This week in counseling I was struck with how some husbands do not believe they should have to take responsibility for how they make their wives feel if the husband does not intend to offend. It is as if a husband should not have to apologize if he accidentally offends his wife, after all, he did not really mean to. He reasons that it is his wife’s fault if she feels a way that he had not planned.
Empathy is one of the rules of living relationally which occurs when we take responsibility for the total effect we have on others regardless of whether we aim to have the effect them the we did. I am bothered by the effect I have on my wife if the effect is not positive. I do want her to spend the rest of her life being happy that she picked me. Having a negative effect on her (purposed or not) is just the opposite of that which ultimately works against our relationship.
When you think about marriage, specifically, there is hardly anything a spouse can do that does not affect his or her spouse either positively or negatively. So, the next time you elicit a negative effect upon your spouse (intentional or not), take responsibility for that effect and issue a sincere apology, quickly. You will thank yourself for it!