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Those Three Little Words Are Hard to Say
My wedding was wonderful. All of my best friends and lots of family gathered for what I have to admit was a hell of a party. Surprisingly, the open bar did not end badly and everyone was generally well behaved. T and I had been expecting the worst, and we were pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a magical day.

And then the next day I started a fight with T and really upset him. I mean really upset him.

What a way to start off the marriage, huh? Way to end the magic, LM.

In my defense, it wasn't a major fight. It was just a little bickering. Neither of us can even remember what the fight was about. I guess what made it so memorable was T's response. I don't think I'd ever seen T react quite so emotionally before. In response to my puzzled inquiry T explained that it was the first day of our life as a married couple and we were already fighting.

That one really hit me in the gut.

Prior to marriage I had always half jokingly complained about T's decidedly unromantic nature. I'd seen T as a sweet, dear man, but not terribly romantic unless I planted the seeds of ideas for him. I didn't have a problem with this. I'm not a terribly romantic person myself. Sure, I like flowers or surprise romantic dinners as much as the next girl, but last minute trips to Jamaica or Paris have never been my bag. I like to be prepared and I like to be packed at least 2 days in advance. If I wanted something to happen, I dropped hints and T would comply. So T and I worked well together if a bit predictably.

Imagine my surprise at M-day + 1 when I discovered that T did have a hidden streak of romanticism, or at least idealism, about marriage. And I know all of you are thinking, "Well, I hope you apologized to the man!" But here's the thing - I didn't apologize. In fact, I remember saying something like "We fight all the time. Nothing has changed. It's just a piece of paper. What's the big deal?"


Just remembering that day I cringe a bit inside.

Throughout the years I've taken T for granted. And sometimes he takes me for granted. Mostly it's the other way around, but I realize my failings now in a way I certainly did not at 22.

I'm the high maintenance half of this relationship. Thoughtless words or deeds on my part are common. Thoughtful words and deeds from T, just as common.

I take T and his love, affection, and seemingly endless patience for granted.

And then T and I will have a fight. A really nasty one, where doors are slammed and love is questioned. And T always apologizes the moment he calms down. The. moment. he calms down. As if he can't stand for me to be angry with him for one second longer than necessary. It's obvious to me that the moment T clears his head from the fog of war, he forgives me.

And in some twisted way, T's forgiveness of me and my transgressions reminds me that I take him for granted. He humbles me and I, the slower to calm, forgive him as well.

Julie's Hump Day Hmmm for the week was "What has the experience of being forgiven been like for you?" I've taken this question a bit astray from perhaps its intended path. I haven't done many things in my life that are unforgivable, or even many that require much forgiveness. (Didn't you know that I'm never wrong?!) I've cut very few people from my life over the years and, as far as I know, been similarly cut by few people as well. Hence, my experience with major forgiveness is fairly limited.

I do not easily forgive others, even for minor insults. Nor is it easy for me to apologize. The act of apologizing is an admission of wrongdoing. It's uncomfortable. I think perhaps apologies are so uncomfortable for me because I hold myself to a high standard. And if I hurt someone else, they may forgive me long before I forgive myself. And then at other times, where the lines of fault are blurred, it's easier for me to remain righteously angry than to step up and repair a relationship. Particularly in a relationship where I find myself in the role of perpetual apologizer, the one always perceived to be at fault.

Although the role is not a comfortable one for me, I've been The Apologizer before. Usually with a friend or relative I could sense simply was not capable of clearly seeing their own faults. A particular friend I have in mind, seemed to think nothing of blowing up inappropriately at me on more than one occasion, hurtling personal insults along the way. When someone is always quick to find fault with me, but never to turn the spotlight back upon herself, is that friendship even worth salvaging? At a certain point, and I guess it's different for every relationship, I cut all ties. Sometimes forgiveness, when it isn't really needed or wanted, isn't necessary anymore.

But when I do find myself at fault, T is my inspiration. I try to remember that in apologizing and admitting an error or a grievance, I also forgive myself. And self-forgiveness can be much harder to receive than forgiveness from someone else.

You can check out the rest of the roundtable participants every Wednesday at The Ravin' Picture Maven.

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Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

K is a good apologizer.

I struggle.

Blogger PT-LawMom said...

