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Family disagreements - how do you move on without an apology?(49 Posts)
I'm the sort of person who likes to sort things out - explain why I'm upset, clear the air and hopefully work stuff out so all is well again. I hate the feeling of 'injustice' when someone won't even acknowledge you are upset. If I upset people, especially people I care about, I want to put it right and say sorry.
If you're the sort of person who finds it difficult to apologise when you know you're in the wrong why is that? What are you thinking? Do you find it more or less difficult the closer you are to that person? I would just like to get the other perspective.
At the moment I am having to act as if all is fine with a close family member who refuses to apologise or even talk about an incident that recently happened. For the benefit of the family as a whole I have remained civil but it's hard. This person refuses to speak about the issue and I'm really puzzled as to why. Any experiences useful.
Probably to do with how conflict was resolved (or not resolved) in her nuclear family?
Oh yes, my family and my dh family go by the mantra " never explain, never apologise" and I can't stand it.
They can't say sorry. They behave as though everything's ok and if you push it they get very defensive even if so wrong total strangers would apologise ( and have!) for them. If you have done something stupid and apologise they get even more defensive
I'm not like that as I have learnt not to be, and the younger generation of my family ( well, two of them!) happily apologise, discuss and move on.
You won't change them. All you can do is make sure you apologise to your dc/dh, and behave as you want everyone else to.
Thanks for the replies.
Randommess - yes it could well be down to earlier family dynamics.
Lavenderhoney - you have just described this person completely. The bit about them not liking anyone to apologise to them either made me laugh as on occasions when I have tried to they have cut me short and changed the subject. Very odd - glad I'm not the only one this infuriates.
My father has done various things over the years which have made my DSis and I very upset. He knows we are upset. He has never apologised at all. I am fairly sure that it's because he doesn't think he is wrong, he thinks we are being unreasonable and he has almost zero emotional intelligence or empathy. I think he genuinely has no idea how hurt my DSis and I have been by some of his actions. I therefore have no expectation of an apology. I don't think he's taking a principled stand that he "never apologises" or anything. I just think he sees no reason to.
Does that resonate in the situation you find yourself in at the moment?
Oh, and I agree with Lavenderhoney that you will never change them (assuming they are adults?). I just have to accept that this is how my father is. Previous attempts at expressing how hurt DSis and I are have just ended in tears (ours), feeling bad (us) and absolutely nothing changing (him). So I gave up years ago.
Emotion makes people uncomfortable, and my family didn't do emotion. And its loss of face somewhere as well, for them.
Actually, I have a friend who can't apologise, has no idea if they should, and hopes it will all go away. Public school upbringing and a stiff upper lip and arrogance we have discussed it throughly together and have come to the conclusion they have an ego the size of the UK
Seriously, though, I think a lot of nc is because people won't apologise. They know they have fucked up, but can't process it because its too hard. They can't deal with the emotions- leading to drink, drugs, having to smoke etcetera, going away and coming back hoping its forgotten..
I encourage my dc to feel their way through feeling bad at upsetting someone, thinking what to do, doing it, and the aftermath. Its a process. The terrible feeling of dread and acknowledging it by apologising and meaning it, is something that should be learnt. And its really hard.
My best friend used to find it impossible to apologise and one night drunkenly admitted that it was because she felt FURIOUS that she wasn't right. It was a skill she had to learn, so I agree with Lavenderhoney. I'm the opposite, I apologise for things that aren't even my fault and feel furious at myself afterwards!
Thanks Wigeon - sorry about your father, that sounds really hard.
This person knows from my own reaction and then a third party explaining to them exactly why I was so upset and they still refuse to acknowledge any responsibility. Previously we have done lots of things together as an extended family and had what I considered a good relationship - although we are very different. I no longer want to be around this person and it will make normal family commitments uncomfortable. I am angry at this person for putting me in this position. They are intelligent and kind in their own way - just seem to lack empathy - or lack empathy in relation to those close to home anyway! It is really frustrating I could shake them - aargh.
How do I deal with it? I retreat behind an icy wall of ultra perfect manners. Anyone who knows me reasonably well will know I'm not happy with the situation, anyone who doesn't need to know what I'm feeling wouldn't be able to work it out anyway.
