3 Ways to Handle a Failed Confession or Apology

Sometimes you do everything you can to prepare your heart and mind for a moment of confession and/or apology with your spouse, and end up failing miserably!

But how does this even happen?

Typically, for me, this happens in the heat of the moment and for a variety of reasons.

Consider this scenario:

I’ve prayed and processed, processed and prayed, and finally feel like I’m ready to humbly communicate my sorrow over how I’ve hurt my husband. When, all of a sudden, his emotions get triggered by the mere mention of our recent hurtful conflict.


Maybe I didn’t communicate my confession or apology in a way that my spouse appreciates, understands or feels is sincere (see here).


Worst of all, maybe “I” get triggered because of the intensity of the moment and go off the rails toward more venting and defending rather than confessing and apologizing. Then my confession can quickly spiral into another argument or tirade like the one that began the whole messy offense in the first place! Ay, yi, yi, yi, yi!

Obviously, there are many risks involved here. So, be prepared for failure, especially when you’re just starting out in unchartered territory, and/or have a very wounded marriage.

Just be committed to the task, knowing it is such an important and valuable gift to give your spouse, encouraging the healing that your marriage needs.

How do you handle a failed apology or confession?

1. Immediately and humbly admit your failed attempt to apologize to your spouse.

You might even want to ask for a “do-over.” Then make sure to seek God’s help to find that humble and sincere attitude that probably was missing the first time around. Ask Christ to give you His same attitude . . .

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”    Philippians 2:5-8

Dying to your own pride and rightness in the matter might be the best thing you’ll ever do for your mate!

2. Be committed to asking God to reveal your negative contribution to the problem.

If the confession and apology failed, there’s likely more that you need to understand and see regarding the hurt you’ve inflicted on your mate.

Sometimes God allows us to fail an apology/confession because we need further training and humbling before we can get it right.

If that seems to ring true for you, then commit to pray over your part every single day until you can apologize sincerely and humbly. Until your spouse begins to drop his/her guard. 

And remember … this is the way it is for everyone when developing the ability to confess and apologize!

Besides, I have yet to meet anyone who did not need a little time to see their fault or humble their pride after a conflict. Accepting that you are human and flawed is the first order of business when mastering this important skill and task.

3. Don’t give up easily! 

If you want to build a confessional culture in your marriage—one where you and your spouse are open and vulnerable—you’ll need to keep a persevering spirit in place. It won’t develop overnight or even after a few weeks or months of trying this new habit.

You’ll need to acquire a taste for the bitterness of “humble pie” before you begin to see a real change in your marriage.

I never used to be a coffee drinker because I felt like it tasted just too bitter. But, now, I LOVE it!

I’m living proof that you can acquire a taste, even a desire, for something that you once found distasteful.

Apologizing well requires acquiring a taste for the bitterness of humble pie. But the rewards that your humility will bring are sweeter than honey for your Honey! 


What would you add to my list for handling a failed confession?


What have you kept in mind so that you can persevere toward apologizing to your spouse?

27 responses to “3 Ways to Handle a Failed Confession or Apology”

  1. I am so, so thankful that my hubby freely accepts my apologies and does not hold on to them. He does not ‘rub it in my face’. I’ve had a couple of other people in my life who would do that and it was awful.


    1. Oh, he is a keeper for sure!! Yes, we can identify with not always extending grace…the pain is just especially raw right now. But I hold fast to Him.


  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great thoughts, but one thing I would add is to know when to back away; it’s good to keep trying but a seriously failed confession can be the sign of a deeper problem,,,that your mate doesn’t WANT to accept an apology, because it compromises a more cherished anger.



    1. mmm …. cherished anger. There’s probably alot more of that going on in our relationships than we’d dare to admit.

      Because what would things look like if we gave that up? Who would we be without that guarding our wounded hearts?

      Takes alot of courage to go there, huh?


      1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        There would be tears, but as Gandalf said, not all tears are an evil…and they lubricate strength and keep it supple.


