The Art of the Apology

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Learning how to apologize has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned so far in my marriage. 

I thought I knew how to apologize well. Isn’t that one of the earliest lessons we learn when we reach school age?

However, early in our marriage, I noticed that my apologies (if I apologized at all) often lacked humility.

A genuine apology and a swift forgiveness positively affect the whole dynamic of your relationship with your spouse. 

Take responsibility

Very few marital disputes are the sole fault of one of the parties, so you first must acknowledge your role in the problem or dispute. If you don’t your apology will lack sincerity. 

Step into your spouse’s shoes and see how your words and actions may have negatively affected or hurt him. Show him that you respect how he feels.

This first step takes humility, which can prove difficult for many of us, but will help build trust and love in your relationship with your partner.

Watch your words

Words have power and can affect the sincerity and validity of your apology. 

When struggling to overcome our pride, we often word our apology in a way that places the blame primarily on the other person.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” or “If I offended you, I’m sorry” are not apologies. And instead of reinforcing the connection between you and your spouse, further divide you. 

Use more “I statements” when apologizing like “I’m sorry I said…” or “I’m sorry I…” and use specifics. Show your spouse with your words that you actually know why you are apologizing. 

Ask for forgiveness

Honesty, this is the part I still struggle with. Asking for forgiveness is incredibly humbling often making it the most challenging part of an apology. But I promise, that it will become easier over time. 

You may be tempted to write it out or send it in a text, but it’s important that you verbally ask your spouse for forgiveness. Doing this offers release and closure for both people, and can help you grow in virtues that will benefit your relationship. 

If you struggle with this step, ask yourself why? What is preventing you from doing this? Take it to prayer and allow God to show you where you need to grow. 

Create an action plan

What steps can you take to prevent this mistake from happening again? What steps will you take to change? 

You can ask your spouse what he thinks could be done differently if the situation arises again. 

But don’t just tell your husband your plan, put it into action. Allow him to see your resolve to love him better. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so show yourself some kindness as you learn and ask God for the grace to help you were you still struggle.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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Questions to Foster Emotional Intimacy

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Early in a relationship, couples often have an easier time asking probing questions to get to know their significant other in a deeper way.

But after the honeymoon phase has waned, couples can easily default to questions that require a simple response like: “How was your day?” or “How was work?”

Asking thoughtful questions and then actively listening to the answers your spouse gives can do a lot to foster emotional intimacy and connection between a husband and wife. 

Not yet married? Read more here on developing emotional intimacy during engagement.

Try asking your husband one (or all) of these questions on your next date night, or around the dinner table to get the conversation started. 

What are your dreams?

Dreams can grow and change over time as a person discovers more about who they are. So even if you knew your spouse’s dream during the seasons of dating and engagement, his dreams (and yours) may look different now then when you met. 

Asking your husband to share his dreams with you makes him feel known, while also revealing ways in which you can encourage your spouse in pursuing them. 

This question often generates discussion about dreams that you as a couple have for your family and future together.

What have you been thankful for recently?

As marriage move past the honeymoon stage, it is very easy for couples to take each other for granted; however, gratitude is an integral part of healthy relationships. 

Asking your spouse what he is thankful for gives him the opportunity to intentionally practice gratitude, enforcing it as a more regular habit. 

It can also help you, personally and as a couple, to focus on the present moment and all the gifts God has blessed you with. 

What has Jesus been saying to you in prayer?

This question goes even deeper than the classic “How is your prayer life?” 

It invites the listener into this innermost part of their spouse’s heart and may even help your spouse process the ways in which God has worked in their lives. 

Plus, it opens up the possibility for a longer conversation on spirituality and prayer which can be edifying for both people. 


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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Communication in a Long-Distance Relationship

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

My husband and I are currently in the midst of a season of work-inflicted separation. His professional travel will keep him away from home for about five months, though we will be able to communicate and visit each other periodically during that time.

