The 3 Worst Things You Can Do When You’re Wrong

By Rich


Look. I’m going to try and break this to you gently. You and I both know that generally, you’re a good spouse. You usually pay attention to your partner’s needs. You are pretty good about keeping calm and even when your spouse does something that you wouldn’t do a lot of the time you remember that, hey, it’s not that big a deal. But more important than that, you do a good job (again, usually this is true!) of making your spouse feel loved and important, letting them know that you value their opinion and you consider them your friend and partner.

But this time, you were wrong. You messed up.

I’m not talking about “agree to disagree” moments. I’m maybe talking about how you let your temper get away with you, or how you said something you KNEW you shouldn’t say but you said it anyway because you felt justified. Maybe you made a decision without them that you knew inside was going to hurt their feelings, going to make them feel betrayed, but then you made the decision anyway. Whatever it was it was wrong.


There is some good news here, though! You recognized that you’re wrong. That’s a HUGE step in the right direction! I mean, think of all the times when you were wrong (or mean, or selfish, or hurtful) and you never even realized it! You’ve done some growing up and are doing a better job at paying attention to your spouses feelings and you’ve realized that you messed up. So, yeah, you’ve got that going for you.

But, I really hate to keep harping on this, as good as REALIZING that you’re wrong is, it’s not the same as not being wrong.

I’m going to assume you would prefer to NOT keep on being wrong. So for sure, you’re going to have to figure out how to be right! But until you can figure that out, you’re not out of the woods. It is VERY IMPORTANT for you to realize that if I know anything about being wrong it’s because I’ve been there. Over and over again. And I’ve done more wrong things WHILE being wrong all the time. But to help YOU get to where you can hopefully get back to being right faster than I can, I want to tell you the three worst things you can do when you really realize that you are, as I’ve said before, wrong.

The Three Worst Things You Can Do When You’re Wrong

1)    Keep being wrong.

A no-brainer, right? It seems easy on paper. But the state of realizing that you’re wrong is awful. It’s embarrassing. You’re a freaking adult so you should have known better, right? Worse than that, there are going to be consequences to your wrongness and making things right again is going to be painful. You want to avoid that pain, that shame. So it can be very tempting to follow that momentum and keep being wrong. But you have to find a way to stop. Stop being wrong.

If you can’t go through all of the steps to make it right, at least start here. If you can’t ask your spouse’s forgiveness yet, if you can’t repair the broken trust all at once, if you can’t undo the chain of events that led to your being wrong, do whatever you can to just stop being wrong now.

If your wife feels abandoned because you spend so many nights out with your friends, if your husband feels like you don’t appreciate how early he has to get up to get to work so he can get home before it’s too late to do something together, then there might be some things you need to work through. But try to find at least one behavior, an action, that you can stop doing. If you can’t get to the root of the problem all at once, then so be it. But start making things right by choosing to stop.

2) Justify being wrong.

“How am I supposed to just ‘stop’ being wrong?” you say. And it is a good question! Your relationship, like everything in life, doesn’t happen in a vacuum – our actions and choices are influenced by things as humdrum and innocuous as “how hungry am I right now?” or maybe as big and far reaching as, “I’m very concerned about the state of the world right now.” There are so many things that lead us to make the choices we make. But if you know that you’ve done something to hurt, belittle or damage your spouse and your relationship, you’re never really going to be able to let go of that behavior if in your deepest heart you think that you were right, that your spouse is overreacting and being unfair. You don’t get out of deep water by convincing yourself it wasn’t your fault you fell in.

Image by Jacob Walti
Some common justifications can be, “Well, look at all the GOOD things I’m doing!” or “I’m not cheating on them! I’m not physically abusive! There are a lot worse things I could be doing!” This is probably an overly extreme example here, but did you know that Adolf Hitler loved dogs? Loved ’em! So, yes, Hitler could have, hypothetically, done all the evil that he DID do and ALSO killed and abused dogs too. He could have been even worse! That does not make him good by any stretch of the imagination.

Saying that you’re not that bad because you could be worse is like trying to get out of a hole by pointing out that, hey, at least the hole isn’t filled with snakes! This accomplishes nothing and you stay in the hole. Don’t justify being wrong.

3) Point out all the things your spouse is wrong about.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Three wrongs don’t either. Or four. I think the jury is still out about five wrongs, but I’ll have to check on that.

Focusing on what your spouse might be wrong about is kind of like justifying your own wrong behavior, but is actually a lot worse AND a lot lazier. You could justify spending money or time on something for you without telling your spouse because you feel like you deserve it, darn it and you wanted it. It’s not a great justification, but at least it’s logical, on a primal level: Me animal. Animal want thing. Not care if make other animal cry when I get that thing.

But justification based on someone else’s unrelated bad behavior? It’s petty and mean. You might feel smugly justified complaining about your spouse’s faults in front of friends because at least YOU didn’t forget to pay the internet bill (again). But what does that have to do with your bad choices?

I really feel like one of the worst things you can do in your marriage is keep score. It’s inevitable that, at some point or another, one partner could be doing the lion’s share of keeping the relationship running. But giving and expecting to receive exactly 50% of the effort and no more is going to end in disaster as soon as one or both of you isn’t able to do their best. Thinking that it’s ok to keep being wrong because THEY have slipped up (or keeping a running tally of things they do wrong so that you can feel smug about mistakes you haven’t made YET but expect to) is just toxic. It takes a mistake they’ve made, one that hurts your marriage, and lets you take that mistake and use it to hurt your marriage too: twice the damage from the same mistake! Double the points!

So there are three of the worst things you can do when you’re wrong. How do you go about becoming right again? Totally depends. It could be as simple as apologizing and giving your spouse a long hug. It could be radically changing your life, your schedule, or giving something up that you never thought you could live without. But whatever it takes, doing the right thing when you’re wrong CAN help get you there!

Image by Ruxandra Mateiu
Let’s end this on the same upbeat note. You are on the right path. You know something needs to change. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it. I really, truly believe that people in relationships can change, can stop being wrong and make things right again. But you know what the really, REALLY good news is? Your spouse believes that you can do it too.

2 thoughts on “The 3 Worst Things You Can Do When You’re Wrong

  1. I feel like there is a reason that in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, it says that successful marriages are built on (among other things) repentance and forgiveness. If both people are mutually repenting and forgiving all the time, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t be happy together.
    Good post.

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