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My Wife Won't Speak to Me!

My Wife Won't Speak to Me!

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Question:

This is a totally hypothetical situation that would never really happen. My wife is angry at me. She thinks she told me to pick her up from the train station, and I never showed up. She waited in the rain for half an hour, couldn't find a taxi, and in the end had to call a friend because my phone was off. I am absolutely sure she did not ask me to pick her up. Now she won't speak to me until I apologize. Can I apologize when I don't believe I did anything wrong?

Answer:

I don't usually answer such far-fetched, made-up scenarios. But this time I will make an exception.

When we say, "I am sorry," we are making a statement about ourselves: I am remorseful, I regret my actions and I hope not to repeat them.

But an apology is not just about you and your feelings. It is about the person you hurt. You don't apologize just to absolve yourself from guilt, but to acknowledge that you are the cause of someone else's pain, and to take responsibility for your role in that.

This means that even if you are completely in the right and really did nothing wrong, even if the other person misinterpreted your words or actions, even if you did nothing to regret, nevertheless if someone else is hurting, you need to apologize for that.

Only G‑d knows who is right and who is wrong in your case. But we all know who is hurting.

But beware. If you say, "I am sorry for any pain you felt," your words will come across as empty. It will sound like you think she has a problem and you feel sorry for her. You need to arouse true feelings of empathy for her, and real regret for your part in what happened.

Just imagine her standing in the rain, drenched and dejected, calling your unresponsive phone and not knowing what to do. And in her mind, you caused all this. You owe her a sincere apology. Hypothetically.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Lisa Providence April 14, 2017

It sounds like the lines of communication got "crossed."

You can apologize to her for hurting her. Reply

Yaacov Beer Sheva December 23, 2016

"My wife won't speak to me" Offer a sincere apology for her hurt and anger. That is important for your relationship. But more important is, never bring this subject up again in future spats. Do not regret your apology. Reply

Mlk Brockton Ma November 12, 2016

Why won't my wife speak to me Saying I am sorry with some people is non acceptable .They will say that they accept your apology but they really don't . Also double check what is said to you about picking someone up an find out what time and the exact place . Leave no margin for error . There is also another reason someone can go over broad with being angry there are other things that have been stored away that this was the final point that caused the anger to boil over . A lot people just do not know how to let go of things . Trying to be able to analyze some thing like this you need professional help . Reply

Arega Gizaw November 2, 2016

You have to apologize . Because, you have to continue your marriage with peace. Reply

Avi WHITE PLAINS October 27, 2016

Don't Understand (and yes I am married) "but to acknowledge that you are the cause of someone else's pain, and to take responsibility for your role in that. This means that even if you are completely in the right and really did nothing wrong... nevertheless if someone else is hurting, you need to apologize for that."

Seems a bit crazy to me, you can't, nor should you, walk around apologizing for other peoples self inflicted frustrations? You can feel sorry that she was in an annoying situation, but not from a perspective of "the cause of her hurting"

You might argue it's in your best interest to apologize (lose the battle, win the war) but only if it's sporadic and not major issues. This rule seems like a good way to become an enabler for narcissism and personally disorders.

would love some clarity.Toda Reply

jim dallas October 27, 2016

sefira ross, excellent dejection illustration as for you, hypothetical worrier, you owe her an explanation and apology for not being 'psychic'! wife indeed, closer than twins! Reply

Anonymous ny October 27, 2016

She also needs to apologize. Reply

the Oracle Indio October 26, 2016

How old are you? This is a frequent cause of "old couple arguments." Be sure also to tell her you will have your hearing checked. Then do it. Reply

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