These circumstances, though frequent, are never ideal. And they are certainly not easy. The distance and separation have challenged our methods and means of communication and have stretched our hearts’ capacity to desire union with one another.

Communication is key in any relationship. Honest dialogue serves as a building block to any kind of intimacy: spiritual, physical, intellectual, creative, or emotional. Though if you and someone you love are in a long-distance relationship, effective communication is the primary building block to maintaining and building a foundation of trust, honesty, intimacy, and unity.

Successful communication requires honest reflection, both of the circumstances and of your heart’s desire. If you and your partner—whether in a dating, engaged, or married relationship—are in a season of separation, I encourage you to be intentional about planning your communication in a proactive way.

The logistics of current circumstances must be taken into account. First, determining the best time of day to communicate is vital; considerations for conflicting schedules or time changes are significant variables. Second, discuss the best method for communication: an online messaging provider (such as Facebook messenger), text messages, phone calls, or emails each offer various benefits and obstacles. Each method can be an intentional means to a specific, desired end.

For example, for a quick check in, online messengers are simple and efficient. Oftentimes, the response rate is rapid. In contrast, an email platform offers greater length and depth for sharing, though the wait time between responses is generally slower.

Beyond the logistics of the situation, both parties must be honest about their personal needs for communication over time and distance.

In many ways, men and women differ in their need for communication. Where women generally engage in conversation as a means to build emotional intimacy, men often engage in conversation to accomplish a productive end. Being realistic about your partner’s predisposition to communication will create an environment for trust, collaboration and fruitful compromise.

Differences in communication are also specific to each individual’s mind and heart. In order for both individuals to be satisfied, each must introspectively recognize their needs, then clearly admit what they desire.

For example, my husband is content with a brief message to check-in, confirm we are alive, and to catch up on the generic happenings of the day. Meanwhile, I desire a thorough email thread to share the intimate thoughts and reactions of what happened over the previous days.

Neither of our preferences are inherently “good” or “bad,” but they are drastically different. Sharing a dialogue about how we are willing and able to compromise has enhanced our long-distance communication with greater understanding, peace, and intimacy—though our journey to creating long-distance intimacy is ongoing.

In authentic, loving relationships, both individuals are called to surrender some of their own desires for the fulfillment of the other’s needs. This kind of daily dying-to-self for the good of another has the potential to eliminate frustration or fear and enhance intimacy and love in a relationship. What are your needs for communication in relationship? If they differ from your partner, where are you willing to collaborate to achieve a greater good?

Have you ever experienced challenges or success in building intimacy through communication in a long-distance relationship? Please share your experiences, advice, and questions with our Spoken Bride community on Facebook or Instagram.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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My Daughter's Storybook Wedding--and How it Helped me Grieve

LIZ GORRELL

 

I am a bride, a mother, and a grandmother. In anticipating my eldest daughter’s child (my 6th grandchild), I am eager to share the story of our mother-daughter relationship amidst the planning of her wedding day last year. Celebrating her storybook wedding, and reflecting on that season of life, was a precious spiritual gift to me. I pray that sharing this story will be a gift to a young bride-to-be, new bride, and her mother.

In the midst of planning my daughter’s wedding, I was grieving the death of my mother. The process of mourning my loss filled my soul with emotion and clouded my ability to express myself. It wasn’t until after the wedding when I was finally able to sit and reflect upon my mother’s death, my daughter’s beautiful wedding, and the prayers my mother would have offered--for my daughter, her new husband, and their life together. Ultimately, the moment of pause helped me recognize how her wedding was my “good grief,” a gracious gift in the midst of sadness.

A mother is an integral part of a young woman’s life when she is getting married. Regardless if the two are on good terms or not--whether the relationship is filled with intimate stories and laughter over a girls’ night or strained from wounds and incompatible temperaments--the mother-daughter relationship is emphasized during a transition to marriage.

