Lose Your But

Brad says…

“I’m sorry” are two of the most difficult words in the English language. In the list of husband’s favorite activities, saying “I’m sorry” ranks at the bottom right below handing over the TV remote, and watching Lifetime (which somehow seem to go together). “I’m sorry” is such a difficult thing to say that most men, when they do eventually decided they need to utter the dreaded words put their but right in the middle of it. No, not their butt, their but!

  • I’m sorry that I said that but when you didn’t …
  • I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings but I was angry that you didn’t respect me by…
  • I’m sorry but it’s your fault.

Weak or Strong? Right or Wrong?

Men immediately equate apology with weakness. We picture a servant bowing before the queen, groveling for her humble forgiveness. When we think of apology we automatically think of a winner and, more importantly, a looser. i am sorry leter being written in calligraphy on parchment

It is these images that keep us from apologizing rather than a belief that we didn’t do anything wrong. Most times in an argument I can quickly see the things that I should have done or said, but I don’t want to apologize because I don’t want to look weak and I don’t want to say that I was the one who was wrong.

I think that if I apologize but she doesn’t, then I’ve admitted that I was wrong, I’ve lost the argument a given up my point of view.

Apology 101

It would be very difficult to have an argument where both participants don’t need to apologize for at least something. Let me say that again, because when you read that the first time you immediately thought, “oh ya that’s right let me go show that to my wife.” In almost every argument there is something YOU need to apologize for.

The trick is identifying the thing that you did or said wrong, or the thing that you didn’t say, do, or notice. Once you can identify this, something you can own, ask yourself, “Do I mean that?” or “Did what I say hurt when I didn’t want it to?” If the answer is yes you have something to apologize for without taking responsibility for the whole.

Example: “I’m sorry what I said hurt your feelings, that wasn’t my intention” or “I’m sorry that I said ___, I really shouldn’t have and I’m sorry.”

The goal is to express an honest apology without having to change or give up your argument. You are apologizing for a specific unkindness, mistake, or action; not for the whole thing. Just saying “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault” is a cop-out and not an authentic apology.

Get the But Out

As you are forming these great words of apology make sure that you don’t use them as a sword. No one wants a double-edged apology. “I’m sorry but you did ___” negates your apology and puts the blame for the action back on your wife. That isn’t fair, and isn’t right. You are responsible for your own actions. No matter what she did, she did not cause you to do anything. So drop the but, and man up with a real apology.

Practice Makes Perfect

I’m not saying this is an easy skill to master. It will take lots of practice. Fortunately, I mess up a lot, so if you are anything like me you will have lots of time to practice. As you get better you might be able to change the nature of your arguments. Make the winner the person who apologizes first!

Men who apologize: how do you manage to say an apology and feel “manly”?
Men who don’t apologize: why not? What stops you?
Let us know in the comments!

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8 Responses to Lose Your But

  1. I am not very good at this in the heat of the moment when I am fired up and emotions are high. It always happens when I get hung up on what my wife is or isn’t doing. Oddly enough, when I only worry about my actions and behavior, I can leave the “but” out pretty easily.

    Unfortunately, I get fired up way too often for my own good.

  2. I have discovered that the more I focus on loving and serving my wife the less I “need” to be “right” about something. When a situation does come up I genuinely try to respond by listening instead of defending myself (not always easy as my pride can feel like it is getting pretty beat up…but then again pride is a sin. Regardless of the situation I find something genuinely to apologize for. Not to “win” at apologizing, but because I am not perfect and there is usually a valid reason for my wife feeling hurt/unloved/frustrated/etc. I made a vow to love, honor, cherish and place her above all others in front of God, her, our family and all our friends (no, I am not an idealistic newlywed) and this is where those vows play out – in the nitty gritty of everyday life. I have also found that the less I try to prove how right I am/wrong she is, the safer she feels. And when she isn’t spending all her emotional energy defending herself, she is free to spend that energy showing me how much she loves and respects me…and that usually lands us in the bedroom. I look at it as I can choose to prove how right I am, or I can choose to create a space for intimacy in our hearts and in our lives.

  3. This is awesome, Brad. Recently caught myself with a “but” excuse in an apology to a daughter. I can see that when I do that with my kids, they also do that and it basically says, I have an good excuse to do that. I removed the “but” and just said I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that. Got a great response!

  4. “But” is a conversation killer. Or in the case of this post, an apology killer. It negates everything that was said before it.
    I also don’t like it when people apologize but in a round about way still make it your fault. “I’m sorry you got upset” or “I’m sorry you were hurt by that.”
    Learning the art of apology is hard but if we want our marriages to succeed we have to get better at it.
    Great post!

  5. I don’t think I equate apologies with weakness. I equate them with wrongness, which I guess is close enough. Maybe I’m the classic stereotypical guy who never thinks he’s wrong. Or at least I seem to be in my wife’s eyes. I don’t think I am, but I generally refuse to apologize for something I don’t regret. In my mind, I allow myself to be weak by not continuing to argue my side. And I’ll endure that weakness to keep from demanding my rights. But I don’t want to add wrongs to my “permanent record” by apologizing for them when I didn’t do anything wrong. My wife has told me it doesn’t matter if I did anything wrong, that saying I’m sorry is just what she needs to hear so she can move on. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like it, but I’ve been conscious of it and attempting to try it. But it’s not routine for me.

    Regarding “buts,” that’s never been a problem for me. I hear “but” and everything said in front of that gets negated, and at that point you just wasted your breath apologizing. If I don’t like being treated that way, I try not to treat others that way. (Which, in my mind tells me why I so rarely feel the need to apologize; because I’ve just treated you exactly how I’d like to be treated.)

  6. Heh. It took me a while to understand that treating my husband as I’d like to be treated could indeed create the need to apologize. As an example, there was a time when I had taken on an extra project, which would have me basically unavailable for 3 days. I ran around beforehand making sure there were groceries in the fridge and laundry put away, because that’s what I would have wanted in that circumstance. But hubby was hurt — “you’re going away and you have filled the time beforehand with everything except ME! I can do all this other stuff, but I can’t be with you unless you stop racing around!” We had a good talk about that, and I did manage to say “I’m sorry” without adding the but about how I was doing all this stuff to TAKE CARE of him.

  7. I find this post just as useful to us wives. I seem to be the one that needs to do the most apologizing in our marriage. My only disagreement was the apology worded “I’m sorry what I said hurt your feelings, that wasn’t my intention.” It’s worded better than the “I’m sorry that you got upset,” but it still has the feel that it’s the fault of the person being apologized to. “I’m sorry that I hurt you when I said …” seems to take responsibility. Whether you add the “I didn’t mean to” would depend on your intention at the time.
    Your post made me realize that I had just given my husband one of those “but” apologies earlier this week. I need to fix that when he gets home. Thanks for your help!