I asked my lovely and beloved wife, Rebecca, for an apology this morning for something kinda hurtful she blurted out in haste to me during a minor misunderstanding we had—and after I had blurted out something kinda hurtful to her. And also after I had apologized for my mistaken kinda hurtful comment caused by our misunderstanding.
My apology was direct, clear and stated multiple times in multiple ways with slightly different wording to make clear my apology was for what I had said and that it was beyond dispute I was at fault.
It felt good to clean up my side of the street in the same way it must feel when, say, a teenager gets caught dining and dashing and the owner of the restaurant catches him and wants to teach him a lesson by beating him up and making him wash dishes for 8 hours straight for the grilled cheese sandwich and soda he dined and dashed on and then making him apologize after calling the cops and his parents and then beats him up again and leaves him outside the locked restaurant door in the cold and windy rain without a jacket. But the young man feels “whole” again. Like he’d paid penance for his wrong. I had that “whole” feeling too, conscience-wise. That’s the main point of this analogy. The rest are just ancillary similarities that aren’t as important.
So after I had finished my penance, I asked Rebecca for a reciprocal apology and to my delight it came almost immediately, rolling off her lips like someone hungry to have that “whole” feeling, penance-wise, I just described. Rebecca lovingly, patiently and methodically explained, “I am sorry, too, if what I said made you feel bad.” I liked it at first but then thought about it and if started to feel like it was my fault and that what Rebecca blurted out to me was actually very reasonable and it was really something defective in me that caused the comment to bother me at all….and that it wouldn’t have bothered a more reasonable person. (Rebecca basically called me “imprudent” although I am paraphrasing).
After I said, “Thank you,” for the “apology” I began to realize that my “thank you” only reinforced the imprudent reference. So I asked Rebecca for an elaboration to her apology—and quickly got it.
Rebecca clarified that she was sorry also if the tone of her comment made me feel bad.
Phew! This was definitely a big improvement. I think.
So it really wasn’t all my fault —although it still felt like it—and there was more at play than me merely reacting unreasonably. Rebecca ceded that there was a “tone” problem on her side. I liked that. Nothing else to apologize for, mind you.
I then made the mistake of asking “Except for the tone part and my feeling bad part, was there anything else you regretted that you’d like to articulate to me now?” (I’m paraphrasing). I was relieved to find there was. Rebecca, understandingly getting a little exasperated by now with attempts to squeeze more and more of an apology to me out of, conceded that the “timing” of the imprudent comment was probably unfortunate given that I was writing an important email and could have waited until I was finished.
Well now THAT was really all I was looking for! And now I felt fully reconciled and understood.
I think, anyway.
Look, let’s just net this thing out. Sure, I had one simple apology (with multiple recitations….but once you say it it gets easier each time).
And by contrast, if you are keeping score at home, I got not one but three—that’s right THREE (3)!!—apologies in return.
Clearly, I was able to extract more apology-wise than Rebecca got from me.
And here’s the beauty part. I didn’t even have to mention I had screwed up on my comment on the tone, timing and how it made Rebecca feel! Totally off-the hook on that.
In the world of chess, gentlemen, I believe we call that “Game, set, and match,” right? No, wait. That’s tennis. I mean, gentlemen, in the chess world they call that “Checkmate!”, right? Or maybe they say “King me!” I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, the point is, I’m pretty sure I carried the male flag shrewdly and impressively today in this face-off for apologies between the sexes.
And if I didn’t, gentlemen, I apologize for blowing it. And for the tone, timing and way this entire post made you rightfully feel.
The sexes apologies and dentistry
1) A man apologizing to a woman is about as painful, as difficult and carries the same resistance as agreeing to have a cavity filled in a decaying tooth.
2) For a woman apologizing to a man is about as painful, as difficult, and carries the same resistance as agreeing to have a tooth extracted that arguably shouldn’t be.
Note: Filling cavities occurs much more frequently than tooth extractions. And cavities, over time, often need re-filling. An extracted tooth, on the other hand, is a one-time event. And often, over time, gets replaced with a shiny new implant.