It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

When it comes to family therapy and working with the dynamics of couples, one of the key elements of our work is cultivating a sense of connection through communication skills. Demonstrating an effort at empathy and concern can come through how we apologize – or not.  

Of course some individuals trend toward the side of being unable to effectively apologize for moments that cause harm to a person or relationship. Either the lack of verbal recognition or failure to attempt a change in behavior in the future can leave another person feeling unimportant or disrespected.

However, more often in our Sensible Midwestern Culture, and particularly among women – some people tend to default toward apologies when they aren’t necessary or warranted. What’s wrong with saying “I’m sorry” when you see someone experiencing anguish, or even slight discomfort, even when you didn’t cause it?

“I call them serial apologizers,” says Nicole Flores-McCune, LISW-S. “They actually lesson the power of a good apology when they use them all the time. It takes away from the moments when they need to call upon the words “I’m sorry”  and causes them to feel inauthentic.”

Apologizing for taking up space in public places like a grocery store aisle or being late when held up by traffic doesn’t convey a sense of sorrow, the true weight the words of an apology were meant to carry. Over time receivers find the phrase hollow and when circumstances require a true apology, you find it hard to convey your true sentiment.

Often we find our Serial Apologizers using hollow expressions of regret as a symptom of perfectionism, which exacerbates the sense of not enough they feel. This is why they feel compelled to apologize for saying no and drawing healthy boundaries, or even taking time, energy and resources to take care of themselves. They use “I’m sorry” as a way of softening the blow of “no.”

If you’re a Serial Apologizer, here are a few things to remember:

  1. You are entitled to “no.”  You don’t have to be sorry for saying it.
  2. Recognize that errors happen to everyone. Not all errors cause sorrow.
  3. Express your actual feelings rather than your expected feelings. If you trying to move  through a physical space and you bump someone, it would be a fine to say “pardon me.” If running late, express gratitude for someone’s patience in waiting for you rather than overextending sorrow.
  4. Elevate your own worthiness to the level you place others’. If you would cheer on a friend who took time for herself or put distance in a toxic relationship, then do the same for yourself – without apology.
  5. Find new ways to convey your attempts to do better without using blame statements: I’ll do better next time or that didn’t go the way I planned or even how could I improve this? are statements that allow you connect with someone without the weight of shame that Serial Apologizers often carry.

Over-apologizing is usually a sign we are taking on more responsibility than is truly ours to carry.  Pausing to acknowledge this and then asking ourselves “what do I really what to convey?” can help identify what we really mean.

“I’m here for you.”

“I feel for you.”

“I wish I could make it better.”

“This is so painful.”

“I feel powerless.”

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Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Conversation hearts that read “QT Pie” can be adorable at the beginning of a relationship, but after 15+ years of marriage, messages that say “I went ahead and cleaned up the dog poop” actually go further to add vitality to a partnership. “We don’t fall in love and then get married; instead we get married and then learn what love requires,” says theologian Stanley Haurwas. Romance has its place within a relationship, but experience tells us that people want a living situation that supports their individual contributions to the world with companionship. We’re looking for partnership.

Mind Body Health Associates co-owners and therapists Landon Dunn and Holly Schweitzer Dunn work to create partnership in marriage and in their work-world. Having healthy systems and structures within their personal relationship has enhanced their work life because they’re practiced at looking for one another’s natural gifts and allowing that person to lead from their competence.

Both Holly and Landon recognize it’s not just about the role they play. They each complete tasks to keep the business – or the household – running smoothly.  Trust makes the relationship, business, and household systems work. Each person believes the other is capable to meet and overcome the challenges that arise.

“Landon and I are somewhat unique in that we split everything in terms of household responsibility down the middle,” Holly said. “We know this arrangement does not work for every family, but for ours it is key to things running (mostly) smoothly. There really aren’t male or female-specific roles.  We both raise our children, fold the laundry, work in the yard, and run the business. ‘Everything together’ is our motto.”

