Thursday, October 15, 2009

"I apologize"... "now do you want to get it on?"

It’s funny; the things that you think you might struggle with when you first get married. For me, I thought it would be money. Duke was a tight wad, always paid his bills months before they were due (he was a bachelor for 10 years before we met). I grew up believing that debt was just a part of grown up life and that bills would always be there whether they were paid late or on time. I braced myself early for how I would handle the arguments, took on the bills right from the beginning so that I would have some control over where the money was spent. After our first month of married life, it was clear that this was not going to be our biggest obstacle by a long shot.

I remember our first argument. We had been married about 6 weeks. We had never had an argument in our short courtship and engagement, so this was definitely new territory for us.

He came home from work (we lived in a small apartment) and I had lost my job so I was depressed and wallowed in my sorrows most days. He walked in and asked why I hadn’t cleaned the house while he was a work. I was taken back to say the least. I explained that he made the mess just as I had, and we would both be doing the housecleaning. He then proceeded to play the “I am out making the money” card and I started to spontaneous combust all over that tiny apartment. How could he say that? How could he make me feel worse about the fact that I was trying to get a good job and hadn’t found one? We screamed, I locked myself in the bathroom, and he left. When he came back a few hours later, I was ready to talk about it, say I was sorry and make up. This is when I learned that this was not the way he had learned to handle disagreements.

He was a grudge holder and did not let things roll off his back. When he feels wronged, or his feelings are hurt, or even when he knows he is the one in the wrong, he climbs inside a hole and pouts. I remember going in to the bedroom to talk to him and he would not even speak to me. I told him I was sorry for getting angry, that I was over sensitive about not having employment and he just sat there watching T.V. like I wasn’t there. To me, this was worse than the original argument and a slap in the face! How can you truly love someone and not forgive them? Who wants to harbor feelings of ill will towards their spouse? I had always worked hard in my relationships with friends and family, to mend fences as soon as possible so that we could move on and not hold feelings of discontentment. This was the first time I had dealt with someone who would not do the same. I immediately thought this meant our marriage was doomed! He must not love me the way I love him.

Since then, we have worked through these differences and while neither of us completely changed the way we handle conflict, he has slowly changed his ability to go days with the punishing silent treatment, and he is now able to say I am sorry…sort of and sometimes.

We have talked about why he is the way he is, and he admits that this was the way he was raised. His family held grudges against each other and NEVER admitted they were wrong, even though they knew deep down that they were. He has extended family that, to this day haven’t spoken for 20 years and they don’t even remember what the original argument was over. My family was just the opposite. We were taught to “fake it until you make it” everything is fine even if it isn’t, just to keep the peace (this creates different problems and therefore, isn't perfect either).

For years, I would just say I was sorry, even though I knew I had done nothing wrong, just so we wouldn’t argue. After a few years of that, I had had enough and was ready for him to grow up a bit and take his licks like a man. I decided to play the game he had taught me, where I gave him the silent treatment until he finally gave in and asked what I wanted to do to fix the problem. At times he would even dare ask if I was ready to apologize! This would open dialogue for me to at least start to show him how much better it feels to forgive and forget. Sometimes, after an argument, I still actually walk him through an apology. It is like a painful thing for him to say the words “I am sorry.” I think it takes a bit of his soul every time he says it (or at least he acts like it does). I am also trying to show him that it is very easy to detect an empty apology, or just someone who is going through the motions in order to gain something (like sex for instance). This is a total no, no, and gets you nowhere.

We’ve been married over 16 years and while it certainly isn’t our only issue, it has been definitely one of our biggest hurdles in keeping our marriage happy and healthy.

Are you and your spouse different when it comes to how and when you like to “kiss and make up”? Or are you lucky enough not to have this as one of your ‘marital obstacles’?


Come see me at (Hiding from the Kids) where you will read first hand, our other bits of craziness and how we cope with them.


AW Cake! said...

I have to say that the hub and I don't have many arguments. When we do have a disagreement it's usually over within an hour or so. Neither one of us like 'that' feeling hanging in the air so we work things out pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

I had to learn the hard way about arguments. I was married to a man for 12 years that basically thought I was the devil and anything wrong that happened was my fault. He would pick fights with me and then give me the silent treatment because he felt I over reacted. There was a. lot. of screaming. Then there were the times that he would decide he wanted to teach me a lesson or something and torment me by following me around the house picking fights and putting me down until I had to literally beg him to leave me alone and lock myself in the bathroom crying (which he would pick the lock and it would start all over again). It never got better, it just escalated until I finally left him.

