When Jill and Fred (not their real names, of course) came in for counseling, Jill talked about how she was still hurting because of something Fred had done. Fred quickly pointed out, rather impatiently, that he had apologized for that. The implication seemed to be that since he had apologized, Jill should not be talking about her pain anymore (and maybe not even feeling her pain anymore).
Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were that easy!
“I’m sorry that you tripped over my brief case and cut your head open. And now that I have apologized, it should no longer hurt and let’s just move on to other things.”
Of course, that’s ludicrous. No one would say that. We all know intuitively (and probably from experience) that physical wounds take time to heal and often continue to hurt even after the appropriate dressing has been applied. We are sensitive to this when our loved ones are hurt physically. We treat them with kindness and tenderness and go out of our way to be there for them until their wound is healed.
And yet, emotional wounds also take time to heal. A sincere apology may be like dressing a physical wound. It is very important – even vital - in the process of healing but it does not negate the need for time in the healing process. It also does not ensure that the wound won’t still hurt for a while. A wise and loving spouse will recognize this and give his or her partner the time and support that is needed for healing. With this patience, love and support, the wound is not only allowed to fully heal but the relationship is strengthened as well.