Great post, LM. It's always important to remember that, in spite of the daily grind and unimportant fights, these men in our life love us, care what we think and are hurt by careless words. I know that I, for one, have similar challenges to those you mentioned above. I just hope that recognizing it is the first step to correcting it. :)

Blogger Mamma said...

I've gotten better at it, but it took quite a bit. It used to be easier for me to get angry rather than admit I was hurt.

Good post.

Blogger Amy W said...

Ray struggles to apologize, and sometimes when we argue I make him apologize even when I shouldn't. I think I need to taking how to argue 101...

Great post.

Blogger bubandpie said...

I am a TERRIBLE apologizer. My M.O. is to simply pretend nothing happened and hope the other person does the same.

I blame my best friend for this. When we were kids, my apologies always seemed to trigger a flare-up of renewed anger, not only because I had brought up a touchy issue but also because my apology renewed her sense that she HAD been in the right and deserved reparations. It was always so much easier to stick with the pretend-nothing-happened policy.

I have offered apologies on one or two occasions when I was on non-speaking terms with someone and an apology is the only way to reopen communications. But I grit my teeth while I'm doing it.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Oh you did not miss...you and Gwen took similar approaches and I think they really answer the question. This is great, gave me a lot to think about.

I am the apologizer in our family. I am the one who opens up issues, works hard to create a productive discussion, admits my part, and apologizes---tries to fix things.

My husband tries, you know, when I dangle him by the ankle off the edge of a skyscraper, he'll try to choke out some apology. He has the same reason as B&P, actually, only from his family (not a friend) who are, according to them, NEVER wrong and who are, according me almost ALWAYS wrong. But they never know, never get it.

Writing that, it might make it hard to believe that in the beginning of our relationship we rarely fought. That has come with time and life changes (stresses). Which tells me it's really the stress of the situation more than us, if you KWIM.

Sometimes "I'm sorry" is too easy for me, as I wrote. If you know me well, you might know this, and it might make my apology questionable at times, but truthfully, I mean it when I say it. And I think if you know me, you know that too.

With my husband as inspiration (and that's a pro and con), I am learning to sometimes choke back the urge to apologize, because it DOES make some lay the blame solely on me, which exacerbates it all. I am also learning to choke back the urge to apologize---the urge to model with an expectation of reciprocity---especially when the other person is dug into their positon.

As I wrote to Gwen, the hard part is forgiving myself, especially in the "here and now."

What I think is especially awesome about what you wrote is your clear willingness to self-reflect, and to use the admirable qualities of your partner as inspiration. That is the best kind of relationship to have I think. Great response.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

OH! I got so busy yapping on and on about myself I forgot!

I meant to say: gorgeous photos. That wedding picture is awesome. You two look gorgeous, but also...I don't know, somehow happily but nervously aware of life ahead of you, and confident.

Blogger CPA Mom said...

Beautiful post. I particularly liked: "Sometimes forgiveness, when it isn't really needed or wanted, isn't necessary anymore" That's what I find so hard to articulate when people can't believe that I have zero relationship with my sister and my dad. At some point, it was just better to cut the ties rather than let them hurt me over and over. Forgiveness for their transgressions (and mine!) are pointless when the hurt goes on and on.

Blogger jen said...

i am an over apologizer. J is not.

it's complicated, isn't it. i've struggled with julie's roundtable this go around quite a bit, watching but not able to say much.

Blogger slouching mom said...

I really liked this, LM.

And I am quite like you, in the sense that I have a very hard time apologizing. And yes, I hold a grudge. It may be because my modus operandi is to spend my days avoiding harm (avoiding offending anyone). So how could I ever offend someone?

Believe me, it happens.

Thanks for your honesty. And I was taken aback by your wedding picture. It's beautiful. As are you. Only your avatar and wedding picture faces look so different I can't quite believe it's the same person in both.

(Both attractive faces, mind you.)

Blogger steph! said...

you know what I like the most about this post? how honest it is about your marriage. I think one of the great problems in our society is that we don't acknowledge the fact that people fight, not all men are romantic, but that's OKAY. I know the post was about forgiveness, but how open you were really spoke to me.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

OTJ - Ah, then you understand our dynamic.

PT law - Yes, I'm much more aware of it now & much more likely to nip it in the bud than I was as a youngster.

Mama - Anger is still usually my first reaction. It's a deeply ingrained response.

