Maturity comes at us in waves. We don’t grow-up overnight and we don’t possess all the knowledge we need to have a happy marriage from the beginning. There will be fights over things that won’t matter. Some of those fights will spiral and at some point you may even wonder why you’re married.
We come into this world with few problem solving skills. As toddlers and children we can be quick to anger when things don’t go our way. Some of us are blessed to have more patience than others. Those of us who don’t (raising hand!) have to work at learning to be patient. Some days it can feel as if we are still those young toddlers who resort to tears and toy throwing when someone doesn’t understand what we try to say. As we work towards our marriage maturity one of the most important things we can teach ourselves to do is say we’re sorry.
We are often quick to apologize to strangers for trivial things. Your child darts in front of a stranger’s cart while shopping and you are quick to say you’re sorry. Flip the coin and you say something you didn’t mean to your spouse, sorry doesn’t come so easily for many people. Sorry means admitting that you were wrong; that you made a mistake and you are asking forgiveness. To truly apologize to someone with whom you are close can be difficult. It takes maturity that we don’t always have at the onset of relationships.
When we feel close to people, when we feel like they know the real us, we sometimes lose the filter that we carry for the public. We say things we’d ordinarily guard, we do things a bit more daring than we’d do in front of others. Perhaps it’s this form of mutual acceptance for each other’s quirks and true personalities that often make us feel as though an apology isn’t necessary. When you’ve seen each other be angry, sick, or grieving there is often no need to apologize. You learn that you are each other’s support system through good and bad. There is an unspoken code between you that it’s okay to be real and there’s no need to apologize for being real. However, there is a big difference in an apology for being yourself and an apology for hurting your spouse.
Our words can be uplifting or they can tear each other down. Part of marriage maturity is learning not to use words in a way that is harmful to the relationship. Learning to express your anger, disappointment, or the fact that your feelings were hurt in a way that explains but does not accuse can be a challenge. It takes maturity and level-headedness to express yourself in a calm manner when your emotions are running high. No one will ever be perfect and not allow their emotions to get the better of them at some point. It’s during these times that we should apologize to our spouse and move past the argument. It doesn’t have to be a great speech – a simple, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” will do.
Learning to give an honest apology and then move past the argument is fundamental to a happy marriage. I don’t personally believe that there is any couple out there who hasn’t had a fight. It’s true, happy couples don’t argue all the time. Happy couples are also two individuals with different brains and their own hearts. There will be times when they don’t agree. As important as giving an honest apology is being mature enough to accept an apology. If your spouse has humbled her/himself to you, be mature enough to accept the apology and let it go. Dwelling on how they hurt your feelings or how what they did was wrong isn’t helpful if you genuinely don’t want to dwell on the argument. There is nothing so bitter-tasting as apologizing just to have the apology spit back in your face and rebutted.
As in life, marriages are short. Sure, sometimes the days seem never-ending. Yet we never really know how much time we get to spend with the person we wanted to have our whole lives, even our after-lives, with. Your spouse is the person you chose. You didn’t get to pick your first family, but your spouse and the family you create, that one you pick. Nurture it, tend to it, and revel in it. Don’t waste days on anger and resentment. Give and accept apologies freely when warranted and then love your life. You only get one; it’s worth it to work towards making it a happy one.