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Family disagreements - how do you move on without an apology?

(49 Posts)
Emphaticmaybe Sat 08-Mar-14 20:02:16

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.

yegodsandlittlefishes Sun 16-Mar-14 00:03:26

Emphatic, if you've been criticised for the way you parent your own children, been told you're wrong and not listened to or understood when you have given any explanation then I think yiu had wvery right to feel angry. I don't think an apology is going to be forthcoming though, as the person causing you problems is grasping hold of the wrong end of the stick too tightly!

(If I've read this wrongly and this is about your advicevto someone else about their parenting, then you may be BU.)

horsetowater Sat 15-Mar-14 23:51:04

My dd gets taught conflict resolution but she has SEN and gets special classes. All children should get this kind of thing. It has been really helpful.

peggyundercrackers Wed 12-Mar-14 20:35:49

I don't always think an apology is needed, some people seem to over react to anything an everything and are just drama queens, they need to get over themselves. Also think giving an apology means you recognise you have done wrong, if you don't believe you are in the wrong why would you apologise?

As for not speaking after you fall out with someone life's too short. I can't feel bad enough over 1 falling out to stop speaking to someone.

Emphaticmaybe Wed 12-Mar-14 19:56:34

Thanks for the vote of confidence springykyrie - unfortunately I'm unlikely to be given the opportunity to say anything at all.

The heat of my anger has gone now and I'm just sad about it all really - seems so pointless when it could have been discussed and a better understanding reached. Someone upthread said I can only be responsible for my own response to the situation, which is true. Thinking about it I'm actually quite happy with how I handled it which is quite healing in itself.

A big yes to conflict resolution ideas - maybe it should be taught seriously in schools. I would nominate my relative for an intensive course!

bubblegoose Wed 12-Mar-14 13:25:58

I find apologies worthless from some people. I find them meaningless if the same behavior is going to get repeated again and again. I prefer action over empty words.

My mum illustrates this one perfectly. She will say something horrible, or have a fit of shouting and tears, and leave everyone reeling. The next day she will apologise and say "I'm sorry I was upset last night, I was very tired." So no actual apology for the things she said.

I once asked her if she treated her friends like this, or just her family. She couldn't answer me. Because to face the fact that she treats the people she cares most about in the world the way she does is too difficult to contemplate, I think.

This thread has been really interesting.

springykyrie Wed 12-Mar-14 12:58:32

Perhaps we need to hear some conflict resolution ideas. Countries can find a way to some kind of peace to stop blowing one another up, we could do with some of those skills. We need a Mo Mowlam!

I met someone who has done our family tree - she married into the family. Turns out there's a history of relatives not speaking to one another that stretches right back. eg two brothers lived next door to one another with their families and refused to speak for decades, literally walking up the paths to their houses right next to one another and refusing to speak.

(Knowing my family, mind, this shouldn't be a surprise.)

horsetowater Wed 12-Mar-14 10:52:43

I'm with MrTumble on this - if it is hard to address conflict with a reasonable discussion or acknowledgement of difference then 'expecting an apology' could simply add to this dysfunction and drive a wedge.

I have recently 'upset' someone who organised a family event without discussing it with me and sent out invitations. She told me (via a friend) that I should just learn to forgive, however this is the second time she's done this. Her assumption that people should forgive each other has meant she learned nothing when she did it the first time and assumes it's my problem because she wants to believe that I don't forgive her!

Families are a kind of murky ground as boundaries can be more stretched. It's important that when there is a conflict between two people, others try to broker some kind of peace and refrain from taking sides.

With friends it's a bit more black and white - leaving the relationship has no major consequences for others.

matana Wed 12-Mar-14 10:28:22

I don't get the concept of not apologising either. Neither my mum or dad have ever admitted to being in the wrong and my sister tends to believe everybody else is always wrong and she's beyond reproach. As a consequence family arguments tend to drift on until the stronger person is able to make an effort at reconciliation. BIL likewise never apologises or, if he does, he later weakens it by saying "but i wouldn't have done x if you hadn't done y". Consequently i am no longer speaking to either and actually have no intention at this point of making peace. They need to learn to accept responsibiility for their actions and stop behaving like spoilt brats. I am not normally one to dig my heels in and would much rather apologise (even if i don't feel i am in the wrong) and move on. But sometimes it's a necessary evil.

