Permission & "I'm sorry"

Asking for permission and owning guilt are 2 basic life skills that our parents taught us when we were young. I was not allowed to go outside when I was a toddler without asking first. And if I broke something the natural response would be to say, "I'm sorry!" Both of these are healthy habits.

So how do these 2 habits become detrimental to our well-being in a destructive marriage? Let me start with sorry first. Feeling badly about hurting another person should always be remedied by offering an apology and empathizing with the one we've upset. But I've seen 2 ways this healthy habit has become unhealthy in an authoritarian marriage.

The term "authoritarian" marriage is extracted from the style of parenting which also shares the same term. In authoritarian parenting, the parent has high expectations of the child, gives little feedback other than yelling or criticism, and customarily uses shame to get their child in order. The same is true if this style is used in a marriage. Instead of equality and nurturing, there is harshness and ridicule. You, as the spouse, begin to feel like the child because that's exactly how you are being treated.

The first way saying sorry can be detrimental in a destructive marriage is when we start many of our requests or needs with, "Oh I'm sorry...." We have been conditioned to believe that our needs and wants are unimportant, so voicing them as an apology seems a bit more acceptable. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Your needs/wants are important. And God gave you a mouth so you can communicate that need.

The second way I've seen an apology to your spouse become damaging is when we take ownership of the problem. What does this look like? So a typical nonsensical argument occurs. You are doing your best to keep up with the twists and turns that usually accompany these misunderstandings. Of course, you are to blame for the way he understands what was said. In fact, it doesn't even matter if you say anything at all, he blames you for all of it. So what's your response? "I am so so sorry!" NO!!! It is not your fault! Do not apologize for this mess. Do not apologize for how he interprets the argument. Do not apologize for how he feels about any of it. Do not take the blame. He is certainly going to shift the responsibility to you but you do not have to receive it.

The other thing I've observed in authoritarian marriages is the wife's need to ask for permission. Because the wife has become so accustom to this way of life, she may even find herself asking others for permission to do things too. Her husband has established their home as his dominion and she, just like a child, must not assume equality.

Have I oversimplified this subject? Probably! Having been through this myself and placing sorry at the beginning of my sentences was the norm. I get it! I no longer do this though. Instead I have learned the importance of responsibility. And if I have done or said something that was wrong or offensive, I now humble myself and give a heart felt apology. But I refuse to take the blame for someone else's indiscretions. That is their responsibility.

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