SUMMARY: Mark Jones of Life Tree Counseling discusses how to apologize in your marriage with Kathleen Mills and Phillip Crum.
Episode #34 | Mark Jones talks about apologizing in your marriage
Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Mark Jones-Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum: It’s time for another edition of It’s Just Coffee with Kathleen Mills. And there she is, right over there.
Kathleen Mills: Hi, Phillip. How are you?
PC: I’m just wonderful. I’m even better now because caffeine has kicked in and Mark Jones is in the house.
KM: Woo hoo!
Mark Jones: It’s good to be here.
KM: Hi, Mark.
MJ: Hi, Kathleen.
KM: How are you?
MJ: I’m well.
KM: You know, we were just talking about Podcast Movement 2014 is just –
PC: Come and gone.
KM: – come and gone.
PC: Inaugural event –
KM: And it was pretty amazing.
PC: It really was. 6-700 people. Between six to 700 people and –
KM: New tribe. That’s my new tribe.
PC: – most of them happy. It was a really good event. High energy.
KM: Everybody was happy. Everybody was willing to just help. It didn’t matter who you were or – it was just, like
PC: They’ve already had three digits worth of people sign up for next year – at the event – signed up for next year.
MJ: Wow. That’s crazy.
PC: Yep. They forgot to tell everybody the first 100 volunteers, or people that sign up, are volunteering for – oh, they didn’t tell you that?
KM: They didn’t tell me that. Dan Franks didn’t tell me that part.
PC: No, you’ll get your list later. But kudos to Dan Franks.
KM: Yes, Dan and Jared easily. And we’re going to have him on again to follow up after they’ve slept for about 30 days.
PC: I’m sure. They ought to be waking up right about now. It’s Thursday morning so. All right, cool. You know, yesterday – today’s great. So far, it’s been great. But yesterday was one of those things, I couldn’t do anything right. I spent most of yesterday – I don’t know! Karma?
KM: You’re making people upset?
PC: Kismet. I just had to show up. But I spent the second half of the day just apologizing.
PC: Yes, I’m sorry. That sort of thing. I don’t know, I’ve got two counselors in the room. Maybe you can help me.
KM: I didn’t get an, “I’m sorry” from you yesterday, did I?
PC: I’m still working on it. It’s so lengthy, it’s in draft mode here.
MJ: Well, at least you said it, Phillip.
PC: Thank you.
MJ: At least you said it. That’s a start.
KM: I think I say it sometimes, but it is very hard to say I’m sorry.
MJ: It is.
PC: Well, I’ve got two counselors in the room. How can you help me here with my problems?
KM: You know, read a blog, er an article, a couple weeks ago and I was spellbound because it’s about, “I’m sorry” – those two words. And I’m trying to go back in my brain and I’m not very good at that.
PC: You don’t hear it often enough, and when you do, half the time it’s insincere.
MJ: Right. Right. Owning, I call it, owning up. Or sometimes I talk to guys and I’m sometimes I’ve had it said to me: “Just own it. Just say you’re sorry. Just admit that you’re sorry.” And so many times that’s so difficult. You know, there was a movie back when I was a kid called Love Story. And one of the most memorable tag lines in that movie was, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Well, I have to tell you – that is one of the biggest lies out there.
KM: It is.
MJ: That’s just not true. Love is being able to –
PC: Don’t be talking bad about my Ali MacGraw now.
MJ: Great movie!
KM: Great movie.
MJ: But really, really misguided phrase because if you truly love someone, or if you truly want to show love to someone, you will humble yourself and be able to say, “I’m sorry.” And so many times that’s very difficult to do.
KM: So you’re saying long-term relationships – marriages, that kind of stuff – the success, part of that success, is humboing yourself before your partner and saying, “You know what? I really screwed up. I’m so sorry that, that XYZ.”
MJ: Absolutely. Absolutely.
KM: “That wasn’t my intention. I thought it was going to be different and I really need to make amends to you.”
