Apologize First; Apologize Often

I was originally going to write this post about what it means to really love someone unconditionally and sacrificially. But due to a recent (little) disagreement with Ian, I realized the post would have been written with a bitter heart. And that's neither fair to him, nor to anyone actually reading this post (although I don't believe many of you are exactly lining up to see what I post next).

Regardless, I had a rough morning with a million things going on in my head. Being half distracted all day with unimportant arguments (and because I was late to work so I had to skip breakfast), I took an early lunch. I drove to a little cafe about ten minutes away from my work, sat outside with a latte and some eggs, and I cleared my mind.

I thought about the bitterness in my heart. I thought about how he should be the one to apologize first because he is the one who hurt my feelings, and I did nothing wrong. That's when I realized I was being selfish. In our relationship, just like in every other relationship, feelings will get hurt. It just happens. But how you deal with those feelings creates either a positive or negative outcome. So, I had a simple revelation: apologize first and apologize often.

Ian plays this little game where he will keep count of the number or times I say "sorry" or "excuse me" in public for doing "nothing wrong." If I pass in front of somebody in an isle of Target or if my shopping cart gets in somebody's way, I apologize. That's just the way I am. I like to think of it as being polite. Don't get me wrong, he's not saying I should stop; he just thinks I'm always the person to apologize for "doing nothing wrong" when simply moving out of the way silently would have the same outcome. Again, it's just who I am.

And it's no different in relationships. Going back to our little bickering, I didn't do anything wrong. I was, essentially, the victim. But this isn't a prime-time news article; this is the man I love. And if apologizing for getting emotional helps diffuse the situation, is it not worth it? Chances are, in every fight a couple has, both parties do something wrong. One person may have "started it" or may "make it worse" by "not caring about" my feelings... But I'd be willing to bet the "innocent" party isn't making it any easier. Don't we all have a tendency to sit and pout until the other person comes crawling back to us apologizing? Or stomping our foot and reminding them how many other men out there would be perfectly willing to make us happy? I'm not asking you to raise your hand or post it on facebook, but simply to look inside your own heart. Even if the only thing you did wrong was loving them too much, it's never wrong to apologize.

So, back to the title of this post: apologize first. I'm not saying run around Target apologizing to the employee for asking a question about an item (although I am guilty of that one, too). But simply realize that a simple apology might be just the cure for that unimportant argument. Is it really worth the sprain in your relationship to hold a grudge? Ian and I are lucky enough to share the same faith. Whether you're Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, or Agnostic, whatever religion you may or may not be, I have found it very beneficial to share the same faith as my partner (I use that word to make it more applicable to every relationship; I am in no way insulting any type of relationship). That being said, we both have the same fundamental views of what it means (to us) to love sacrificially and unconditionally based on the example we are taught by God. Which, to me, means being the first to apologize.

If a simple "I'm sorry I got so emotional (or sad or angry or whatever it may be)" is enough to make him sigh and apologize for harsh words, do you both not win? I'm neither a fan of holding grudges nor do I like bringing up the past. If I say I forgive you, than I forgive you forever. There's no need to bring it up ever again.

Apologizing isn't about just saying words or buying flowers. It's about showing that person how insignificant the problem is and that your love trumps any disagreement. It's about humbling yourself and looking at the bigger picture. Trust me, after Ian hurts my feelings, the last thing I want to do is go apologize for being hurt. I mean, what? It's not MY fault he was mean. I need to stand up for myself. Right? Wrong. Again, never apologize for having feelings or  for allowing the person you love to hurt you. Instead, apologize for maybe over-reacting or not approaching him rationally about it. (Is yelling/crying really the best way to analyze and solve the problem? If yes, call a girlfriend and buy some ice cream and talk to your partner later).

Not apologizing doesn't mean you're strong; it means you're prideful. You think YOUR feelings mean more than your partner's feelings, and, therefore, you are superior. If you're in a relationship, you are never superior; you are equals. Never be afraid to humble yourself.

All that to say, never be afraid to share your feelings, either. Telling your partner that something they said hurt your feelings is completely normal, and chances are they will apologize for hurting you. But if it turns into an argument or if you're in the heat of the moment and hard feelings are shared, humble yourself. A simple "I'm sorry I over-reacted, but what you said really hurt me" can go a long way. But if you choose to go the "I'm just not going to talk to you until you grow up and learn to be nice, you prick" route, than you are being selfish, and selfishness cannot exist in a healthy relationship.

This was on my heart while I was drinking my (overpriced) latte. I'm not trying to say I'm perfect (because nobody is), but I'm trying to say I realized today the full potential of being the first to apologize, even when you don't think you did anything wrong. It may be easier for me than most people, because it's part of my personality. And it may not work for everybody. But humility and selflessness can go a long way in a relationship, and if you truly love someone, they're worth humbling yourself for.

(Disclaimer: if your relationship is legitimately falling apart due to abuse or cheating, please seek professional help.)


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