Hope you get it sorted out Emphatic - sounds like quite a different situation. I do think in some or many cases apologising for upsetting people is not a positive, but just a way of trying to pretend something was never said and go back to pretending everything is perfect - open communication is surely a healthier aim, with both parties allowed to say things without fear if being rounded on for upsetting family harmony... it sounds as if there is no open communication in your situation, as the other party is now refusing to speak to you! People should either be prepared to talk it out and listen to each other, or, I suppose, say nothing (though biting your tongue is often cowardice IMO and only honestly meant apologies are worth anyone's breath - not ones that are about smoothing feathers that needed ruffling (not the case in your situation).

springykyrie Tue 11-Mar-14 11:51:50

it is important to me that they at least listen to my perspective - perhaps this is because as a parent, especially a parent with a child with difficulties, you are constantly blaming and questioning yourself. When someone adds to that criticism they should at least be prepared to discuss it - otherwise the only outcome is the other person feeling even worse and no real insight or progress made.

say that! It's perfect.

I recently had a discussion with my parents, in which I calmly asked - not pointed out - why there was an entire lack of equity (actually, bullying) in a particular situation (though I didn't use those words: I asked why such and such happened, genuinely why was that? I wanted to know what was behind it, what their reasoning was). They shouted, attacked and insulted me, but I stayed absolutely calm throughout. I deserve an award tbf but 1. I'm not as invested in the relationship any more and it's not as hard to be unemotional and 2. I needed to flag up the issue and wanted to find out their take on it. I suppose my question, which I repeatedly returned to, especially with the side-tracking of insults etc, was hitting at the root of the family dysfunction and they didn't take kindly to it - but it helped me a lot to bring it up, especially completely calmly.

If I'm honest, I doubt they will 'hear' it - and evidence since suggests that this particular dysfunction is mushrooming as a result of our discussion (actually, always there but perhaps fully coming out instead of hidden under the surface) - but I'm not prepared to stand by and go along with it. The reality is that I no longer care about their opinion of me any more. I have chosen to stay in contact with them because they are old and there is genuine love between us, even if it is laced with some heavy dysfunction; and, although I have significantly cut back the time I spend with them and the quality of interaction, I think it is worth maintaining a relationship of sorts. I have cut off my siblings but that isn't a piece of cake tbf - and the only reason I won't have an unemotional discussion with them is because, at root, I do care what they think and their opinion, because it still hurts. My parents are kind of toothless to me now, though I am still not prepared to entirely lay down and die to keep them happy. I'm not going to get an apology but it has helped me, at least, to talk about it and, perhaps, to 'agree to differ'? I can move on with that (especially as they won't be around for long now because they're so old).

I'm sorry that's long-winded - it's hard to be succinct about intensely emotional family stuff - and I'm not sure if it makes much sense (it does to me!).

Emphaticmaybe Tue 11-Mar-14 10:36:27

Lots of people struggling with similar situations - aren't human relationships complicated?

MrTumbles - I understand what you are saying about the need sometimes to raise your head above the parapet - really I do. I do not want family to pussyfoot around me. This is why straight after the incident happened I rang to discuss it - not to demand an apology but to just talk. They refused to speak to me. This person has been making snipey, passive aggressive comments about the ongoing difficulties of one of my children for years. I have ignored, ignored ignored. I really wish if they had something to say they would just come out and say it. I am always happy to listen to any constructive thoughts.

The last incident came in the middle of an extremely worrying time - as a family we are exhausted and consumed with worry. We are doing everything we can, as we have for many years to do the best for all our DCs. If this person had something constructive to add believe me I would listen - I am not proud and I am pretty desperate. I acknowledge we have made mistakes - SN and mental health issues are never easy to deal with for any families. However this person has no real insight or experience of any of these issues and offers no real practical support or solutions - only thinly veiled criticisms or sometimes not even thinly veiled.