MJ: Yes, because whether it was your intention or not, you can hurt somebody. You can make a mistake and hurt somebody, but being able to say that, “I’m sorry,” it doesn’t even say that you meant to do it, but you’re acknowledging what you did to that person. You’re acknowledging what has happened to them, what the reality is to them, and you’re humbling yourself to be able to say, “I want you to know that maybe I don’t understand, but I care. And I’m going to tell you that I’m sorry so we can move on.”
KM: Here’s a really painful, vulnerable spot when I see clients. They’re already fragile and then on top of that, they’re having to learn those two words, “I’m sorry.” It’s not about that they’re inherently a failure, but it’s to help build them up to understand that they don’t have to know everything. It takes the pressure off but yet they don’t think that does that. Does that make sense?
MJ: Yeah. And what it does is it frees you up, because when you leave that element out – when you leave the I’m sorry out – even with all the other stuff going on, there’s a wall there between the relationship. So what I’m sorry does is it sets you free because you’re owning up to – even if you didn’t intentionally do something – you’re willing to say, “I’m sorry that whatever I did, or whatever I said, offended you or hurt you.” So you’re releasing yourself from that. But what it does too is it breaks down a wall from the person that was offended and it allows them to be able to put their walls down, too, so that reconciliation can begin.
KM: Reconciliation is powerful.
MJ: It’s essential for relationships.
KM: It is essential! There you go.
MJ: Exactly. You know, I often tell people, especially when I see people and the two words that I hear sometimes is, “I’m done.” They’ll look at each other and they’ll be sitting there, married two years, married 33 years, but they’ll stand there and say, “I’m done.” And those are two powerful words as well. And one word that you don’t hear, two words that you don’t hear after those words, “I’m done,” is, “I’m sorry.” Because everybody wants to hold their ground. Everybody wants to say, “Even though I didn’t mean that, but they’re taking it this way, or she’s taking it this way, or he did this,” so everybody is holding their ground.
KM: It’s a line of defense.
MJ: Yes. And a lot of times it’s hard to say, “I’m sorry,” because you don’t want to admit that you could do something so bad, or that you could do something that really hurt somebody.
KM: What do you think has led to that over the years?
MJ: Well, bottom line it’s sin in our own hearts. But it’s selfishness. The bottom line is selfishness. You want to take care of me. I want to take care of me. I want to protect me. I want to protect my heart. I want to protect my stuff. And if I admit that I did something wrong, that could do two things. One; it could give you more ammunition against me. And the key to that right there is when you’re a couple, you need to realize that the person sitting across from you, the person that you said, “I do” to is not your enemy. And they’re not… you got to realize, this person made a commitment to you. So, for the most part, that person is not your enemy. So by saying that you’re sorry, by humbling yourself and coming to the point by you’re saying, “I’m sorry. Even if I didn’t mean to do this, even if I didn’t intend on doing this, I’m sorry that you are hurt. And I’m sorry about what I said or what I did. Offended you, or hurt you.” That will give that person the opportunity to walk back towards you, to open up themselves towards you, to knock down those walls. So, “I’m sorry,” is powerful. It’s a powerful key to reconciliation. But it starts with humility.
PC: You mentioned the reason that you don’t hear it sometimes is because you’re afraid the other person is going to use it as ammunition. You know, I just put down the wall, I let my guard down, I put the shield down, and I’m more afraid that based on either experience or something else (prior experience) that that person is going to come for the throat instead of tearing down the wall and doing the same thing you did – moving towards reconciliation. “I’m sorry I did that,” and then they say, “Well yeah, you should have…” and move on. I don’t know if that makes sense or not.
MJ: It does.
PC: How do you deal with that?
MJ: Well, the one thing that each person has to realize is that we’re only responsible for our response. Say I offended you, Philip, I hurt you. If I keep thinking, “Well, if I say I’m sorry to Phillip, then he’s going to use that and he’s going to throw it against me and he’s going to do all these different things.” I’m not going to do what I’m supposed to do. Your response is not my responsibility. I’m not responsible for your response. I can hope that you do the right thing. I can hope that you have the right response. But my responsibility is to do the right thing irregardless of what you do.
KM: It’s not a manipulation.
KM: It’s, I’m making amends because I know that I’ve failed or I need to clean it up. And whatever you do on your side is really, truly, at this point, more about you and all that. And understand it but the purpose of making amends is for me to continue being humble with it.
