Why Is It Women Who Always Apologise?

23/03/2011 13:26 | Updated 22 May 2015

A recent study by psychologists has unearthed something we women already know - that we're the ones who always apologise. And not because we think we're in the wrong, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Women say sorry more often than men because – guess what? Men were found to be less likely to believe they needed to apologise for their actions.

It happens to me all the time. Some great oaf who isn't looking where's he's going walks into me on the street: 'I'm sorry,' I find myself blurting out. Or a guy in the supermarket queue ahead of me drops his change all over floor. 'Sorry,' I say, instinctively reaching down to help him pick it up.

What is it with us? The findings of the study at the University of Waterloo in Ontario go some way in explaining. The psychologists discovered that men were found to have a 'higher' threshold for behaving badly because they didn't see eye to eye with women as to what was right and wrong.

"Part of the reason women apologise more is they have a lower threshold for what is offensive behaviour," lead author of the study Karina Schumann says.

"It's not that men are always being insensitive or that women are always seeing offences that aren't. It's a different standard between men and women on how offensive behaviour is, and sometimes results in men not apologising for something that the female thinks they should."

In our house I feel I'm forever saying sorry. Sorry for the fact that the supermarket has run out of favourite pizza; sorry for being late home from work and unable to read two stories before bed; sorry for forgetting to remind my daughter to take in her PE kit to school; sorry to my husband that – yes - I have got a headache again and the list of remorse goes on.

My husband can, on rare occasions, bring himself to apologise. But usually it's only after a three day stand-off when he's had enough of being ignored – and even then his apology is carefully loaded with an opt-out clause.

'I'm sorry we argued,' he'll say. 'Will you please start talking to me now?'

As far as I'm concerned this isn't a proper apology at all because it assumes almost no responsibility for his actions.

What I really want him to say is this: 'I'm sorry I failed to pick up milk on the way home when it was the only thing you asked me to do today to contribute to the running of the house. In fact, I'm sorry, too, that you can't rely on me to remember anything I'm asked to do.'

It's a small word, but researchers have even proven that a 'sorry' can help a wife live longer. In a study carried out in the U.S it was revealed that women who received an apology for hurtful behaviour from their partners actually suffered less stress and potential damage to their heart than those who didn't. Now I have even more reason to say to my husband: 'You'll be sorry if you don't say sorry...'

But what all the studies in the world can't prove is something I know to be true. In most marriages apologies work on a kind of secret, unspoken rota. It doesn't really matter who is in the wrong at all, the important thing is remembering when it's your turn to show remorse.

Now, where did I put that diary?


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