The icy wall in question has been in place with respect to my mother for 15 years (she know what I'm doing and why, but she won't apologise/discuss it further because she doesn't think her actions were/are/continue to be wrong).
My twatish exh refused to apolgise for anything -ever. He also used to have a real go at the DCs when they said "sorry" - he would always say "don't aplogise"" don't say sorry."
I found this really really difficult, having been bought up to aplogise when in the wrong. So for example if he stepped on my foot, or dropped a tin on my head (RL incident), he would say nothing, or laugh.
I couldn't live with this - it shows a huge huge disrespect for others.
My Dsis and I had a huge argument some years ago - her response was always "I regret that you feel that way... " Crap crap crap.
No answers I'm afraid.
Op, you can't change others reactions, only yours to them.
This person will never apologise and in the end ( even after years if being frosty) you will have to suck it up, for family. You won't be the only one, in your family, I can assure you.
My db was a total twat to me and I went nc. We are ok now, but only because I had to, what with a death in the family. Its not ophrah by any means, and I still think he's a twat, and he still thinks I'm over emotional and he can say what he likes to family(!)
I get on very well with his dd, and she says the same- you have to acknowledge his psyche and its not your problem. She and I both left home at 16 and worked in the corporate world. Nothing like a bunch of Americans to help you get in touch with your inner emotional intelligence.
And sometimes a cup of tea with someone who doesn't give a shit about EI is restful as well
Let it go, ( ie don't stress yourself and stay clear.)
I don't know if I'm coming at this from a different angle, but here's my two pennies worth!
I am usually an apologiser, probably overly so. I hate upsetting people! However a few years ago I had a massive incident with my brother and his wife and some really hurtful behaviour was displayed both by them, and by me.
I cannot and have not apologised for my part of it. I actually went nc with them over it (and still am with his wife) I know I have hurt my brother but I just can't talk about it with him because I can't find the words to explain to him how his behaviour made me feel. It feels too big to dissect and try to convey.
Like I say, this is unusual for me, but maybe shows how someone who has acted that way (only the once I promise!) feels? Sorry if not helpful or relevant, but thought I'd chuck it into the conversation in case it was!
Thank you for starting this thread.
Something similar has happened in my family, involving DD (who is having mental health problems atm). We (the siblings and families) are meant to be meeting next weekend. I'm really in a dilemma of what to do.
I think I'm going to tell DD she doesn't have to go if she doesn't want to (DB spoke to her in an inappropriate manner, precipitated by DM "bleating" to him about something DS said to her (DM)).
I have met DB and wife in between at a function. That was OK as we didn't really have to socialise with him.
I've really been thinking about the situation recently and I'm going with "let's just move on". I'm not going to say that to DB, but I am going to tell DD just to let things go as she's got much more important things to think about. I just can't even go with the big apology and all the ensuing drama. I just want to get this whole situation out of my head and move on with my life. I'm not normally like this, but there's nothing like a life-changing situation with one of your DC to put things into perspective .
I haven't ever tried this moving on without apology, but I'm going to give it a try.
I got the apology I wanted most in the world 32 years later, as DM was dying.
It was quite a complex sensation: relief, anger, and oddly, disappointment. This woman, whose achievements and abilities were real, not least her ferocious courage, should only buckle at the thought of judgement...tsk.
Emphatic - just because you were upset doesn't mean the other person did anything bad. Some people get upset if you ask them for the time. To then expect you to apologise for asking the time is just going to upset you even more.
I think a lot of people get upset in order to put a distance between you, it's a coward's way out and can sometimes be used as way to control someone.
I'm a great believer in apologies, but my dd and I often have screaming fights and then twenty minutes are back to normal. Sometimes there are apologies, sometimes we don't even bother.
I knew one man who made his life very difficult by never apologizing. He told me that sometimes people take advantage of your apology and think that you have admitted that everything you do is wrong. This has happened to me, but not very much.
There are several people in my family who don't apologise, and they don't really accept apologies either. My mum will say "I'm sorry YOU FEEL LIKE THAT" about something she has done. I don't think my brother has every apologised for anything, ever.