This lifestyle also depends on dedication to structures to help keep the balance. They keep a routine splitting dinnertime responsibilities and school drop-off duties 50/50. In this way, Landon and Holly each are afforded a few evenings to come home, sit down, and enjoy dinner after work. The key, the couple agrees, is seeking to understand and meet their individual needs as well as their partner’s needs as equally important as his or her own. “When the seven day structure is balanced, there is less need to keep score,” Landon said.

A family structured on partnership has allowed both Landon and Holly to function in patterns that lead to better individual and relational health. With less energy focused on who is doing what, or wondering if their partner is doing enough, both individuals find space to work on their own wellbeing. Less attention goes toward “what needs done” and instead is directed toward working through their own “stuff.” From that place of health, they can support and encourage their partner and children, feeding a healthier cycle of living.

In honor of love, Landon and Holly revere the wisdom of Khalil Gibran on the spaces between lovers:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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Recipe: Golden Milk

Recipe: Golden Milk

Recipe: Golden Milk

You can find a few of us in the office starting the day with this delicious, nourishing, and warming start to the day. It has its roots as an Ayurvedic staple (Ayurveda is the sister-science to yoga, rich with ancient wisdom), but functional health experts tout its benefits, too. The herbs and spices involved are great for warming the body, decreasing inflammation, and amping up your immunity – perfect for these seasons when you spend more hours indoors, sharing air (and germs) with other people. 
You can search variations of this recipe, but here’s what our yoga instructor, Michele, puts in her cup:

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (if you tolerate dairy well, then using cows milk is fine, especially when warmed)
1-2 tablespoons honey or real maple syrup
1-2 tsp. ground tumeric (if you can find fresh or dried, even better!)
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced open
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. black pepper (or one turn of your grinder)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. ghee (or coconut oil)

Bring this to slight boil and let simmer. Pour it through a strainer into your mug and enjoy as a start or an end to the day. 

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“Unproductive” As A Means To Connection

“Unproductive” As A Means To Connection

"Unproductive" As A Means To Connection

So, once you get yourself to slow down and ignore the to-do list, how do you spend the evening? A Netflix binge of crime shows won’t exactly bring a sense of ease, so think critically about how you would like to spend your hours of restoration. Try not to be productive about it, but you can still use your time to engage in activities for enjoyment. 

One of our households uses “Quite Hour” on a regular (but not nightly or even scheduled) basis. The electronics are turned off and the fire is going. Kids and adults choose from games, puzzles, books, handwork like crotchet and knitting, to fill the time. We can engage in these activities without the sense of winning or accomplishing and tune in to the enjoyment. It’s a practice of doing something not because you’re good at it or because you want to do it better. 

Recognize also these moments of un-productivity are hugely beneficial in the realm of connection to loved ones. Time spent snuggled on a couch with a book or laughing during a lively family game floods our brains with dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that helps wire our brains for attention and emotional response. Gradually we can rewire our brains to crave the quiet and intimate as much as the sense of accomplishment from producing and achieving. 

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Preparing to Go Fallow

Preparing to Go Fallow

Preparing to Go Fallow

If you sense a desire to amplify the experience of coziness that goes with a good winter’s hibernation, but – like most of us – have been socially trained to be constantly productive, you might endure some challenges as you attempt to downshift. Perhaps family or work schedules prohibit you from truly relaxing in the evening in the timeframe you desire. Or once you’ve arrived at home, the mental hurdle of the to-do list keeps you moving. As a collective group, here are some of the things our staff practice to help us enjoy the benefits of a sleepy winter’s night:

  • Make a cup of tea to take in the sensory experience of shifting gears
  • Change your clothes, Mr. Roger’s style – a house sweater or comfy slippers will help attach hibernation focus. 
  • Start a fire in the fireplace to keep you close and prevent you from running one more errand
  • Cover up with a heavy scarf or weighted blanket, which makes it harder to get up and move around 

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