After reading that back I am wondering why I care about what this person thinks?
I think it is because in other matters I do respect this person's opinions. I have had a good relationship with them and they can be thoughtful and kind. For some reason it is important to me that they at least listen to my perspective - perhaps this is because as a parent, especially a parent with a child with difficulties, you are constantly blaming and questioning yourself. When someone adds to that criticism they should at least be prepared to discuss it - otherwise the only outcome is the other person feeling even worse and no real insight or progress made.

This at least has been cathartic writing it down - thanks for all replies.

Meerka Tue 11-Mar-14 09:32:20

slightly off direct topic but actually, I'm starting to think that the ability to genuinely apologise comes with being a resilient person. People who can't apologise or who see it as a sign of weakness tend maybe to be brittle people.

Xenadog Tue 11-Mar-14 09:23:38

Why are you "Having to act fine" if you don't feel that way? If it's just to keep the peace consider what it's costing you. You are posting on MN asking for advice so it's clearly upsetting you.

Personally if someone has done something to hurt me and they don't apologise I move them out of my life. Even if it's family. I am always happy to apologise when I have said/done something offensive or wrong but if others can't extend me that courtesy then why would I ever waste time on them?

If you HAVE to see this person because they are extended family then I would not speak to them except for the barest minimum to preserve the peace for others.

I just had to check your profile Emphatic to be sure you aren't my sister wink but you clearly aren't grin

I upset her a year or so ago saying something that needed to be said for the sake of a more vulnerable family member - all the extended family who live close have got in the habit of making huge allowances for my sister and assuming everything she does must be "her best" - and they had gone along with har in making a child a scapegoat. I visited and after seeing this go on for a few days had to point it out. This upset my sister - obviously - but I absolutely would do the same again, not enable her as the rest of the family were doing for the sake of "harmony". Lots of extended families get into twisted ruts of pacifying certain members and not talking about things that need raising and changing but might upset somebody - the ruling philosophy is "don't rock the boat" and the cardinal sin "upsetting" people.

I won't apologise for upsetting my sister as I still think she needed upsetting, to bring everybody out of their weird state of acceptance of the status quo they had all allowed to develop and were too close to actually see (to be charitable and assume they didn't see it, rather than were just joining in for an easy life).

Sometimes an apology is just smoothing over something broken to mend the ego of a party who has been called on something, and allow a disfunctional set up to reset to the unsatisfactory way it was - sometimes what is needed is a thorough, honest discussion - that is what most families seem incapable of IMO.

springykyrie Tue 11-Mar-14 08:35:09

I didn't answer the q (above) - sorry! grin

I still see my parents, when a whole city of apologies have been unsaid - from them (of course! Though has a think about anything I could apologise for....). They are old and I've stopped expecting an apology. But it does mean that the relationship is drastically small. I try to make the best of a small patch but it's the best I - we? - can manage. Unfortunately, I find that the relationship matters to me less: I don't have much respect for it and it's more like duty these days. They love me in their weird way, I love them too.

Which brings it on to forgiveness - re unforgiveness/bitterness hurts me more than it hurts the person I am holding a grudge against. Which seems very unfair. Not that 'forgiveness' is covering over a hurt, more letting go the need for/insistence on some level of accountability. Not stupidly, ignoring it, but letting it pass. Always wary though.

saffronwblue Tue 11-Mar-14 01:55:26

I think people who are weak think that an apology will further weaken them whereas I think a genuine heartfelt apology and acknowledgement of injury is a demonstration of strength and grace. It is hard to forge on without an apology. I guess you have to consider whether these are people you want to be around in the future and whether that justifies swallowing your feelings. It is unfair.

whyisthishappening Tue 11-Mar-14 00:46:56

I find apologies worthless from some people. I find them meaningless if the same behavior is going to get repeated again and again. I prefer action over empty words.

The 'I've apologized' in an angry burst, 'what more can I do' type of conversation when a real apologist knows what they could do to make things up if they wanted or the half apology/half blame one.

I very rarely apologize if I don't believe I'm in the wrong. When I do apologize I try to mean it. I apologize for upsetting people if they are upset, but not for my actions if I believe I am right. I find it hard to apologize if I have done wrong - but I do it. I feel better for saying it.

