When’s the Best Time to Apologize? – Conflict and Marital Problems
“Never go to bed angry.” As a married couple, you’ve probably heard this age-old advice many times; it’s one of the most popular pieces of marriage advice.
Scientific studies have even shown that there may be some merit to this advice. When you are asleep, your brain is busy reorganizing your memories. This makes it much harder for you to suppress negative memories and causes hurt feelings to harden into resentment leading to marital problems.
However, this doesn’t mean that prompt apologies are always best. When you’re dealing with complex and highly emotional situations in marriage, an immediate apology can sometimes seem insincere and meaningless. And just like there are studies that make the case for prompt apologies, there are others that make the case for delayed apologies.
There are studies that have proven delayed apologies to be more satisfying. This is mainly because they give the “wronged party” a chance to express their concerns and allow both parties a chance to fully process their thoughts and feelings.
The Right Time to Apologize
The timing of an apology can make the difference between restoration and healing, and more hurt and marital problems. According to psychologists, the effectiveness of an apology is usually low immediately after the disagreement but it increases with time, up to a certain point. So, here are some guidelines to help you figure out the right time to apologize.
When you’re dealing with complex marriage problems, the right time to apologize is after your spouse has had a chance to voice their concerns. This way, your spouse won’t feel like you’re only apologizing to get out of trouble or “shut him/her up.”
It’s also important to give yourself enough time to understand why your partner is upset and process your own feelings. Otherwise, your apology will come across as inauthentic and patronizing. This is, however, not an excuse to push the issue to the back of your mind in the name of “processing.”
On the other hand, when you’re dealing with small mistakes, an immediate apology is more appropriate. For instance, if you forgot to do something that your spouse asked you to do, apologize immediately. Waiting to apologize in such as case will only cause your partner’s hurt feelings to fester and turn into resentment.
Keep in mind that one apology isn’t always enough when you’re trying to resolve marital problems. Sometimes, you need to apologize multiple times during the healing process. Therefore, if your first apology isn’t successful, try try again!