes, you can still undo your past actions by learning how to say, “I’m sorry.”

Saying that you are sorry is so powerful that many couples have told me it’s the secret to having a long-lasting marriage, as the following story that appeared in a British newspaper points out.

A British couple who had been married for 80 years said that their success was down to a glass of whisky, a glass of sherry and the word, “Sorry.”

“I think we’re very blessed,” said Florence Arrowsmith, 100 years old. “We still love one another, that’s the most important part.”

Asked for their secret, Florence said you must never be afraid to say, “Sorry.”

“You must never go to sleep bad friends,” she said, while Percy, 105, said his secret to marital bliss was just two words: “yes dear.”

The couple had three children, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

How to say that you’re sorry

There are many ways to tell your significant other that you are sorry. To begin with, start by expressing that you genuinely feel sorry for your behavior, actions, or words.

“Please forgive my outburst, I do love and respect you and didn’t mean to speak to you like that.”

“I do love you and I can’t stand fighting with you. Please forgive my part in all this. I want us to speak calmly and with respect for each other.”

”I am very sorry; please forgive my tone of voice. I love you and don’t want us to continue speaking to each other this way.”

“I’m sorry. I love you and I am overreacting. Let’s take a break right now so we can both calm down.”

Second, it is very important to state that you are taking responsibility for your actions and not trying to justify or make excuses. If you don’t take responsibility your apology will have little value. You should also try to convey that your sincerely regret what you did. Many times, someone may simply say they are sorry to try to keep the peace and end an argument, and they are not generally feeling remorse for their behavior. A genuine expression of sorrow for your behavior can mean a lot to the other person.

Michael, 32, and Rivkah, 29 learned about the need to say, “I’m sorry,” the hard way. Michael was a well-respected accountant who worked in a high-pressure job. He usually worked late hours, and looked forward to unwinding at home — not to be greeted by a loud choir of children when he entered the door.

A common scenario unfolded each night when Michael would return home from work and be greeted by his ready-for-bed children and a very exhausted wife. At home, his wife Rivkah was finding raising their children to be a challenging task, especially since their young baby had colic and she faced many sleepless nights alone without Michael’s help. Usually, by the time Michael came home, Rivkah was worn out and needed assistance. However, when Michael would open the door, his children would crowd around him, start jumping up and down and beg for him to play with them. But Michael, who usually felt overwhelmed, would get upset and start lashing out at his kids and yelling at his wife.

To make the situation worse, Rivkah would hand the kids to Michael and run to the bedroom to relax. In response, Michael would turn on the video machine for the children and try to escape to his computer in the living room. Left alone, the children would feel abandoned and start crying for attention, which would cause Michael to lose his temper.

Their situation needed mediation. To resolve this issue they would first need to become aware of their stressors (like work and child-rearing pressures), and then find ways to reduce the stress of the early-evening-bedtime drama. I also suggested that a good place to start would be to repair any emotional damage their arguing would cause by saying they were sorry and admitting that they are overwhelmed.

Michael and Rivkah were relieved to know that there was a way to deal with their problems. Both could learn skills that would help them improve their relationship. They didn’t need to be perfect. The true test of their marriage would be if they could learn how to say “I’m sorry.”

Saying you’re sorry can be difficult, especially if it means admitting you were wrong in the first place. No one likes exposing their imperfections to others, even to those who are very close to them. Admitting you are wrong takes courage. Yet, by using these two simple words, people can make a major difference in their marriage.

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About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723


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