MJ: Right. And truly, when you talk about relationships and you talk about intimacy, I truly believe that you can never truly get to the point of intimacy that you’re supposed to be until you’re willing to get to a point where you open yourself up enough for that person to be able to hurt you badly. And here’s what I mean: If I’m always thinking, “Well, if I open myself up this way, then they’re going to hurt me. Or I’m giving them ammunition to hurt me. I’m giving them room to hurt me.” You’ll never truly be intimate with anybody. But if you truly say, “You know what – I’m going to totally let my guard down. I’m going to totally humble myself and open myself up to saying that I’m sorry and coming to you in humility. You have all the power now to hurt me. That’s not the goal, but in order for me to truly be intimate with you, that’s the only way that can happen because I’ve totally opened myself up to you.” But the goal is, and hopefully both of you will do that for each other. And that’s where the true intimacy comes into a relationship. But until you do that, there’s always a wall. There’s always something in between you that keeps you from getting as close as you can be.
PC: Okay now, I want you two to know I don’t actually have that problem. I was just setting the question up.
KM: (Laughs.) I know, boss.
PC: You know what? It sounds an awful lot like forgiveness.
PC: Is it the same thing, or -? How are they related? Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you think what they did to you is okay. It’s not really about them. It’s about you. Much like saying, “I’m sorry,” it’s your side of the equation moving towards reconciliation. You like that? There was like three big words in there.
KM: You’re doing well. Way to go, boss.
PC: Thank you.
MJ: Yeah, and a lot of forgiveness comes from realizing how much you’ve been forgiven as well. I know for me, every time I am offended, every time I’m hurt, I’m brought back to the realization and the understanding that: Okay, hold on. First of all I need to remember how much I’ve been forgiven from. So that when I look at you, I have to be able to say, “I need to do the same to you.” Whoever’s forgiven the most loves the most because they realize how much they’ve been forgiven from and how can I not forgive you when I’ve been forgiven so much? There’s a story in the bible that talks about this servant who owed a king tons of money. More money than he could pay back in many, many, many lifetimes. And the story goes that he went to the king and asked for forgiveness. And he could never repay it, but the king said, “Yes, I forgive you. I forgive you of your debt.” So what he did after he got free, he went and found somebody that owed him a small amount and he went after that person and said, “Give me back what you owe me.” And the person said, “Please have mercy on me. I can’t pay you back right now, but I’ll pay back as little as I can.” He said, “No, I want everything right now.” And he couldn’t do that. So the servant that had been forgiven took that servant and threw him in jail. Well, the king heard about that and he went and he said, “Wait a second. How could you do that with as much as I’ve forgiven you from, how could you not have the same mercy? How could you not have the same heart of forgiveness to someone who owes you so much less?” And he said, “Well, because you did that, now I’m going to put you and your family in jail and you’re going to have to pay for that for the rest of your life.” So the moral of the story is when you think about forgiving, first of all think about – and primarily think about as coming from a faith response – think about how much God has forgiven you from. And when you think about the reality of that, what is there that you can’t forgive? What is there that you can’t humble yourself enough to say, “ You know what? I was hurt. I don’t understand it. But because of what I’ve been forgiven from, I’m going to offer you that same forgiveness.”
KM: So are we repelling humility when we have difficulty saying those two words, “I’m sorry”?
MJ: Are we repelling humility?
KM: Yeah, is there some… I think people…
PC: That was our word of the day yesterday, okay?
KM: (Laughs) Humility. You have to be, if you’re humble, “I’m sorry” is going to happen more sincerely and more genuine and it’s incorporated in the fabric of who you are.
KM: So my question is, have we repelled being, or denied or resisting being humble, and why?