I believe every mother longs to be close to her little girl as she moves from her parents’ protection to the loving shelter of a kind man. And I believe each young woman yearns for her mother’s support as she enters her new vocation.

I go back in my mind to a year ago when my daughter, Kate, and I were in the middle of reception detail planning and dress fittings. There was so much to decide upon, and of course, I was so excited to bring all my crafty talents to the table and make her storybook wedding a reality. At the same time, the shadow of grief from my mother’s death followed me as I hadn’t adequately processed the transition in my own mother-daughter relationship.

Kate and I often argued about wedding etiquette. More than once I heard, “Mom, people don’t do that anymore!” Eventually I responded, “Well, if I’m paying for it, I want it to be done well and be a classy event.”

The tension and anger were followed by apologies and compromises. The “Please, Mom, understand I want my wedding to be what I envision, not your vision,” was almost always answered with, “I understand, honey, but please don’t steal my joy in giving you something beautiful.” Despite our challenging conversations, we were able to come together to create a lovely and memorable day.

“Stealing joy” was an echo of my mother’s words from years prior--when I had denied her opinion and financial support in my own wedding preparations and newlywed life. I was the youngest of fourteen children, her eleventh daughter, and I shudder at the memory of my reaction to her efforts to help me.

The dual-perspective as both a daughter and a mother allows me to identify these offerings of help as a sincere gift. I wish I had been more gracious and hadn’t “stolen her joy.” Simultaneously, I can empathize with my daughter’s longing for independence and freedom in some of our conflicts of opinion.

I recognize the perspective as a young bride, unable to realize how much emotion a mother experiences as her daughter prepares for marriage. A mother’s emotional investment stretches beyond monetary costs, aesthetic details, and various other niceties. In her daughter’s wedding, a mother comes to terms with the reality that her young girl is becoming a woman, making decisions of her own, and preparing to leave home in order to cling to another. Such a transition is difficult.

When a woman first finds out she is having a baby girl, she holds close to her heart all the expectations of what kind of mother she will be to her little girl. She hopes to be a good example in femininity, holiness and motherhood, and to cultivate a true friendship that goes beyond being a mother and daughter. Every mother has expectations for her daughter, in what kind of woman she will become; as I look with love upon my daughter, I can honestly say she has always exceeded mine.

As a homeschooling family, I had been a long-term support to my daughter--and she to me. Yet, witnessing her maturation and growing independence through the college years was difficult. Though she became the lovely independent young woman and friend I had hoped for, there is an experience of grieving, of “losing” my little girl. Such a bittersweet transition is not easy.

My daughter’s wedding was truly a storybook wedding. I was touched by her and her fiance’s desire for the wedding to be a deeply sacred event. The afternoon of the Nuptial Mass was indeed a true expression of Faith which included she and her guy meeting our pastor to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation minutes before they would line up with their bridal party in the back of the cathedral.

With the classic sacred music, stunning musicians, and reverence of the whole Mass, many tears of joy were shed that afternoon, however, surprisingly, I didn’t cry. In total peace, I looked upon my little girl all grown up, as she stood arm in arm with her new husband presenting, with love, her bouquet and entrusting their marriage to our Blessed Mother Mary. My own mother lived her life devoted to our Blessed Mother, so I imagine she was probably smiling down from heaven.

The fairy tale continued at a most exquisite reception venue with simple elegance planned into the details. The details were very personal from the place setting favors to the gorgeous dessert table spread of homemade pies and cheesecakes compliments of her sister-in-law, Abby and myself. My humble effort at making the wedding cake was a labor of love and satisfaction even if it was a bit crooked! From the Father-Daughter dance to “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, and the Mother-Son dance to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong,

all the joy was bit by bit healing my grief.

Everyone celebrated loudly, danced the night away and gathered under the stars sending off the happy couple under a shower of sparklers.

