Oftentimes in divorce, one or both spouses feel wronged by the other spouse, and that can result in powerful emotions that get in the way of settling a divorce.
When people are angry, they’re more prone to want to lash out or get back at the people they’re angry with. They’re not particularly eager to sit down at the same table with them and negotiate. When people are hurt, they might want to focus on making themselves better, or they might seek some sort of escape from their pain, rather than dealing with the situation that needs resolution.
And as I know from years of helping people come to a settlement in their divorces, there are a number of hurtful actions that can not only lead to divorce but can also lead to the hurt and anger that create obstacles to a solution. Infidelity, mismanaging money, or simply being disrespectful or dismissive during a marriage can create significant divides that are hard to overcome.
In situations like this, as hard as it might be, it’s definitely worth it to apologize.
There are several reasons people are reluctant to apologize in divorce cases. Some people are afraid that apologizing is admitting wrongdoing, thereby weakening their bargaining positions in negotiations. Some people might feel wronged themselves, and don’t want to apologize out of pride or spite. And some people might be afraid of how they’ll feel if their apologies are rejected.
But in many cases – some of which I’ve seen in person with couples I’ve worked with – an apology can be the breakthrough moment everyone needs. When someone sincerely apologizes, it can work wonders. The apologizer feels better in admitting wrongdoing, the person being apologized to feels acknowledged, and they can both start to get beyond the wrongdoing and look forward instead of backward.
There’s a fantastic lawyer and mediator I know in Dallas, named Lee Taft, who has done extensive work with dispute resolutions in which real healing needs to and can take place. His Restorative Mediations website touches on the power of apology as part of a process that has allowed him to help people, churches, and companies through some incredibly difficult and divisive situations.
Of course, every situation is different, and sometimes it can take more than a single apology to help a divorcing couple get to a place where they can settle their differences and think about dividing assets and sharing custody. And in many instances, it really is hard for someone to say that he or she is sorry. However, more often than not, it’s harder to work through the differences that persist when someone is unwilling to acknowledge actions that necessitate an apology.