Apologizing when you don't actually think you did anything wrong is a tricky thing to pull off. If the apology doesn't sound sincere, it probably won't be accepted. The consequences to your marriage could be severe. However, the consequences of refusing to apologize when your husband really needs you to apologize, can be just as severe. The only way out of this trap is to find a way to be sincere and genuinely mean what you're saying.
Giving Up Power
When you apologize to someone, you give up some of your power in the relationship. According to a 2013 article in "Scientific American," Australian researcher Tyler Okimoto found that people who refused to apologize felt more powerful and less humiliated after a conflict than those who offered an apology. If you truly believe you didn't do anything you need to apologize for, you may be understandably reluctant to experience the potential humiliation of having to ask your husband for forgiveness. However, the purpose of an apology is to heal a wounded relationship, as Scientific American also notes, and apologizing offers benefits to both victims and offenders, because the person apologizing is offering his sincerity and vulnerability over his sense of pride. If you do prioritize your sense of being right over the health of your marriage, there will probably be consequences.
When your husband wants you to apologize for something minor, then giving him the apology is really just a way of sending a message that you value the relationship. If your husband knows that you value the relationship and that you care about how he feels, then your marriage is a lot more likely to thrive than if you stand your ground about every little thing. Married people should apologize frequently whether they feel they did anything wrong or not, states John Grohol, Psy.D., in "PsychCentral."
If your husband wants you to apologize for something he perceives as a major problem, avoid giving an insincere apology. If you tell him you're sorry that he's upset, it will sound like you're not taking responsibility for whatever he thinks you need to take responsibility for and he probably won't accept it. If you say you're truly sorry but you don't mean it, he will either see the insincerity and refuse to accept your apology or he will feel twice as angry and betrayed when you do the same thing again in the future.
Trust between two people is based on the perception of common ground. According to psychiatrist Aaron Lazare writing for "Psychology Today," the sincere apology restores the sense of shared values that makes trust possible. To apologize sincerely when you don't believe your actions were wrong, you have to find the common ground. Try to see the situation from your husband's perspective and understand why your actions shook his trust in you even though you didn't do anything objectively wrong. Explain that you saw the situation differently than he did, that you didn't realize the affect it would have on him and that you're sorry for the misunderstanding. Once he realizes that the problem was a difference of perspective rather than a lack of shared values, he should accept your apology.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.