In the grieving of my little girl’s growing up and the grieving of my mother’s death, I lost my familiar positions in relation to the women who know me best. But in my loss, I gained a new level of intimacy with both my daughter and my mother, I gained a new perspective and compassion for how the mother-daughter relationship changes over time, and I gained the love of God to guide me, gently, through a major life transition with peace and joy.

I often think of my daughter and my mother, Edith, as my two closest friends. When I think of the virtues my holy mother possessed--strong love of God, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, humility and patience--I see those same virtues in my daughter; so my mother lives on.

My advice to the young ladies planning a wedding is to seek a better understanding of the gift you are to your mother, and that regardless of the state of your relationship with your mother at this time, know you are a gift from God to her. Your love and joy may help her grieve a loss, heal a wound, and grow in holiness.

To the mothers out there, I pray for grace for you to enter into a better friendship with your girl as she prepares for her vocation of wife and motherhood. Give her your time and love, but most importantly your prayers so she may glorify God with her new life--a life you helped to provide, and nourished the best you could.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Gorrell is a wife, mother to five living children and three little saints in heaven, and grandmother to 5 sweet kiddos. A Midwest transplant to Austin, Texas, she loves gardening, creating mosaic patio stones with Catholic themes, all-things decorating, wedding and party planning, baking, and celebrating big her Catholic Faith. Liz has spent the better part of the last 20 years homeschooling her last four children, creating a domestic Church by way of her love of sacred art, liturgical celebrations and cultivating an environment of goodness, truth and beauty. She enjoys helping young mothers and other homeschooling mothers through her ministry, Heart of the Home. She has a devotion to the Blessed Mother, and strives to emulate Mary and the Saints in living a simple life. Her goal is to hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant,.. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

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Newlywed Life | To Love + To Honor: the Learning Curve of Married Communication + the Learning Curve of Prayer

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Even with significant, comprehensive preparation, even with the purest intentions and highest hopes, the reality of marriage sometimes looks a lot different from what you've imagined. And that can be good: life together as man and wife is a mirror, a purification, a road to the Resurrection by which we can't avoid the Cross. Over the upcoming months, our contributor Carissa Pluta is sharing her insights into transition and developing deeper communication and honesty as a couple.

Photography:    Visual Grace

Photography: Visual Grace

When I told my husband Ben I was going to be writing about communication, he laughed. He knows me too well. Just the other day we got into an argument after he held up a blackened piece of toast, asking, “Is this too dark?”

It really had nothing to do with the toast. Ben thought he was doing something nice for his wife, and wanted to communicate that he cared about me and my toast preferences. But I heard the frustration in his voice after a tough evening, and thought that frustration was directed at me. There were so many other factors, so many minute (but important) details that turned what should have been a simple question into a half-hour argument.

While I have grown in my ability to communicate, especially in the ten months of our marriage, for me communication is the area of our relationship with the steepest learning curve.

When you get engaged, and then again when you enter into marriage, you quickly learn you need to communicate in ways you’ve never had to before. Your thoughts, your emotions, your words no longer just affect you. They profoundly and intimately affect your fiancé or spouse. It can be an exciting gift, to share so much of yourself with another, to be called to love someone in an entirely new way. But that doesn’t make it easy.

Early on, attempts to effectively communicate often lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and maybe even hurt feelings. It can frustrate us, and if you are anything like me, it sometimes leaves us wondering: Isn’t this supposed to be a happy time? Why does it seem like we are fighting all the time? Is there something wrong with our relationship? 

Even in healthy relationships, communicating well is a challenge.

Cultivating effective communication skills is similar to cultivating an effective prayer life—it requires time and patience. But more importantly, it requires vulnerability and openness, humility and reverence, love and the knowledge that we are loved.

Christ himself taught us--through his coming to us as a newborn child and a broken sacrifice on an altar--that prayer begins with vulnerability. Prayer is able to go deeper when we approach God knowing who we are when we stand before him. When we are able to go to the Lord, knowing we are both sinners and his daughters, we willingly present our whole selves to be received by him.