I apologized to keep the peace with a family member and whilst it seems clear the person involved knows they were at fault, I find it still stings and I wish I'd not apologized for something I hadn't done.

My family like to hide these things and hope they disappear.

horsetowater Tue 11-Mar-14 00:38:35

I upset someone recently. Had no idea, thought she was upset about something else. I heard via someone else and then I approached her to ask what happened. She reeled and ranted and thought I was an absolute cow to 'do what I did'. I reeled and ranted back at her and explained that actually I was doing what I thought was right at the time and it needed to be done. I said I was sorry I upset her, she completely gushed with apologies and we both feel a lot lot better. But I couldn't have apologised without her hearing my side of the story as well, it wouldn't have been fair.

It's never as simple as expecting an apology, I think a discussion needs to be had and that's what people avoid. The professionally offended are often avoiders so it happens a lot IME. Perhaps I'm an optimist but I think people very rarely deliberately set out to upset someone and as long as that's the case, both parties have a duty to hear each other out. It has to be a win/win.

I totally agree with someone who said earlier that a word from a close friend or family is a good idea to smooth things like this over and find reconciliation.

springykyrie Tue 11-Mar-14 00:09:03

I mean an apology for the things that have smacked me in the face, not run of the mill things. I've had lots of the latter, but never the former.

springykyrie Tue 11-Mar-14 00:03:38

Just watched Long Lost Families and a girl hunted down her dad who abandoned her when she was 5. He promised to come back but never did, or contacted his daughter at all. When they found him and he was interviewed he said 'And then before you knew it, 20 years had gone by' ( shock ). When they met, and he was obviously contrite, we were all desperate to hear the SORRY - but it never came. Somehow he said this and that but never 'I'm sorry I let you down, I want to make it up to you'. The daughter had forgiven him (greater woman than I, gungadin).

My sister doesn't say sorry. She broke my tv and hummed and hawed, clearly in a panic, didn't know what to say/how to get out of it. 'Oh no! Sorry, I broke your telly!' would've sufficed: accidents happen. She doesn't say sorry on the huge (and I mean HUGE) issues and we are now nc - my choice, mainly because she's toxic.

I've hardly ever had an apology my whole life, it is extremely rare imo for someone to apologise when they're in the wrong. How sweet it would be to hear just one: healing, loving, validating.

ZingSweetMango Mon 10-Mar-14 17:57:01

I don't know.

MIL really upset me last week and not apologised.
she knows how I feel but has not explained herself yet in text or on the phone.

I don't want to talk to her until she says sorry - but it's impossible, she normally helps with kids twice a week.
I can't pretend nothing happened either, but I think she will want to.

I don't know what to do, she's supposed to get LOs tomorrow.
I'm going to have to confront her, in person.
not looking forward to it.

QueenofallIsee Mon 10-Mar-14 17:04:58

I had this with my BIL - big fall out, lots of tension and because he would never admit that he was in the wrong, I got lumbered with the blame as I should just 'let it go'. It was over 2 years before I could and that was only because my MIL was so sad about it that I felt bad.

Still pissed at him, just had to accept that I can't control his response to conflict, only my own to him

AngelaDaviesHair Mon 10-Mar-14 16:50:50

The last time a close relative did this to me (refusal to apologise-for a shocking wrong too, nothing trivial) I told them to fuck off, at length, and with real rage. When they got angry and hurt, I said, 'Now you know how I feel. We're even. You don't get an apology, and neither do I.' Petty? Yes. Childish? Definitely. Cathartic? Absolutely.

WhereOWhere Mon 10-Mar-14 16:34:52

I have this sort of situation going on in my family. Someone close said some horrible things and then twisted it so I was in the wrong, which I absolutely wasn't.

I believe it was because she was stressed (possibly mentally ill) but those closest to her (who really should, a perhaps do, know better) choose to see me as the bad guy.

I've tried to talk with her and them about it, but they just want to blame me for it. Her DP has been with her forever and I now see he enables her to be such a vile, toxic bitch like this.

I choose to have as little contact as possible and when we meet intend to be icily cool, but impeccably mannered.

Emphaticmaybe Mon 10-Mar-14 15:41:47

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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