hani and Yitzi aren’t talking to each other right now. It all started when Shani had a big work presentation, and Yitzi arranged to stay home and watch the kids. At 6 o’clock, after she’d finished, Shani called to say she was on her way home and to ask how the afternoon had gone. “Fine, great,” he said.

“Did you give the kids the lasagna I left in the fridge for them?” Shani asked.

“Oh, I forgot. I took them out for pizza.”

Shani lost it. “I went to so much trouble to make supper for them even though I was in a rush, and then you just ignore it and waste money taking them out for pizza! I can’t even leave them with you for a couple hours and trust you to take care of them!”

“Don’t worry,” Yitzi replied. “This will never happen again, because I’m never watching them again if this is how you thank me.” With that, he hung up.


The Process of Reconciliation

Now Shani and Yitzi are husband and wife, mother and father to three sweet little children. They will need to make up eventually. But how will that happen?

Unfortunately, neither of these two adults knows much about the process of reconciliation. Their normal post-fight process means that they don’t talk to each other for a number of days, until they get tired of that and slowly start mumbling requests. After a few more days, their relationship eventually reverts back to normal, and they never talk about what happened.

Since this strategy does nothing to increase their understanding of each other, these scenes are repeated time and again, with each injury causing more and more damage to the festering wounds inside.


The Power of Apologies

Let’s imagine that, immediately following Shani’s blowup, Yitzi had said something like, “I’m sorry.” The phrase holds promise, but by itself, it’s not an apology. Sorry for what? “I’m sorry” needs to be followed by a description of the actions one is regretting.

Yitzi could have said, “I’m sorry that you went to the trouble of making the kids lunch and then I wasted your efforts and money by buying them pizza. I understand why you’re so upset.”

If Yitzi had offered a full apology, he would have made it far easier for his wife to forgive him. If he meant what he said, then he would have been more careful and thoughtful in the future, and the improvement in his behavior would have fostered greater peace in the marriage. By apologizing immediately, he would have made it easier for Shani to apologize for speaking to him so harshly and inappropriately — and even for her wrong behavior in the future.

After a “fight,” both parties need to apologize. Often, one is upset over what the other did and then the upset one transgresses by expressing that upset in non-Torah condoned ways, such as insulting, shouting, threatening, and the like. The “wronged” person will therefore often need to apologize as well.

Ideally, Shani would reply to Yitzi’s apology with, “Thanks for apologizing, Yitzi, that really means a lot to me. I’m sorry that I completely lost my cool and raised my voice. I really do appreciate the help you gave me this afternoon. Even if I was frustrated, I could have found a more respectful way to tell you that and I’ll try to do better going forward.”

After such a validating and acknowledging apology from his wife, Yitzi would find it far easier to let go of the pain in his heart, forgive his wife, and judge her more positively. Her apology for her incorrect speech would make it easier for him to apologize for his own belligerence as well: “And I’m really sorry about what I said to you. I felt hurt. I just should have told you that. Instead I made nasty threats that I don’t mean at all. I’ll always try to look after the kids when you have to be away. This isn’t a favor to you; they’re our kids and we’re a team. We don’t let each other down.”

Ahhh, the heartwarming, harmonizing, and healing sound of sincere and complete apologizes! Let’s go now and make them — to each other and to Hashem. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 609)