Vulnerability, according to Dr, Brené Brown, “sounds like truth and feels like courage.” It means allowing ourselves to be received in our entirety. But how can someone receive what we are unable or unwilling to hold out to them? We first need to understand our inner selves—our emotions, our thoughts, our motives, our weakness, our wounds. We have to take an open, honest look and humbly see the many different facets of our beings—both our imperfections and, sometimes with even more difficulty, our strengths. We have to reflect on the ways in which these things have shaped us over the years and how they affect our moment-to-moment.

For example, in the Great Toast Argument, I needed to step back and reflect on why I had reacted to Ben’s words the way I did. I had been having an incredibly difficult week, and that night was the breaking point. In my reflection I saw that much of my frustration stemmed from insecurities I had developed over many years; the lies that told me I was not good enough. I needed to feel loved, but when I heard frustration, I panicked and took on a defensive stance.

It wasn’t until I was able to communicate all this to my husband that he began to understand my troubled heart. It wasn’t until I understood how I was feeling that I was able to communicate it to him. Only through self-knowledge are we free to really begin sharing our interior life with our spouse. However, all too often communication stops after this self-expression.

Communication is usually seen as expressing how we feel or what we think. And while that is an important aspect, it goes deeper than that.

Communication is just as much--if not more--about the other as it is about us. After all, what would prayer be if we never allowed for God to speak to us? For this reason, it demands reverence. This reverence first begins with our bodies. Prayer begins with putting ourselves in a position that encourages our mind to contemplate heavenly things. We generally don’t pray very well laying down in our cozy beds because it is hard to focus on what we are saying or on what God is trying to tell us. Kneeling or sitting upright in a chapel or in front of a religious image lends itself to much more fruitful prayer.

Similarly, our body language is important for effective communication. If we put our bodies in a position of receptivity, it makes our souls more open to receiving. Eye contact, uncrossed arms, standing with an open space or sitting upright on the edge of your seat, a nod of the head, an encouraging smile: these nonverbal signals make up even more of our communication than what is said. Our posture encourages listening and it helps the other person know that they are being listened to.

Listening is more than a means to an end; we are not listening merely to be able to respond. Prayer is more than just a one-way monologue; we are not simply speaking at God. It is a conversation with the Divine. Both sides speak, and when we speak we know the Lord listens —should we not return this act of love?

But more than likely, the Lord’s words are not heard with our ears but with our hearts. We understand more through thinking and feeling than we do through our sense of hearing, and we come to a deeper knowledge of who God is and who we are in that process.

Conversations with our spouse should be similar: seeking to understand and to listen well. In our argument, instead of asking my husband why he was frustrated, I assumed it was directed at me and, in my own frustration, lashed out. Only when I finally listened to him, and tried to understand his side, was I able to see how my own personal struggles also affect my husband deeply. I was able to see his love for me manifested in his taking on my own suffering. When we listen to others, especially our spouse, we create a space for them in our hearts. We allow ourselves to more intimately enter into their lives, into their pain, their excitement, their sorrows, their joys. We begin to know and can even feel as they do.

Finally, as in all prayer, we look to Christ on the cross as our example and as our source of grace.

He came to us with utter vulnerability, hanging broken on the cross, and allowed us to receive his very life which poured out from his open wounds. He listened to the broken and troubled heart of his Beloved and because he listened. He took on our pain.

And in all of this, his message from the cross was clear. It is the same message we must communicate to our spouse in all we do and say: Let every word, every breath tenderly, and silently speak the words I love you.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta graduated from Franciscan University in 2014 with a degree in English and Communication Arts, and is currently pursuing her Masters. Carissa is the new wife of a Catholic missionary. She enjoys hiking, painting, and drinking copious amounts of herbal tea. Carissa has a devotion to Mary under the title of the Mystical Rose and longs to reflect God's beauty in everything she does.

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