#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
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
Hi Husband: There's a pony here somewhere; you're lucky to have a partner who doesn't have to address his/her addiction to automatically apologizing for most everything. Most people are unconscious apology machines. An apology guarantees (yes guarantees) that the person will do it again.* An apology is an acknowledgment of wrong-doing. It's 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 biggie, the implied, "It has absolutely nothing to do with anything else; it's definitely not about my integrity or me paying me, or you, back for something."
All results, even those that appear to be undesirable, are absolutely essential to one's growth, to one's awakening. It doesn’t make sense to apologize for the wisdom it takes to produce a result. "Accidents" such as you describe are opportunities to wake up, to restore your integrity; those incidents that are communicated 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.
You're looking at 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 stuck in talking. With "talking" a problem (including covert sabotage) persists. The next curriculum is communication. With "communication" problems disappear. BTW: I know of no school/college/academy that teaches communication through to skill/mastery.
Re: "Not once in all those 23 years have I ever received an apology from her." A responsible (non blaming) statement would read: "Not once in all those 23 years have I ever insisted upon an apology from her."
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? I suspect the source of your problem is karma from an earlier similar relationship, perhaps even 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 you for a lifetime of abuses (most likely all non-verbal) to others.
What you're looking for is acknowledgement. i.e. "I get that that didn't feel good," "I get that that was abusive," "I get that I just blamed you," "Thank you for doing the dishes," etc. When acknowledgment is not forthcoming, voluntarily, then you must ask for it. "Thank me for mowing the lawn," "Do you get that that 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.
In Shakespeare's time it was common for one, perhaps after being hit by a shuttlecock, to say, "Apologies." When delivered responsibly, from the point of view of cause, it communicates, "There's an apology in the space between us—mine to you and yours to me . . . I'll start the process." This clues the other to communicate their acknowledgment of being cause for the real/imagined perpetration. i.e. I get that I'm cause for being hit, now you let me know that you had an undesirable effect. Then, as now, it works to play with those who communicate responsibly. If one doesn't accept your reminder to complete the incident then don't play with them any more until they verbally acknowledge this specific incomplete. Once you make a decision to be alone rather than set it up be a victim of abuse and condescension you will begin to attract considerate, responsible, polite friends—else, you become cause for all future abuses.
In The Clearing House are four free processes for anyone intent on mastering communication. I recommend you read about them and see if one of the processes speaks to you. If not, then do The [free] Clearing Process and then invite your partner to do it; then you both could do the free Clearing Process for Couples If you sense (or know) she wouldn't accept your invitation then the relationship is all over but the drama. Experience tells me that you have unconsciously been 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 chose a therapist whom you could con so as to ensure the therapy didn't work. Thanks for reaching out for support. —Gabby
PS: Please show her this letter.
* Another pitfall with the apology game is that the "victim" (the one who sets it up to be abused) manipulates the other to apologize and thereafter holds it over the other for life; the victim becomes the beneficent "good" guy who appears to not need an equal amount of therapy.
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(last edited 12/18/17)