#118 Wife never apologizes / Have I been masterminding a divorce?


DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been married for 23 years. Not once in all those 23 years have I ever received an apology from her. She spilled mustard on my shin while she was reaching across a table. It was my fault for not handing her a napkin she was reaching for.

While we were playing racquetball she drilled me in the back with the ball and left a huge and painful welt. Again, nothing. She charged $4,000 on a credit card and didn't tell me. She said it was "my fault" - she was "getting back at me" for spending too much time at work.

After talking and counseling I still received no apology. I'm not perfect, and we have other issues in the marriage, but I am at a loss as to why she won't apologize for anything—even injuring me in an accident.

She spins every argument so she can win. Why won't my wife say "I'm sorry"? —HARASSED HUSBAND IN IDAHO

Abby's Reply:

DEAR HUSBAND: I strongly suspect it's because she isn't sorry. What she is is angry and has a need to punish you. The safest way to do that for her is through an "accident." More than needing an answer from me, what you need is insight from a licensed psychotherapist to help you understand not only why your wife acts out the way she does - but also why you would continue to tolerate it for 23 years. —Abby

Gabby's Reply:

 [ top ]

  Gabby's Reply:

Hi Husband: There's a pony here somewhere; most people are unconscious apology-machines.

Eliciting/accepting an apology from someone guarantees (yes guarantees) that they will do the objectional behavior again.*

An apology is an acknowledgment of wrong-doing. It invalidates the genius (of both the "victim" and the "perpetrator"), the intentions of both to manifest the result. In other words, the genius in you has created this problem to support you in having the kind of relationship you say you want. Her genius was to have found a partner whom she could abuse so as to eventually learn how to not abuse. As the leader, the ball is now in your court (pun intended).

An apology is an unconscious affirmation. Among other things, it communicates, "I'm sorry," [as in], "I'm a sorry person," "I'm worthless," "Stupid me," "There I go again," "I can't help it, it's just me," and the covert lying denial, "If I hurt your feelings I didn't mean it." Or worse, "It wasn't my intention to do it," which reveals an unconscious lie and ignorance about intention.  And the biggie, the implied, "It has absolutely nothing to do with anything else; it's definitely not about my integrity or me paying you/me back for . . ." 

One is not born accident prone. An accident is the mind's way of waking us up to an incomplete, an earlier incident, often the very first "accident" in which the mind unconsciously made itself wrong—instead of just getting it. The cause of the first such accident was not acknowledged. For example: If one had lied, or talked back to a parent, or some other perpetration, it's possible that the accident was a reminder to complete, to acknowledge, the perpetration. In other words, unacknowledged perpetrations occupy space in the mind. Such incompletes get in the way of coordination, awareness, comprehension, and creativity.  Often a parent will admonish (verbally punish) a child for an accident. "Nice going clutz." "Be careful" is the standard mantra. Tight rope walkers are not careful. They just walk.**

The time it usually takes an apology-addict to apologize (the number of seconds/minutes) is the time a conscious person, one committed to being whole and complete, uses to look and see what the incident was about, to (recall) locate the source of the incident, the very first time they did it. It's always about an incomplete, an out-integrity—usually a childhood incident. Once they recall the "first" they can verbally acknowledge and complete the first incident and thereby not be automatically driven to repeat the undesirable behavior. Sometimes the mind makes a decision; it affirms, "I must be clumsy" —and so it lives life to be right about clumsiness. "I am and always will be clumsy. It's just me." This has the same power as a positive affirmation.

An apology not only doesn't address the source of the behavior, it's an unconscious automatic (programmed) smokescreen to hide the truth, a thought being withheld. It always reveals that there is a breakdown in communication.

There are no "accidents." What we call an accident is us unconsciously reminding ourselves that our integrity is out.***

All results, even those that appear to be undesirable, are absolutely essential to ones growth, to ones awakening.  It doesn't make sense to apologize for the wisdom behind a result. "Accidents" such as you describe are opportunities for you to wake up, to restore your integrity; those incidents that are communicated responsibly (without blame) through to mutual satisfaction, are complete. Results, such as the "ball" incident, that are not cleaned up through to mutual satisfaction, are referred to as incompletes

In other words, part of your awakening is to have set it up for her to hit you. Instead of an apology, you must be willing to extract an acknowledgement from her for each (conscious/unconscious) abuse. i.e. "That hurt. I'd like to hear you say that you know it didn't feel good to me."

For example:

She might reply: "I didn't mean it."

You: "Yes, I get that you didn't mean it. I'd like to hear you say, 'I know that it didn't feel good.'" If she gets angry at your insistence you'll know you're addressing an incomplete; the anger is really about getting caught for an incomplete.

The conversations resulting from your request will reveal the truth, specific withholds between you, as to source of the anger.

