Apologies and Healing after Marriage Breakdown

 

Dina Haddad

From a November 2010 mediate.com article by Dina Haddad:

During the divorce, you process a variety of thoughts and emotions in attempt to understand what lead to the dissolution of your marriage. You conclude that some of these failures were your spouse’s fault and others were yours. Many were a result of both you and your ex-spouse. You may struggle with the shame and guilt you experience for the affair you had or the misuse of your family’s money. You may feel guilty that your marriage failed. You may have even come to terms that this guilt is not going to disappear when the divorce process is over. You are haunted by the thought of having on-going contact with your ex-spouse and you can’t imagine co-parenting for the next ten years in any healthy way or being at your children’s celebrations with your ex-spouse in the years to come. [1] Internal factors, such as shame, guilt or empathy, may motivate a person to apologize as well as external factors, such as restoring a damaged relationship.

These are heavy and weighty issues many divorcees feel. A meaningful and complete apology, however, has the power to heal, relieve you of the humiliations and grudges, and help you establish a more healthy future relationship with your ex-spouse. [2] An apology can take you from desiring revenge to a place of acceptance. It has the power to make your situation better and reduce the anger and resentment your ex-spouse has towards you and you have against your ex-spouse.

But even for what is undoubtedly our own fault, most of us find it very hard to apologize. It’s hard to admit we were wrong to anyone, especially to an ex-spouse. We worry that if we did apologize, we would feel weak and our spouse would feel superior to us. [3] In fact, there is no guarantee that once we put ourselves at the mercy of our spouse that we will be forgiven. If our spouse does not forgive us, would it only result in injury to our pride and self-esteem?

[…]

An apology, however, can prevent this antagonistic behavior[4] and heal the damaged relationship between you and your spouse. Apologies heal because they satisfy at least one – and sometimes several – distinct psychological needs of the offended party. Those needs are: restoration of self-respect and dignity, assurance that you and your ex-spouse still have shared values, and your ex-spouse’s assurance that the offense you are apologizing for was not his or her fault. [5]

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