MJ: Yes. Yes. Well, part of the reason why we resist being humble is that, like I said again, is selfishness. That’s a big part of it. Part of resisting being humble is fear because of past. Maybe you’ve forgiven somebody in the past, or maybe you’ve opened yourself and was intimate with somebody in the past and you’ve done that. And they’ve thrown it in your face. So history tells you do that again and the same thing’s going to happen. You can’t live like that, though. Because if you live like that, you’re living in fear. And you’re possibly keeping yourself from relationships or the depths of relationships because of your past, rather than saying, “Today is a new day and I’m going to take that step for me to do the right thing irregardless of what the other person does.” Now – are there times where you forgive somebody or are there times where you humble yourself before somebody and they will use that against you? Absolutely. You can’t do anything about that. But you’ve done the right thing.
KM: Well, it’s keeping your stuff in line with…
PC: So when’s the best time to say, “I’m sorry”? Timing.
MJ: Timing is everything. The best time is… The best time is to not say it flippantly. The best time is to hear the person’s heart and then humbly say, “I’m sorry.” So whether that’s after listening five minutes… Say your wife asks you a question and you give a response that really hurts her. Now, if you know your wife and you’re a student of your wife, you can probably tell by her facial expressions or her body language that what you just said hurt her. That would be the time to say you’re sorry.
PC: Usually it’s which firearm she selects.
MJ: (Laughs) So sometimes the best time to say you’re sorry is not to wait for them to come to you. Because you know that.
KM: You have intuition of like, “Oh my gosh, I think I just blew it.”
MJ: You have intuition. So it depends on the situation. If you see that you’ve hurt somebody, or you feel that you’ve hurt somebody right then, you take the first step and say, “You know what, what I just said was really dumb. I didn’t think, and you know what, I’m really sorry.” That’s the time to say sorry for that. There are times when you do things to offend somebody and you don’t have a clue that you did it. You didn’t know what you did offended or hurt somebody. As soon as they make that known to you through a letter, through an email, through a conversation they come to you, that’s the time to say you’re sorry. So it depends on the situation. If something you didn’t know, as soon as it’s made known to you, say you’re sorry right then. Own up to it right then. Even if you don’t understand it. Even if you don’t think that you did that. Because so many times when people say, “You know, you really offended me.” Well, I didn’t mean to do that, or what do you mean? And you try to explain your way out of it. Don’t do all that. Take the step right there.
KM: Is that the denial of the humility?
KM: I am not going to succumb to the humility because I’m going to validate my entitled thought process.
MJ: Right. Or some people even have a hard time doing that right then because they feel like they’ve failed so many times so for them to say, once again, “I did this again. I can’t believe I did that again!” Pushes them down even more, so they don’t want to say, “I failed again.”
KM: And that shield of righteousness, or well, I don’t know if it’s righteousness – that’s not the right word. But you know.
MJ: Or shield of pain.
KM: There you go. The shield of pain comes up and locked down.
MJ: And it’s hard to admit, once again, “I blew it.”
PC: I’ve actually, to overcome that over the years, I’ve developed an index of situational apologies and now I just hold up a card with a number on it and she knows which one to… okay, well anyway. It works for us.
KM: There you go.
MJ: The words, “I’m sorry,” are very powerful. They’re very powerful for relationships. And not only for husbands and wives! One of the most powerful moments in my life was when I realized that I had blamed my son for something that he had not done. And I blamed him for it because I thought he did it. One of the most powerful moments and one of the things that solidified our relationship that will take us into eternity was me sitting him down, looking him in the eye, and saying, “Son, I was wrong. And I’m sorry.” And he just bawled. He just cried. Because he saw me –
PC: The real you.
MJ: – he saw me being able to humble myself before him. Now I could have stood my ground, “I’m the dad. I’m the authority here.” But you know what that does is, now if he makes a mistake – he’s in his 20s now – he’ll come to my wife or myself, and he’ll be the first one to say, “I’m sorry.” Because he saw that in action. But that was humbling for myself, but it was a powerful tool of relationship, even for my children.
KM: That’s a great point because that’s what I’m experiencing with my boys, too. A couple years ago, just that whole admission of, “I messed up. I completely judged you in the wrong way. I’m sorry I did that” with my teenage boys at that time. And now what seems to be happening as a result of that is they’re thinking that we’re pretty darn cool. And now they solicit our opinions, our advice, and it’s just such a…
MJ: It’s priceless. It’s priceless for a relationship with your parents.
