Thoughts on Marriage

Glacier

My oldest brother got married at the end of August. It was a beautiful wedding in Montana, just outside of Glacier National Park. The weather was perfect, my new sister in law is wonderful, and my little Chicken was thrilled to be in her first wedding.

When we were all together at dinner that week, my dad had us offer my brother and Amanda some marriage advice. The kids were asked to give their thoughts on parenting. (From my six year old niece: “I like to drink wine. And I like being homeschooled.” So… there is that to consider).

My second-oldest brother gave some advice that I think is genius: Don’t be mean.

Simple- yes.

But easy- NO. No way.

Being mean is EASY when you are in a fight. It takes all of my will to be kind and respectful, when I am so angry I could punch someone. Sometimes I win this battle, sometimes I am mean (and lose). The fights where there is “meanness”- yikes. We might settle the content of the fight, but the meanness- the way we fought- lingers. (And, often, that is harder for me to get over).

My advice to Ethan came via my sister-in-law (my husband’s sister). Before I got married, she told me three things that are helpful in relationships:
1. I’m sorry. (Better than “I apologize,” in my opinion)
2. Will you forgive me?
3. What could I have done differently?

Number one is haaaard for me. A straight apology, owning whatever I brought to the table, with no asterisk to tag on why I was justified in what I did- well. That is just hard. There are times I would rather die on the hill than just say that I’m sorry. (My husband is a thousand times better at apologizing than I.)

Sometimes I just have to white-knuckle the “I’m sorry”. I mean it, deep down, but it is buried under layers of defensiveness and justification and whatever else. Saying “I’m sorry” is the act of reaching waaaaay down and pulling out what I know I want to say. Or what I want to want to say. If only it weren’t covered with so much other stuff.

[On the topic of apologizing:
Please just eliminate the faux-apology from any relationships. The faux-apology is: “I’m sorry you feel hurt” or “I’m sorry you feel like I was being mean.” I just think that is lame. It doesn’t actually say anything. Right? Or am I being too harsh?]

It’s a tie for me as to which piece of marriage advice I think is better. “Don’t be mean” goes a heck of a long way. But the three-pronged approach to really apologizing can heal a lot of hurt.

In celebration of my brother’s recent wedding, and in honor of my own recent 8-year anniversary, I’m wondering if there is any other advice that would knock my socks off like “Don’t be mean” did. Also: any thoughts on what I consider the faux-apology? Am I missing some merit in that one?

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8 thoughts on “Thoughts on Marriage

  1. I totally agree about the faux apology. It tends to only make things worse in this household. I heard some neat advice that has stuck with me but that is hard to say concisely. Basically in arguments, people tend to revert slowly through defensiveness to offensiveness and on and on down the hill per say, and things get ugly. If one person can sense that happening and reach out and try to stop the reversion by checking in with the other person’s feelings, then it can be stopped. Easier said than done!

    • yes. being mean is much easier. agreed. i’m always proud of myself when i choose kindness instead.

      hilty i have loved your posts recently as well. i can’t comment (i blame the ipad) but i like reading:)

  2. I don’t know if this is good advice, but when Tom and I are in an angry gridlock, sometimes I’ll get out the salt, a lime, and the tequila. One body shot can really ease some tension.

    Also, the secret sauce in both marriage and parenting I think is empathy. What is he experiencing right now that is making him say or do something so ridonculous? Adds perspective and helps you not take things as a personal affront.

    • bird, knowing how INfrequently you check your email and do interweb-related things, i am honored that you would sign in to comment on my blog. truly. an honor.

      empathy. and body shots. check.

  3. Real apologies. Yes. Coming from a home where apologizing and forgiveness never really happened, that was both hard and good to learn.
    Remember you’re on the same team. Big one. I can quickly assume the worst, don’t give the benefit of the doubt, get defensive, etc. Remembering that we are on the same team is so helpful.

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