I haven't really found I way to manage any of this but am pretty much nc with my brother, and my mum is now in very fragile condition and apologises for things she doesn't need to apologise for .
I model apologising to my own children, but will be clear if I'm making an apology for something I have done, or expressing regret that they are upset about something that has happened but which doesn't merit an 'apology'.
Thanks for all the interesting insights.
Horsetowater - hmm - am I being cowardly? I hope not - I know I'm not feigning upset - I am genuinely hurt. More so because I expect more from this person - they manage empathy and supportiveness for those who are not directly connected with their lives but don't seem to be able to extend it to those they interact with in their family. Also as it indirectly concerns my child it is even more difficult to let it go.
However I do see how 'being upset' could be used as a form of control and keep people walking on eggshells - this is the last thing I want. I generally let most negative comments go and try to see the bigger picture - but I do expect those that are aware of genuine hurt they have caused over important issues to want to put it right. If they don't I presume they place very little value on the relationship - sadly I think this may be the case.
I'm glad you see my point there, of course I don't know your circumstances and I'm sure you had good reason to be upset.
But people do need to understand that it's as easy to get upset as it is to upset someone else.
There seem to be a lot of professionally offended people about these days and I find the whole culture of avoidance and over-sensitivity permeating society. It seems to have become part of the culture of our public services. Where we used to be officious and a bit hard-line we are now never putting our heads above the parapet afraid to speak in case someone sues us for upsetting them. Or in case we appear to be negative. We don't want to upset the boss, so we never tell them what's really going on and what needs to change. It's a serious problem.
Sorry to turn it to politics, I tend to do that!
I think it depends on what your upset over. If I am upset enough to think I deserve an apology then I wouldn't get over not getting one. But it would have to be really bad. I'm actually in this very situation.
The apology is not forthcoming and everyone would much rather I just let it go because it's easier for the family dynamic but it's something which I am not going to move on. I've cut this person off and I know that unless I get a genuine apology that will not change and I'm fairly certain this person isn't capable of genuine anything.
But I do not upset easily. I apologise readily and if I could sort it I would. And the family all understand why I've cut this person off.
I actually don't think that just because they are family they get a pass. I would have cut this person out of my life completely a long time before if she wasn't family actually but I suppose you try harder with family.
But if it's a minor thing I would just let it go. I tend to fade people out until it stops bothering me then fade them back in. It's a least said soonest mended option that works for me.
The act of saying 'sorry' isn't the big deal, its the acknowledgement of causing hurt or doing wrong.
Sometimes people hurt others because they lack empathy and don't realise - they may need to be guided to see that they have caused hurt. This is where a healthy family come in. A word at the right time from a trusted relative acting in a non-judgmental way, with guidance as to how to fix things, or even mediation. The same goes when someone is overreacting - a gentle word, a bit of reassurance.
I don't think some people realise how healing an apology can be. Sure, it's hard to give one but once you do, then things can really, really improve.
Also, some people do see either giving an apology or getting one as a sign of real weakness and use it to play moral-superiority games, ugh.
Got this in what remains of my family atm, someone sent me six whole months of werid, ranting, off the wall nasty emails and despite trying to respond reasonably to her, after 6 months i'd had enough. I'm afraid that for any sort of relationship to be rebuilt, I'd need an apology though and a promise that if she has a problem then she'll try to talk instead of hysterical hate. I genuinely have no idea why she aimed all this at me, it came out of the blue, it was like she was dumping a load of hate on someone just behind my shoulder cause it seemed to have so little to do with me personally.
My BIL will never apologise or acknowledge that he is wrong and accordingly my sister is now the same. It is not the way she was brought up and after they seem to think their atrocious behaviour towards other members of the family should be brushed aside, they are now ostracised by the majority of our extended family (cousins, aunts, uncles etc)
It is a shame and I am civil when I see them, but only see them when I have to see them. They will never change, unfortunately for their children who are missing out on a lovely large family.
Thanks for all the food for thought.
Still not sure what I will do about this situation or if indeed there is anything I can do but it has been useful to get other perspectives.
Meerka - I agree about the healing nature on both sides of an apology - I can only live in hope!
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