You're confronting the effects of your unconscious addictions to withholding, to being incomplete, to blaming, and to making her wrong. These are patterns you brought into the relationship. Not to worry, your integrity will set it up for the "accidents" to escalate so that you'll have to address your addictions. You have been more committed to being right, that she won't apologize, than you have been to being whole and complete after each interaction. You have in fact been accumulating make-wrongs, you've become stuck doing your imitation of communication; it's called talking. With talking a problem (including covert sabotage) persists; whereas when communication takes place problems are resolved/disappeared.

The next curriculum for you is communication. With communication problems disappear.

BTW: I know of no school/college that teaches communication through to skill/mastery.

To begin the communication mastery curriculum you must be willing to be supported in communicating responsibly, from cause, from how you create (unconsciously intend) her to thwart you. What must you have done to deserve such anger? It's possible that the source of your problem is karma (the consequences) from an earlier similar relationship, most likely between you and your parents. Who in your life would say that you abused them and that you've yet to acknowledge it, to yourself or them? It could be said that you are punishing yourself for a lifetime of abuses (possibly all non-verbal) to others.

What you're looking for, instead of an apology, is an acknowledgement. Some examples: "I get that that didn't feel good," "I get that that was abusive," "I get that I just blamed you," "Thank you for washing the car," etc. When an acknowledgement is not forthcoming voluntarily then you must ask for it. i.e. "Thank me for washing the car." "Do you get that that ball hurt?" But, I'm assuming that a simple, "yes" would not satisfy you because you intuit that each incomplete is really a covert communication about something else, and, you're right. She too has accumulated a lifetime of withholds, of make-wrongs. She mirrors your leadership-communication skills. What you left out of your description of what "happened" is your responsibility (your cause in the matter), how you've been unconsciously setting it up for her to do it to you. With spouse abuse, there are no victims or bullies, only co-conspirators blaming each other.

In The Clearing House are four free processes for anyone intent on communication-relationship mastery. I recommend that you do The Clearing Process, and then, invite your wife to do the same process. Then you both could do Clearing Process for Couples; if you sense she wouldn't do the process at your invitation then the relationship is all over but the drama.

Experience tells me that you have been unconsciously masterminding a divorce, setting it up for her to abuse you so as to have a good reason to divorce her. Notice that you unconsciously (but brilliantly) chose a counselor whom you could con so as to ensure that the therapy didn't work. i.e. You didn't begin the session with, "Something about the way I communicate with my wife often causes her to accidentally hit me or to blame me."

Thanks for reaching out for support. —Gabby

PS: Please show her this letter.

PPS: Forensics has revealed that Humpty Dumpty didn't fall; he was "accidentally" helped off the wall by his wife's racquetball—she was angry about something . . .

* Another pitfall with the apology-game is that the "victim," (in this case you), the one who sets it up to be abused, usually manipulates the other to apologize and thereafter lords it over them—for life; the victim becomes the beneficent "good" guy who appears to not need an equal amount of therapy. All recidivists (those who return to prison) apologized for the perpetration for which they were incarcerated, however, virtually none were acknowledged for earlier perpetrations for which they have yet to be acknowledged, ergo, they set up life to be acknowledged (caught) for their earlier perpetrations.  Read Parole, The First 24-hours.

** A child will start to walk on top of a narrow wall. The parent will yell, "Be careful! Don't fall!" The child's natural balancing system had been on automatic, not thinking, believing, or knowing it was dangerous. After the well-meant warning they start to be careful and then start to walk less assuredly. For many children such an  admonishment is the beginning of being careful—of not developing their natural athletic/coordination abilities. When possible create space for a child to fall/fail.

*** Wounded veterans who have participated in a clearing process are able to recall what was going on in their mind/life seconds/days before the incident. Most were dragging around an incomplete. An incomplete saps ones awareness, it serves as a barrier to being-here-now, (in present time) to being conscious, to manifesting ones stated intentions. Note: All vets who have elicited a diagnosis of PTSD are withholding one or more significant thoughts from someone of significance (there are no exceptions to this phenomenon). Read: PTST—a breakdown in communication.

Update: Readers, before posting feedback/comments, please read a definition of the word responsibility.

When posting a comment it helps readers if you quote the specific sentence with which you disagree, rather than a blanket, "this sucks," or name-calling, "Gabbysucks." You'll notice that except for blatantly abusive comments most feedback is accepted and posted for all to get value from. When one trash-talks another it reveals more about the trasher.

It's understood that Gabby's reply will trigger upset for those who are stuck blaming someone for an incomplete, a breakdown in communication, with another. One way to begin completing an incomplete (so that another's words about a topic don't upset you) is to write the words, "I experienced upset when I read [quote the specific sentence that triggered the upset]." —in this way you communicate responsibly the source of your upset rather than blame Gabby. —Gabby

Use this Comment form for comments/feedback.

Comment Box is loading comments...

To ask a question please go to Dear Gabby's Message Board (free - registration required).

Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 11/25/17)

[ top ]

If you liked this letter please press the "I like" voting button. Upon pressing the button you'll be taken directly to the index of New Letters.

Return to the index of New Letters