America: Land of the Aggrieved

Mark Goulston
5 min readSep 18, 2022

If there is anything the extreme left and extreme right and for that matter just the left and the right and even more widespread, the contemporary American marriage need is a huge dose of forgiveness. However, you can’t feel aggrieved and be forgiving at the same time.

Forgiving requires more than the hurtful party simply saying they’re sorry. It requires also saying they were wrong and willingly paying the consequences.

Consider the following dialogue between a husband and wife:

Husband: I’m sorry I cheated on you.

Wife: I accept your apology and I’m sorry that I can never allow you to touch me again.

Husband: What?

Wife: I said I accept your apology and I’m sorry that I can never allow you to touch me again.

Husband: But if that happens, then I will be forced to cheat again.

Wife: Well, if that happens, I will be forced to file for a divorce.

Husband: But that’s not fair.

Wife: It may not be fair, but that is what I’m going to do after you told me you cheated on me and if you cheat again.

Husband: But that’s wrong.

Wife: It may be wrong, but I’m not wrong (a la Bill Clinton’s apology for his affair) so I don’t owe you anything. You’re saying you are sorry for cheating on me doesn’t mean anything if you don’t say you — not it (as Clinton said) — were wrong.

Husband: But if I say I was wrong than I’ll owe you…

Wife (interrupting): More than an empty “I’m sorry” apology.

Husband: Owe you what?

Wife: We’ll have to figure that out, but it’s got to be enough to take away the hurt, anger and fear I have that you’ll do it again.

Husband: What does that look like?

Wife: As I told you we’ll have to figure it out and whatever we figure out should not be designed to decimate or destroy you, because you wouldn’t be much good to me, the world or yourself if you were either. But it’s got to be enough so that I can let go of my hurt, anger and fear and that is where I come upon my doubts about whether you’ll be able to do it.

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Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is the world's #1 listening coach and author of "Just Listen" which became the top book on listening in the world