When He Hands You an “Olive Branch”


Sometimes, men have their own way of apologizing.  If we are not careful, we might miss what they are doing and not appreciate the significance of their gestures.

If you and your husband have had an argument, he may need time to think and process what happened before he is ready to talk about how he feels. That has to be ok! I encourage you not to pressure him to “resolve the conflict right now” if he is the kind of guy who needs time to think through highly emotionally charged issues. Some men need a day or so to think through what they are feeling. That is not wrong.

Maybe, he will decide that he did wrong you in some way, and maybe he will try to apologize by doing something kind, thoughtful and generous for you. Sometimes men will DO something as a way of apologizing like:

  • bring you a gift
  • invite you to go somewhere fun
  • tell you a joke to try to get you to laugh
  • offer you a hug
  • touch you in some way – to show that he wants to reconnect
  • do something silly and playful

These things may not seem like an “official apology” to us as women, but for many men, this is exactly what they are doing – they are offering us an “olive branch” and saying, “I do love you. I want to make things right. I don’t want to fight with you. Please forgive me. We are ok.”

If he does something like this, maybe we could say something like, “Apology accepted,” then smile brightly and give a hug back.  Instead of trying to force our men to use the words we want them to use, maybe we can learn to understand their language and appreciate the unique ways they communicate. If they do apologize in words, that is wonderful! But words are not the only way a person may try to apologize. That is not necessarily wrong. It may just be different.

It is possible we may need to have more discussion about some issues. But, really, there are other issues where more discussion may be more harmful than helpful. That will require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help us decide when it is best to drop an issue and when it is best to seek to talk more about it. Some issues are not resolvable. Some times we are going to just not agree. Sometimes the more we try to force our opinion and our way, the more damage we do. There are some issues we cannot compromise about – when it comes to things that are major biblical principles or when it comes to living holy lives and avoiding sin. Other things are really not that big of a deal and may be things that would be better to allow God to speak to our men about without us trying to force our way. We are not always going to get to do everything we want to do in our relationships. Our way is not always best. We are not always right. Sometimes, God will lead us through our men and the outcome will be infinitely better than what we desired to do.

My prayer is that we will cling tightly to Christ alone, and hold everything else very loosely in our hands, seeking God’s will, not our own. I also pray that we might be ready and willing to generously extend grace, mercy and forgiveness to our men. I pray most of all for God’s greatest glory in our lives and that He might empower us to be faithful to Himself.


“I make sure I apologize thoughtfully and sincerely to my husband. But he doesn’t ever apologize or say he is sorry for anything. Why should I have to accept a little joke or hug as an apology when he should give me a real apology?”


Words are SUCH A BIG DEAL to us as women! We want to give long, involved apologies to show our sincerity and to try to make things right. Ironically, many husbands don’t care much about our words, especially if they don’t see actions backing up what we are saying. Many husbands would rather we not even use words to apologize but SHOW them by doing something.

I don’t think either way (apologizing with words vs. with actions) is particularly “better” or “more right” or “more wrong.” I think we tend to approach things differently. Ideally, it would be wonderful if we all used words and actions to apologize, in my view.

But, I don’t want us to discount our husbands’ actions and assume evil motives or insincerity on their part. For many husbands, words are fairly meaningless, and they are trying to show that they are sincere by their actions because they may not think of words as being that meaningful. This can be especially true for husbands that are not as comfortable expressing emotions verbally.

As we continue to grow in our understanding of our men and ourselves and as we show them more respect and they begin to feel safe, I think it is possible for us, in time, to share our desire for sincere words of apology. And I think that when husbands eventually feel safe with us, they may be able to feel like they can try to risk a verbal apology. Words can be scary for men. Sometimes they may feel they can’t “say the right words” and if they feel we are going to pounce on them if they don’t do it “right” – they may feel intimidated to try to apologize with words- especially if past verbal apologies did not go well or were not received well.

Many men are not very comfortable with highly emotionally charged words, or if they know their wives’ expectations are super sky high. They can sometimes freeze up about trying to share words in such a situation.

So, my prayer is that we might understand that our husbands can be very sincere and repentant and sometimes show their repentance in actions instead of words and that we could show grace to them by accepting their form of an apology instead of demanding that they apologize in a specific way that may be very scary or intimidating to them. I think we can also acknowledge that they have good motives towards us and that their actions are the way they show they want to reconcile. I would love to see us be able to learn to interpret their behavior correctly and in a loving, godly, accepting way in such situations.

Then, over time, I think they may be able to hear our hearts and care more about our needs and desires for verbal apologies as the marriage heals.

  • This is one of those areas where I personally have to be SUPER DUPER CAREFUL. If I am not extremely vigilant about my own motives, I could easily focus on “HE SHOULD do X the way I think he should… My way. The RIGHT way.” “My way is the only right way. He must submit to me and do things the way I think they should be done or he is disobeying God.”

These are the kinds of thoughts I had CONSTANTLY about Greg in the past. This mindset of mine was prideful, self-righteous and destructive. I seriously believed I knew best. I seriously believed that Greg was wrong and in sin and I was not. I believed he HAD to do things the way I expected them to be done or he was wrong. I believed I was always right and he was always wrong unless he did things my way.

Very, very dangerous spiritual ground. I just cannot go there. That was my pitfall so many times.

I hope that makes sense and pray it might be helpful.

  • A fantastic resource is “Grace Filled Marriage” by Dr. Tim Keller
  • And Shaunti Feldhahn’s new book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: It’s the Little Things That Count”

One of the secrets she found with very happily married couples is that they have a little secret signal they use to extend an olive branch to each other – a little touch, a joke, a hug… and when one partner extends this gesture, the other one will always accept it and they will show each other “we are ok” in this special way. The issue may not be resolved. But the couple is willing to show each other that the marriage is more important and unity and love is more important than the issue, and they show each other in this little bonding way that they are willing to work through the issue together as a team.


Ladies, the comments on this post are extremely helpful! Maybe even more so than the post. 🙂  Don’t miss them!!!


If you would like to comment on this issue, I would love to hear from some of you! Maybe I can even add your thoughts to the post. :). This is one of those topics that wives could definitely benefit from hearing from several husbands about.


How Do Men Process Emotions?

A Husband Answers My Questions about Emotions

Another Husband Answers My Questions about Men and Emotions

How Men Think Part 1

How Men Think Part 2

How Men Think Part 3

Why He May Not Immediately Do What You Want Him to Do

Shaunti Feldhan’s book “For Women Only” – has MANY statistics and quotes from husbands about how they think and feel that is extremely eye-opening! Very helpful book. I highly recommend it. It helped me understand Greg and other men so much more accurately.