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.
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.
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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!