I am being compensated for this post as part of the Operation In Touch Brand Ambassador Program via MSB New Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I hate being upset with John. Even now, living in the same apartment, I absolutely hate arguing with him. We don’t often… but when we do, it’s usually my fault. No, I’m not being gallant or anything like that– it’s just the truth. John has a longer fuse and is much more gracious than I am. I have knee-jerk reactions and tend to get upset quickly.
Apologies can be tough no matter what the circumstance, but they can often be excruciating when you’re dealing with deployment or are in a long distance relationship. Trust me– I agonized over them while we were both dealing with deployment and in a long distance relationship. Because I have a runaway imagination, during deployment, I was paralyzed with fear that the last thing John would hear from me would be the very last part of our argument. I wanted to hug him, and I couldn’t. Or, I wanted to at least be able to see his face rather than the scrambled mud-monster I usually talked to over a screwed up Skype connection.
These suggestions are what I’ve found that work well for arguments where you’re the one who definitely, honestly, no-excuses needs to apologize and you can’t have a face-to-face discussion and kiss and make up. (We’ve all been there. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. ;-) )
View the situation with love.
Take a breath, a hot shower, grab a glass of wine, eat some chocolate chip cookies (or just the dough… oh wait, is that just me?)– whatever you need to calm down after the argument. Once you’re calm, view the situation with love. Yep, it’s totally hippie-dippy, and totally the first thing you need to do. Viewing the situation through the lens of love puts everything into perspective instantly. And makes it so much easier to apologize.
Swallow your pride.
This is the worst for me. As a perfectionist, I love being right… and hate being wrong. Learning to be humble and admit when I’m wrong is an on-going struggle for me. But with practice (and I sure have a lot of practice being married), it’s getting easier.
It sucks being angry when your heart is on the other side of the world. And it’s even worse when you’re not sure when you can talk again or if you can’t hug them to reassure yourself that everything is okay.
When you feel like you don’t have the ability to do that, it can make you feel like you have no agency at all. Don’t wait until the situation is perfect to apologize. Apologize the minute you’re ready to. A timely apology is way better than letting your relationship smolder and smoke under the hulking wreckage of the last argument. If that means sending it via email, post, Facebook message, or Gchat (or if you’re so lucky to be able to call) then so be it. The medium isn’t so important as the apology you’re making.
An apology doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually mean it. (It will often come out sounding like the continuation of your argument.) Don’t apologize before you truly feel sorry and are ready to extend an olive branch.
Make a gesture.
I’m not talking about orchestrating a flash mob or getting a bazillion roses delivered. (Although, if you can pull that off, go for it. More power to you.) It doesn’t have to cost a thing. Making a gesture outside of your apology can be especially important in a long distance relationship– it can act like that extra hug or kiss after the dust has settled and make your significant other feel special and loved.
It doesn’t matter who’s right. (You’re probably both wrong.)
Dude. I am all for fairness and equality. And when it comes to arguments, the hard truth is: you probably both are wrong. Maybe not wrong in principal. Maybe not wrong in facts. But usually, when an argument happens, both parties involve say and do things that are just wrong and unfair to each other. Recognize that and apologize for your half of the hurt.
Go beyond the problem.
Once you’ve apologized, problem solve. Depending on your ability to communicate, you might not be able to do this with your significant other. But it’s an important step. Reflect on what caused the argument in the first place. I’m not talking about revisiting it to fight again. I’m talking about an objective look at causes and effects. Think of yourself as doing an autopsy of the argument.
What set you (or your significant other) off? Does it have to do with the two of you? (For example, did it take place over a forgotten birthday or the way a decision was handled?) Or does it have to do with your circumstances? (For example, did frustration from a bad Skype connection overflow into the conversation?)
Once you know the causes, you can consider how you and your significant other responded to each other and how the flow of the argument went. And once you’ve analyzed that, you and your significant other can figure out how to avoid the same kind of blow up again.
Of course, this isn’t one-size-fits-all. You need to adapt for what works for your relationship, communication style (and constraints), and the situation at hand. How do you apologize in situations like this– leave a comment! I want to hear what you do!
PS. Looking to strengthen your relationship during deployment? It can be done!