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  5. I can’t think of anything to add as you have nailed it to my best knowledge. Admitting the apology didn’t come out right is very important as it tells your spouse you really do want to make it right. Thanks Beth for always giving practical help for marriage and relationships.
    Have a super blessed day!


  6. I love how you spur us onto persevere toward confession and apology over and over if needed. I find that in certain moments no matter what or how you say something falls on deaf ears. Remembering to come back and try again to apologize, I believe will work eventually. Thank you for teaching us and giving us the tools to persevere in apology. Love you girl!


  7. Always such wise advise when it comes to marriage… I love reading and learning!!!


  8. Beth, much wisdom here. I loved the question you close with… “What have you kept in mind so that you could persevere toward an apology with your spouse?” I think for me it is that the relationship is so worth persevering. Always good to be here! And I have no idea why it switched to italicized or how to get it back 🙂 Sorry!


  9. A Word of Affirmation in Marriage –

    […] with: Faith Along the Way, The Modest Mom Blog, Messy Marriage, and The Art of […]


  10. Good stuff, Beth. I think you have to be a good forgiver in marriage to get to the fruitful years. We all have our faults, Lord knows I do, just ask my hubby, learning to accept responsibility for them and then ask forgiveness when you collide with your spouse is essential for continuing on in that dance together and doing the work God has for you. IMO, I think it can also hinder you as individuals. I’m never quite right working alone when I’m not 100% with my better half. Blessings to you today.


  11. Brandi Clevinger Avatar
    Brandi Clevinger

    I would add to communicate your feelings as well as your mate’s feelings, but to be sure you voice how you are receiving your spouse’s feelings. There have been many times that I have misunderstood my husband’s feelings. Once I got that cleared up, the argument stopped and the true apology surfaced as intended.


  12. Bonnie Lyn Smith Avatar
    Bonnie Lyn Smith

    Wow…my first visit to your site (via #CoffeeandConversation). Great post! I plan to tweet and pin it to my Relational Reconciliation page. LOVED this —> “I think sometimes God allows us to fail our confessions because we need further training and humbling before we can get it right.” My husband is good at this. Me…I need to work on it. Blessings from a fellow coffee lover at Espressos of Faith!


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  14. Such a good word, Beth. Thank you for sharing and linking up to WFMW!


  15. […] linked with: Raising Homemakers A Wise Woman Builds Her Home Grace and Truth A Little R&R Messy Marriage 3D Lessons for Life Woman to Woman Ministries Mom’s Morning Coffee Christian Mommy […]


  16. I’m learning a lot here. 🙂


  17. […] Copyright© Ugochi Oritsejolomisan 2015 Sharing With: Wedded Wednesday […]


  18. What a great reminder to be vulnerable and willing to listen and learn from our mistakes. I like the term “confessional culture” in marriage; what an important and humbling thing to admit our wrong, apologize, validate the hurt we have caused, and with God’s help, work towards avoiding the same mistakes.


  19. I’m sorry for all that went wrong,
    I’m sorry for your tears;
    I’m sorry it’s the same old song,
    and now it’s coming clear
    that when I say I’m sorry,
    it’s to protect my pride,
    and like Malaysian curry,
    its taste you can’t abide,
    so I must ask assistance
    from the God so dear to you,
    ask with some persistence
    that He may make it true,
    the apology that I must give
    that you may at last forgive.


  20. I think timing is crucial – sometimes we have prepared and are ready to say our piece but our partner is not in the same place….There is such a wisdom in knowing when to speak.


  21. This has happened to me before too, on both sides. It takes a lot of humility to recover from. 🙂 But with God, thankfully all things are possible. Starting all over from scratch is often the best thing I can do in these situations.


  22. I am so thankful for a forgiving spouse! Sometimes it takes time for an apology to work through the hurt. Thanks for the great insight!


  23. […] This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Messy Marriage […]


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