When it comes to apologies, lots of people have lots to say about them. Businesses "offer" apologies. Situations "lead" to apologies. Celebrities and politicians sometimes "issue" apologies. Some folks "demand" an apology while others "give" an apology.
If you have an inkling that you owe your spouse an apology, don't put it off. Apologize right away.
What is an Apology?
An apology in your marriage is more than saying "I'm sorry." An apology is an attempt to admit you made a mistake, hurt someone's feelings, did something really stupid, made a bad decision, etc.
When you apologize, you are accepting responsibility. Trying to justify or rationalize the error is truly apologizing.
Why People Apologize
Some people apologize because they just want to get out of the problem they are in or because they want to present a caring and repentant image to others. Focusing on your own needs when you apologize isn't really apologizing.
Other people apologize because they want to put the past behind them and begin again. Many folks apologize because they are genuinely sorry for what happened, want to accept responsibility for their actions, and want to make amends. These are good reasons.
Hopefully, you want to apologize to your spouse because you want to help ease and eventually end the hurt and pain that you caused, because you love your spouse, and because you want to do what you can to ensure that your marriage is on solid ground. These are better reasons to apologize.
How to Apologize
We think an apology between a husband and wife should be private. When you apologize to your spouse, your apology needs to be genuine and sincere. Use "I" in your apology and don't try to put any responsibility for your behavior on your spouse.
Although humor may have worked for David Letterman, don't try to be funny during an apology.
Keep your apology on target. Don't ramble like Mark Sanford.
Apologizing in the form of a letter is acceptable, however, if possible you should be present when the letter is read by your spouse. Express your shame, regret, sadness, guilt, etc. You also need to state what you are willing to do to make things right again.
You should emphasize your determination to not make the same mistake again. Whatever you decide to do to make restitution, make sure it is meaningful and something that you will do. Don't make promises you won't or can't keep.
Finally, you need to ask for forgiveness. Don't push your spouse for an immediate response. Your spouse may need time to respond.
Oh, don't forget to forgive yourself, too.