Amy W - I need to sign up for that class with you! It's funny how logical I am in every other area of my life. It stands in sharp contrast to my personal life.

B&P - Yes! That's me exactly.

Julie - Yes, I'm like your husband. Apologies shaken out of me while dangling over the edge of a skyscraper! And thanks for the photo comment. All I can think when I look at it is "we look so YOUNG!"

CPA Mom - Yes, sometimes it's clearly necessary to cut ties.

Jen - I can't imagine you with nothing to say! (I mean that in a good way.)

SM - Clearly I need to post more pictures of myself! I'd like to think that I don't look *that* different 10 years later. LOL!

Blogger Sober Briquette said...

My husband says I am terrible at apologizing because there is always a spoken or unspoken "but...I'm right because..." at the end.

Blogger Mary-LUE said...

LM, I think how we are in our marriages is often the both the best of us and the worst of us. I have struggled to be kind, loving and forgiving to my husband. He in turn, while not perfect, is much better at it. I tend to be like the proverbial bull in the china ship with his feelings while he won't tell me that I've been snoring for five years because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. I'm very fortunate.

This is a great post for the roundtable. Thanks for sharing.

Blogger Amber said...

T sounds like the perfect ying for your yang. My hubby is the same way. Just by nature, I'm the more outspoken person who freaks out. I can imagine how ugly life would sometimes be if I had not married a peacemaker.

Blogger SheilaAndChase said...

where you cut people out of your life, I bury my feelings. I hate conflict and often victimize myself. It sucks. I also hate to apologize so I just ignore things. I think that it's great that even though the two of you fight, you're so secure in your relationship. Much better than burying feelings!

Blogger Alpha DogMa said...

You and T are a perfect fit. And not to detract from your words of wisdom, but: you got married at 22! You were a baby! That seems so very very young!

...oh wait, I married at 26 so I wasn't that much older.


PS - you are aging with grace!

Blogger Gunfighter said...

Nice post, LM!

Cute picture, too!

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

SB - A frequent complaint I hear from my husband about me too... Because, you know, I'm *never* wrong! LOL!

ML - The best and the worst. You're so right.

Amber - I know, I could never have married someone like me!

Sheila - Yeah, T & I know that we're for keeps and we've never questioned that. It does help keep things in perspective.

AD - I WAS a baby! And T was only 25 - not much better. No argument there. We were actually very lucky. No one really knows who they are yet at 22 (at least no one I know did). Luckily, T & I changed and grew in a compatible way. I would completely freak out if one of my kids wanted to get married at 22....

GF - Thanks!

Blogger Gwen said...

You mean that I am not the only person in a relationship where doors are occasionally slammed? :) Often I think that if people were as honest about what real marriage looks like, in the same way that motherbloggers are being honest about what real parenting looks like, we'd all be better off.

For me, personally, my marriage is the hardest place to work out the forgiveness issues. So I really appreciated the honesty and openness of this post.

Blogger Bon said...

really great post, LM. and great wedding photo...you sweet babies, you.

yep, for us, bickering occasionally crosses those invisible lines into treading on someone's deeply held - if not always visible - beliefs, and then we both have a huge cleanup job to do. because we're both easily hurt, tough and sarcastic and understanding as we pride ourselves on being. the longer we're together, the better we get at sorting out where the hurt has come from, but in the meantime there are sometimes slammed doors, especially from me. :)

thanks for all this honesty.

Blogger STEPHANIE said...

It's nice to have those moments of self-discovery, even though we might not like what we discover. I enjoyed this post. Really honest!


Blogger Jen Magnuson said...

Wow - what a fabulous post. And holy cow you were describing my husband and me to a T. AND I had big poofy wedding sleeves, too (1993, baby). See, we're meant to be blogging friends.

We really are long lost sisters! I could have written this post! I am sometimes alarmed and sickened by how hateful I can be when I am angry....yet the apology comes SO HARD FOR ME....that many times it does not come at all. Yet, Mr. Mayhem is always ready to apologize...for just the reasons you discussed with T.

You are not alone....when you figure out what makes it easier...PLEASE let me know!

Blogger Binky said...

I can count the times my husband has found himself at fault on one finger. You can guess which finger I'd choose.

(we're in the middle of a fight, so I'm especially bitter...)

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