The Apologies that Might Save Your Relationship

Photo: Michael Maren

Karen Thompson Walker, author of the The Age of Miracles: A Novel (now out in paperback) reveals the kind of "I'm sorry" that can turn a marital mistake into a moment of connection.

1. I'm sorry I locked us out of our apartment building that night last January, while you were dragging our Christmas tree out to the curb and it was 20 degrees outside and we didn't have our coats or our phones. But I saw the tree catch in the wind like a sail, and I could tell that you were about to run out into the street after it, and I wanted to help you, so I ran outside, too, but you know how forgetful I am and how absentminded, and I guess we'd be stranded like that a lot more often if you were that way, too.


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2. I'm sorry I was too shy to tell you how I felt when we were 18 and lived on the same dorm floor, and so instead I just stood in the hall, talking loudly to other people, hoping you might hear my voice and want to open your door, which often you did.


3. I'm sorry I worry so much about plane crashes and skin cancer and burglars. And I'm sorry that I always think our house is on fire, ever since that night in Brooklyn, the year we got married, when there really was a fire in our building, and we lived in a studio on the 15th floor, and the stairwells were filled with smoke, so we took a chance on the elevator, ducking down and holding hands, and then sneezed ash for days. And I'm so glad you don't worry like I do, so that I can always look to you when I need to and tell from your smile that we're safe, that someone next door is just cooking something smoky and that everything will probably be fine.


4. I'm sorry about the dishes and the laundry and the trash, and how I only know how to make cookies and pecan pie, and how I'm messy and disorganized, and so you always end up doing more than your fair share around the house--so unusual in the history of husbands!--and how, if the roles were reversed, I'd probably be much less forgiving than you are.


5. I'm sorry I just couldn't get into The Wire.


6. I'm sorry that I have so many dreams about us getting divorced or about you dying in a car crash on the way home and me hearing the news from a stoic policeman in the middle of the night. But as you know, I've always dreamed most often of losing whatever I hold most dear.


7. And finally, I'm sorry about that gigantic cell phone bill last October--$285 in roaming charges for one month, from when I was traveling in Canada. It's just that I missed you, and I wanted to talk to you each night and laugh about the things we'd each done that day and the books we were reading, you in Iowa and me in Toronto, and I love how much we still like to talk, how our experiences don't seem quite complete until we've described them all to each other, and how we're still such good friends, even after 13 years together. But you do make an excellent point: There is such a thing as Skype.


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