I finally found my best friend in my 2nd husband. We have our disagreements and even have and a couple of pretty heated arguments. After a disagreement, we usually just let the dust settle and take a breather, gather our thoughts and then we usually talk it out and we BOTH end up apologizing. It works for us.

OneZenMom said...

Great post!

We don't argue very often - in 13 years together, I can think of, maybe, 5 "big" arguments?

But, when we do end up in a knock-down, drag-out brawl (figuratively speaking) ... I am the one who almost always makes it worse.

In general, I'm very non-confrontational. I have a pretty slow fuse most of the time, but when I do lose my temper - I really lose my temper.

And I find it very very very hard to admit when I'm wrong. I will never do it in the heat of the argument. I need time and space to cool down.

The good news, though, is that - just as he does in so many other ways - The ZenHusband balances me out. It takes a lot to get him riled and he calms down quickly after.

And he's learned to give me that time and space I need to cool down - which is part of the reason we don't actually get into those big fights much.

But, you're right, Chief, that we don't all learn to deal with anger and conflict the same way. And, when you're married, you have to learn to deal with the other person's "style". And vice-versa. Sadly, it's a trick some couples never learn.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Wow, I did a whole post on arguing also. You and hubs sound a lot like me and my guy!

I can't hold a grudge to save my life! I have tried believe me, but it just isn't in the genetic make up!

My husband does the silent treatment when he's mad, brushes me off, looks defeated...its horrible and I hate it because I'm over it like 5 minutes later!

We have gotten so much better at talking it out, probably because I'm over bearing and he just does it to get some peace! Lol!

Great great post Chief!

Anjeny said...

I don't like to admit it but I'm usually the one who hold grudges. It's one of the biggest nuisance about me that I'm working really hard to deal with.

My hubby and I don't fight as much as we used to but usually when we fight, he's the first one to apologize. I usually needed a few hours to a day depending on what we were arguing about or how heated the arguments were for me to get over it...I usually use that time for reflection.

I don't know what wrong with me though, the older I get, the more quick to anger I get so hubby's learned to just back off if he can tell we are approaching an argument. Like I said, this is something I am trying really hard to get rid of.

Anonymous said...

Well we seldom argue. She does get her feelings hurt or take things I say personally so I am careful what I say so she doesn't get in z funk. Both times I was wrong I said I was sorry.

H.K. said...

I was a big time grudge holder and the hubby was always the one quick to say sorry even when most of the time it wasn't his fault. I used to get easily offended.

Now, I say sorry when it's my fault even when I don't feel like it and that's a big improvement!

Now when we have a disagreement it lasts for a very short time and we both let it roll off our backs. I think I've come a long way!

Just Jules said...

I tend to hold my tongue. If I say something, if I raise my voice he knows I mean business and need to be taken serious. Nothing worse then a woman who b*tches all the time and gets ignored because ALL she does is complain. I don't want to be her.

Issues are raised, I do not suffer. But I do pick my battles. A lot of things work themselves out in time, or with mild suggestions.

Of course my hubby isn't around all that often either ;) heheheeee!

Just Jules said...

ok, now come play along on my blog. it is getting lonely over there.

Chief said...

I'm late...I know! Been on Nyquil for a few days and I have lost track of time!

The Wixom Zoo - You are so lucky! While we don't argue much, it does tend to be a struggle to iron things out when we do.

Zen - You sound like you are my husband a bit. He is pretty even tempered but then he explodes and needs time to work it out. I am grateful we have figured out how to work on making our discussions more constructive.

Shelle - Sorry I'm late...just got to whee I could read the laptop screen. I can't hold a grudge wither, even when I should. I guess it is a good thing really, but I don't want to be a doormat.

Anjeny - At least he has figured out how to read your mood before it goes over the top. I actually think that is the role he was meant to play, (if he's like me anyway)

Sage - heh. sounds exactly like Duke

H.K. Did you ever feel irritated that he would say he was sorry even when he did nothing wrong...or did you just assume it was never your fault.

Jules - I think it takes years to get to the point where we can hold our tongue and choose our battles. I will not back down from a fight if I know I am right though. It drives him nuts!

Cajoh said...

I tend to be the one who apologizes and sometimes my wife doesn't believe my sincerity— so it feels like she will never accept my apology. It's moments like this that any argument turns out worse than it began.