KM: Hanging up the phone, I just look at my BFF, my best friend, and I go, “Did our son just ask us for some pretty hefty advice? I think he did.” And it hasn’t stopped. So I think that is such a wonderful testimony of what can happen when you say, “I’m sorry,” or, “I totally missed the mark. I was totally wrong. I messed up.”
MJ: And you’re set free.
KM: You’re set free! I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
MJ: Exactly. And Philip you asked before, what is the right time to say I’m sorry? One of the right times to say you’re sorry, too, is while the person’s alive. Don’t wait. You do not know what tomorrow’s going to bring. You do not know what the next moment is going to bring. If you have a breach in relationship, if you have say it’s with a parent or even if it’s with a friend, or not only a spouse – being able to go to that person and say that I’m sorry… I remember a few years back, I had a childhood friend and we had done some, just some foolish stuff when we were young. I came to realize later as an adult, man you know what? That was ridiculous. That was wrong. And some thirty years later, we had gotten together and it was just really impressed on my heart at that moment. You know what? I need to say I’m sorry for that. And thirty years later I said – we were sitting down I was talking and I said, “You know what? Remember boom boom boom?” And he had forgotten all about it! But what that did for me was, it set me free. So I could move on. And he forgave, and he was like, “You know what? I didn’t even remember that. But thank you for saying that.” So you might have to return. But do it while they can hear it. Now, can you be set free after a person has gone? Yes, and that’s a whole other day, a whole other topic. But do it while you can. Don’t wait to say I’m sorry.
PC: Never put yourself in a position where you’re having to apologize to a tombstone.
MJ: That’s hard. That’s hard.
PC: You know, I did what – not a joke – I did what you just mentioned. The thirty year later thing. I have a cousin and I didn’t do anything wrong, it was just something that was taken the wrong way that was extremely embarrassing to me. And that has bothered me for thirty, forty years. And I mentioned it to her when I was visiting a few months ago. She had no idea what I was talking about. She had totally forgotten. I hope I didn’t apologize to the wrong cousin.
PC: No, it was the right one. But that’s… I don’t worry about it anymore, especially since she doesn’t remember it.
PC: Interesting stuff.
MJ: But there again you did the right thing. And that’s the important thing for each of us to take the responsibility to do the right thing. And whether you’re a husband, whether you’re a wife, whether you’re a leader – there are times where you have to apologize to your staff. You did something wrong. But holding your ground does not solidify nor grow a relationship when there’s an offense there. Being able to say you’re sorry, being able to humble yourself, only raises your value in that relationship.
PC: Digging trenches in anticipation of the battle is what armies do. In preparation for the final battle, which can’t be a good thing. But at least he took manslaughter off the table as an option here for me. That’s good. We’re out of time. So where can people find Mark if they just want to say I’m sorry?
MJ: They can find Mark by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can call Life Tree directly at 972-234-6634. I’m at extension 103.
PC: Excellent. I like this guy.
KM: I do, too.
PC: I want to go back and start all over again and be a young child and have him for a papa.
KM: Mmm hmm. He’s an awesome dad.
PC: I want to be 6’2, but blue-eyed too, but a lot of things…
MJ: I don’t know if I can deliver that! (Laughs)
KM: (Laughs) You might!
PC: Hey Kathleen, what’s coming up? Anything new on your events calendar, and where can we find out about it?
KM: Well, we’re going to be having two events in January. January 29th. January 30th. And we will put that on our website at Lifetreecounseling.com. Check our events tab.
PC: You won’t be sorry.
KM: You will not be sorry.
PC: And I’m still Phillip Crum, the luckiest guy in the world, and I am the content marketing coach – self-appointed, self-anointed. Find me at contentmarketingcoach.us.
KM: That’s a humble spirit right there, right, Phillip?
PC: Or call BR549 and we’ll talk.
KM: Was he paying attention to this conversation?
PC: Yes I was. I thought humble was next week!
KM: Boss, you’re awesome.
PC: All right. See you later, folks. Say goodbye, Kathleen.
KM: Goodbye, boss.
PC: Thank you very much. I appreciate you listening. Thanks for listening everybody, and on we go.