Why you shouldn't care if you wife doesn't apologize

December 11, 2014
48 upvotes

This is a counter point of view to this post about how it is important to make your wife apologize. Disclosure: Making her apologize was one of my biggest hang-ups. Because of this, I've worked very hard on this topic. My post here is to challenge myself to clarify my own views.


Expecting apologies from your wife is beta.

Here are some reasons:

  • Expecting an apology signals to her that she has power to hurt you. Even if she apologizes, you just taught her the bad behavior gets to you. She will only do it more. It also signals that you are offended by her behavior. Taking offense is a way to say that your self-image can be affected by her actions. This is losing frame.

  • Expecting an apology gives her more power over you. If she withholds the apology, this is power to fuck with your head and emotions, it gives her more bargaining power. Why give her power to keep the fight going?

  • Expecting apologies is manipulative and unassertive. It signals that there is a secret contract between you and her: If she doesn't restitute your self image, you will be a dick to her, all wrapped in expectations of guilt and secret debts to each other. It presumes you are the judge of her actions. That even if she just made a mistake, she has to somehow ask for forgiveness from being a bad person and hurting you, that you hold this against her. This is resentment; resentment is beta. Also, it mixes up two problems: the real concrete problem at hand, and the problem of your fragile ego. The book "When I say no, I feel guilty" dedicates the first few chapters analyzing precisely how this mindset is manipulative. I defer to that book for more details on this point.

  • Expecting apologies is a waste of energy, it is increasing the dimensions of the conflict. Conflict only makes the ship run less efficiently. This new area of conflict now adds nothing to solving the problem at hand, only to your fragile ego that has a secret contract with this apology. She is your FO, and you are working together on getting the boat to where you want to go. All that matters is that behavior is corrected.

  • Captains don't ask for apologies from their crew. They only care about making things work in the ship. When someone fucks up, the Captain corrects what can be corrected, disciplines, and even, owns up himself because he delegated on someone that shouldn't have been entrusted with this important thing. But the captain never expects or cares for an apology, because this is giving his crew power over himself. A Captain's ego and authority cannot depend on what others say or don't say.

What is the point of an apology?

Apologies are for the Giver of the apology, not for the Receiver. The Giver fucked up, and they recognize that part of their responsibility is taking ownership of the consequences of their mistakes. So they apologize, owning up to their mistake, making amends, and proposing what they will do in the future so this doesn't repeat itself. Why? Because they want to get to the task at hand quickly, and admitting mistakes is the first step towards correcting them. That is all. Any more expectations is a secret contract, and manipulative.

Apologies are not for the Receiver. Even if the apology isn't accepted by the receiver, the giver already gained more self-respect and improved on his/her mistakes by just apologizing. The receiver gains nothing from the apology, unless the receiver has a fragile ego that depends on the apology to feel like he is better than the Giver.

How to apologize like a man?

You just say you made a mistake, say what you will do as reparation, and what you will do to not do it again. Period. You move on, work on concrete things, even if the receiver still feels resentment. You don't ask them to accept the apology. That is a hidden contract, a guilt debt. Resentment is their choice, accept it, plan how to deal with it, and stop worrying about it.

A man doesn't need other people's judgement to understand his mistakes. This process of owning up to our mistakes IS keeping frame and being a man. Having a fragile ego that won't accept mistakes is beta.

But also, don't apologize only because she wants to hear you apologize. That is her problem with her weak ego. Separate the problem of her ego from the problem at hand, and deal only with the problem at hand. True apologies should only come from your judgment of yourself, irrelevant of the judgment of others.

How to accept an apology like a man?

After I started doing all this, and stopped expecting apologies from my wife, she started to apologize. That was the most surprising thing of this process. So, now that you accept that you don't gain anything from her apologies, and you don't even expect them, how do you handle them gracefully when you start getting them?

This is what I've been doing lately. When she says she is sorry for what she did, I say "I appreciate you bringing this up. Now, what are you going to do about [concrete issue]?" First, I'm grateful to the apology, but show that the apology isn't the point. Concrete action on the important concrete issue is what matters. The problem wasn't that she should feel bad for fucking up, or she should apologize for hurting me. The only problem is that we must troubleshoot things to improve to get towards my goal. By doing this, I show that the apology isn't important to my ego, that there is no resentment, that my ego doesn't care. Also, I show this doesn't erase the mistakes and problems, that we must address them. If she doesn't change stuff towards that, then I will change stuff towards addressing the problem. Sometimes, this includes withdrawing responsibilities I had previously placed on her. Not because she is bad, not because I'm punishing her, but because I need this shit to get done, and this way isn't working.

Also, this lead to even more apologies from my wife, with less drama and fights. Why? Because she learned I don't need to 'prove' that she was wrong. I only care about getting the stuff that I need done, and as long as we figure out the best way towards that, we are good. Now it is easier for her to apologize because she doesn't have to fix up my hurt ego anymore. By focusing on getting to my goals, my goals became her goals.

What to do when she doesn't apologize?

Don't care about it, but do take action to solve the issue without her. Remember, the apology is only needed if your ego is hurt. The solution to a hurt ego is: work harder to having a strong frame such that she can't hurt your ego and stop needing apologies.

However, this doesn't mean ignore the problem. Assume that the problem will happen again because she didn't propose how to address it. And then, do everything in your power to make sure the problem doesn't happen again. This means withdrawing responsibility you had given her, and it might mean more work for you. Don't grow resentment only to hide you are a lazy fuck. Just do everything in your power to address the problem, and don't blame her for the problem. Blame the problem, and deal with the problem. This shows her she has no power over you, and that you are focused on the goal.

Sometimes these actions might upset her, because she prefered the old way where she had power over this stupid crap. Don't fall for the fight, stay focused on solving the problem. She fights, focus on concrete problem, and solving it. Own up to the new dynamics to cut through bullshit: "I understand you don't like this, but I need to fix [concrete problem], so this is what I will do about it." Sometimes I add: "Since you don't like it, what do you propose you want to do about [concrete problem]?" and often she actually owns up to her actions, or we have a concrete adult discussion about solving the problem. If she says what she thinks I should do, I just say again that I recognize she doesn't like what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing it because it is the way I can solve [concrete problem]. That if she doesn't like my solution, she has to propose what she can do to cooperate. I don't tell her how to change, I'm not asking her to change at all! But I'm open to her suggestions on how she can help me solve this problem. If your wife gets to this point, do negotiate. But don't negotiate to feel like you 'won', or to 'prove' she is wrong. Negotiate to solve the concrete problem; remember that problem is not your hurt ego.

Another way to put this is to never act as if she is the problem. Focus on the concrete problem yourself, and this is the most convincing way to make her become part of the solution to the problem. If she doesn't, you are demonstrating you don't need her! When she does offer to own up, then (intermittently) reward good behavior.


TL;DR Having resentment towards your wife because she isn't apologizing is losing frame and giving her power over you. Captains fix problems to get the ship where he needs it to go. Focus on problem solving, even if it means accepting you can't count on her for solving the problem. By doing this, it is more likely she will try to change to be part of the solution to the problem.

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