I know that many of our arguments are not arguments at all, but rather our feeling hurt or frustrated at something or somebody— and our spouse is in the wrong place at the wrong time. I will need to be more sensitive to those times so that I can offer friendship rather than friction.

Lee said...

I get pissed and even by posting an I'm through post on my blog and he pretends like nothing happened.

Unknown said...

We don't have very many arguments, but when we do I'm the one that holds the grudge and gives the silent treatment. My hun tries to lecture me!!

LeShel said...

came to visit you over here because you ROCK!! The hubby and I don't really fight. I think we're too tired. We do sometimes agree to disagree and we definitely have different opinions. Knock downs rarely. The kids gang up on us so we try to gang up on them (in a good way of course).
Like this blog, think I'll stop by again.

CB said...

I can totally remember some HUGE whopper fights when we were younger - we both tend to be stubborn. The only thing that comes from whopper fights is great make-up sex but that is a whole other topic! hee hee
After 29 years together we have learned alot and rarely fight or argue. If we disagree it is over very fast.
I think like anything else in marraige it is a learning thing and takes some time.
If you really love someone you stick with it and figure it out - Sounds like you and your hubby have Chief! Good job and wonderful topic and post!

Shell said...

I think it took almost 4 years into our marriage for Hubs to utter the words "I'm sorry." I could probably count the number of times he has said it since, but at least it's getting better.

Mae Rae said...

I grew up in a house of 8 men and 2 females (my mother and I). I was taught to scream it out and get it off your chest. Once you do you can go on with your day and not let it fester. My husband learned quickly that that was the way it worked and usually is very good about the disagreements we have. Lately, he seems stressed and is holding things in that he doesn't want to talk about. I guess different situations require different methods.

Meeko Fabulous said...

That makes me a tad upset for you Chief. It's a tad emotionally insensitive on his part. The "that's how I was raised" excuse is only going to get old each time it's used. Why not break the cycle? I know marriage has it's ups and downs and I'm sure the good outweigh the bad. Oh I'll just shut up now.

briana said...

my brady is always quick to apologize and forgive and forget.

i on the other hand have to sort things out. most of the time i am quiet and just want to be left alone with my anger and frustration. although deep down i am always sorry, saying the words had always been hard for me.

for years this was a challenge in our marriage until one day brady told me that there were 3 words that he had never heard his dad say. immediately i was sure those words were i. love. you. instead i learned that they were the words i. am. sorry.

never having heard those words one might think it would be him who struggled with apologies. instead, it was me. he had decided that those words would be apart of his everyday language. it changed my perspective. i had grown up in a home where everyone apologized including my parents. knowing this piece of his life experience helped me to find the courage to apologize first.

so although it is still difficult for me, i decided that i needed to change. i needed to not only say i was sorry...but to sometimes be the one to say it first.

April said...

My ex-husband would NEVER apologize for anything. Neither does my mom. Even when she knows that she is wrong, she will try to find SOMETHING, even if it's not related, that you did wrong to (in her mind) negate her wrong so she doesn't have to apologize. How my stepdad has put up with that for 20 something years is beyond me.

Tracie said...

We don't fight anymore. I just bite my tongue till it bleeds. And of course, I never do anything wrong to apologize for.

Liz Mays said...

My husband holds a grudge and pouts just like that! He can ruin the whole day. I may get mad about something but I'll shake it off pretty quickly. He can't.

Heather of the EO said...

Oh, we never fight.

(pffft, that was a big joke)

It's so tough to navigate this whole communication thing. Loving a person just the way they are, well...that's no small thing.

(that's a quote from a song by Sara Groves)

I love that song.

Because it's SO true, while it's so simple.

Loved your post, lady.

Jules AF said...

I need to learn how to not hold grudges. I'm terrible at it.

supahmommy- somethin's wrong with that girl said...

ewww chief .. you've been holding out.

see this is our problem.. we are funny.
it's your whole serious sunday drama-

we need to write more like this

always supporting.. even if you're desorting.
( deserting.. but it rhymed)
and i laughed out loud at ... TAKES A PIECE OF HIS SOUL..

i am the grudge holder .

CountessLaurie said...

Hi Chief! Nice post!!

I come from a family of grudge holders ... generations and generations of them. I am trying desperately to break the mold now in my later years.

Hub is quick to let it go though. We work well that way. He knows he is in trouble if I go mad for more than a day...

Hate it, but I am far far far away from perfect and I am trying...