How can I make amends?
March 29, 2012 11:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I make it up to my beloved?

I did a crappy thing. In the midst of an email drama with a former coworker, I panicked and said a crummy thing about my spouse, who was also on the email. Essentially I suggested my spouse was either stupid or lied about something and that this was standard behavior. It was untrue and traitorous and irrevocable and I humiliated my spouse and I am a complete stupid turd. And "I panicked" is some seriously weak sauce.
How can I make amends? (We have been together for many years, and my spouse is currently working out of town,if that is useful to you. I have never done anything remotely this shitty to my spouse.) I've apologized but it's nothing like enough. Why did I hurt someone I love so much with so little thought?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
....I feel like we're missing some information here:

1. Has your spouse read that email and responded in any way? If so, how?

2. How big was the supposed "lie" that you said your spouse told?

3. How big was the drama with the co-worker?

4. Is "my spouse is either stupid or lies about something and this is standard behavior" something that you've thought to yourself sometimes, or did it just come out of the total blue and you were all, "wait, WHAT did I say?...."

On the face of it, it sounds like you were just overwrought because your former co-worker was driving you nuts and you just snapped and said something stupid without thinking. We all do or say dumb stuff in the heat of the moment, stuff that we don't REALLY mean but we know "omigod if I say this then maybe this asshole will finally get off my back already and leave me alone".

You apologized, but clearly you still feel awful. Maybe a second conversation when your spouse gets home, after you've had some time to get clear in your own head about what happened in that conversation, and to check in with how they're feeling, would help. You know -- spend some time thinking about whether you do really think that they sometimes lie about stuff, or whether that really was just something bizare and out of character. And then check in with them about whether they really do feel betrayed or whether they understand, "nah, you just panicked." Because maybe they do (you haven't mentioned).

And "I panicked" isn't that weak. It's not the best thing you could have done, but it's by far also not the worst.

Take a few deep breaths and go for a walk, and you'll be fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

It was a shitty thing to do, and you apologized.

So apologize again, say it will never happen again, and when your spouse gets home, have something super wonderful ready, apologize once more in person with the something wonderful and then say how much you absolutely adore and love your spouse.

That said, if your spouse has already forgiven you, ask your spouse if there's something you can do to make it up since you feel so shitty about this, and then follow those directions and add some type of small cherry on top.

Then, forgive yourself.
posted by zizzle at 11:38 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aside from say that, to the same people who saw the email and again in person to your spouse... you take your lumps. Let him or her be mad at you. Apologize, heartfeltily (not a word, but it works). A simple thoughtful gift with the same type of abject remorse written out, then time.

Don't let it happen again. Say how much you learned. Mean It.
posted by DigDoug at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2012

As for how to make it up, that's her call. You don't get to pick. This isn't about you making you feel better.

Certainly, not ever doing it again is a thing you can do, but you probably already knew that.

It's a weird thing to do, especially if this drama with a former coworker is not important. Like, are you trying to avoid a lawsuit or is that person just being a pain? I would let my husband throw me under the bus if it would put an end to some kind of unpleasantness, and that may very well be her reading of it - which doesn't mean you can't still be super sorry for it.

Whatever her response is, you should probably do what she wants from you to make it right.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did something like this last year, I really hurt and embarrassed my boyfriend in front of a bunch of other people. For some reason, in that moment, I had stopped thinking about his feelings and was only worried about my own. My own introspection has led me to conclude that I had gotten lazy in our relationship and was taking him for granted (cliched but true).

Right now though, it probably doesn't matter why, at least not to your spouse. That was the other thing I learned, that it didn't matter why I did it, what mattered was whether or not he was going to be able to forgive me. He did forgive me, because we talked about it and my explanation (not excuse) showed him that it wasn't something that happened because I didn't love him anymore, but that it was just a momentary lapse of judgment on my part. I was (an am) very contrite about it.

So, talk to your spouse. If they ask why you did it, then explain to the best of your ability. If they don't care, then don't explain or make excuses. Either way, tell them you are sorry and that it won't happen again. Then the ball is in their court to forgive you, or not. It sucks not being able to just fix it, I know.
posted by cabingirl at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yea, and the forgiving yourself part is good too. I still haven't done that with my own situation, I should work on it.
posted by cabingirl at 11:43 AM on March 29, 2012

I don't remember where I saw this (maybe Randy Pausch?), but it's that a good apology has three parts:

1) What I did was wrong.
1a) I will never do it again (only promise if you know it will be true!)
2) I feel terribly that I hurt you.
3) What can I do to make it better?

Personally, if it were me, I would be less worried that you said it and more worried that you actually thought it were true. Be ready to address that with your partner when you discuss it again.
posted by stellaluna at 11:52 AM on March 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

I would definitely include a retraction to the whole email group as part of the amends. "Folks, in my email of XX/XX/XX, I made some pretty nasty implications about {spouse}. I know you all know that {spouse} is truthful and responsible and {whatever else is the opposite of what you said} and I was being an idiot when I suggested otherwise."

And the apology. And following through on the commitment to do better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

What Sidhedevil said. A public mistake deserves a public apology. Make sure that the email exchange ends with your public mea culpa.
posted by headnsouth at 12:46 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to copy your spouse on the retraction email, be sure it's a BCC, not a CC.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:06 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be a minority opinion, but my partner can call me names as much as she likes in public if that's what she feels is needed to reach her goals, which I assume are mine by default as well.
Maybe not in front of my coworkers, but random other people? Who cares. Public apologies that make it look like we had major discussions about it, now that I would find embarassing.
posted by dhoe at 1:13 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do a public apology. If my spouse insulted me in a group email, the next step toward total humiliation would be to call everyone's attention to it. Not only do I feel that us sorting out our relationship should be private, and discussion of the aftermath of a mistake is not for public consumption, my main objection is that I feel that it's just pointing out to everyone that he insulted me and suggesting they go back and read the original email to find the juicy bits in case they'd accidentally overlooked the whole thing.

On the other hand, I'm not married to your spouse, and clearly the idea of a public apology resonates with some people. Personal preference at work. So talk about it, follow stellaluna's outline, and see if the public apology is something that would help in step 3.
posted by aimedwander at 1:24 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a sense of humour?

Could you write an email to the original recipients and say, "Oh yeah, Fred just pointed out that my email could read like I said my beloved wifey was a lying sack of shit. Of course you all know she's a flying crack and a hit. Oh, I'm sooo going in the dog house now. But anyway I sorted out the originalproblem and that crisis is averted and I owe you all a beer just as soon as I'm off the leash. "
posted by taff at 1:36 PM on March 29, 2012

It sounds like the trust has been damaged and I would imagine that this is intensified by your spouse being out of town. In addition to all the great advice up-thread, I would like to add that you ought to, once an apology is accepted, continue to focus on re-establishing trust, reaffirming your relationship, in your interactions with your spouse until you both feel the trust is repaired.

What that looks like really depends on the person in question. A good place to start is just being particularly thoughtful and empathetic-- show that you care in your behavior, because you do!

It's like accepting an apology is just giving the other person the opportunity to rewrite over the offending behavior. It's not really an end in and of itself.
posted by abirdinthehand at 5:53 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may have panicked, but you don't say random and public mean things about people you love unless you are angry at them. So the real question is why were you angry at your spouse, is it representative of a deeper level of anger and resentment, have you discussed it, and what else are you doing about it?
posted by spitbull at 5:40 AM on March 30, 2012

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