Partner’s slight, real or inferred, reveals pair’s real problem
DEAR CAROLYN: My partner said something hurtful, which was not meant to hurt me but did. After I explained why it hurt and how I felt, he refused to apologize for hurting my feelings.
When I explained that people who care about each other are supposed to apologize if they cause hurt even unintentionally, and I consider being able to do so an essential relationship skill, he said he “could just give me a sincere-sounding but fake apology.” However, he wouldn’t do that because it is important to him to be honest.
He doesn’t think what he said should have hurt my feelings because he clarified it.
I am no longer upset about the original remark, but find myself lastingly troubled by his refusal to simply apologize for hurting me. He has offered about six variations of “I’m sorry you feel that way” to add insult to injury.
Am I correct to conclude this person is giving me every reason to believe he doesn’t care about my feelings as much as he cares for his pride?
I’m trying to find some way to justify staying in the relationship but I haven’t yet. — Sorry I Only Date
Grown Folks DEAR READER: If I were beside you two in a restaurant, I’d have asked to be reseated.
Not because you’re awful or he is (necessarily), but because this argument says you’re audibly awful together.
I do see your point. I support the free flow of apologies. I can step on my husband’s toe after fully not intending to step on it, and will still ungrudgingly say, “Sorry! You OK?” Plus, never apologizing is gaslighty.
But: If he responds to my accidental toe-step by howling as if I sledgehammered him on purpose, then I might suddenly (and yes, pettily and wrongly) get stingy on owning my part.
If someone credibly explains the innocence of a comment I found offensive, then I’m saying, “I get it now, thanks” — not, “You still owe me an apology.”
Funny thing about this outrage-vs.-resistance dynamic: It’s often irrelevant who’s howling or withholding, who started what, or why. To parse it is to miss the larger point that you’ve both stopped trying to engage or embrace each other. He feels misunderstood and over-prosecuted for an errant remark, and you feel misunderstood and under-nurtured for an injury. All me, no us.
So I’ll ask this: Do you actually like him? Yes or no. Stay or go.
If stay, then do so by dropping your dukes. See whether he does the same.
DEAR CAROLYN: My 28-year-old daughter does not want the names of her future in-laws on her wedding invitation. Part of it is financial — my husband and I are paying the ample tab. The other issue is that she loves the father-in-law but finds the mother-in-law extremely mean-spirited and vindictive.
My husband and I don’t like the woman either, but think we should put that aside and include the in-laws’ names because it’s respectful and might make life easier in negotiating a polite, working relationship for our daughter. What’s your opinion?
— C. DEAR READER: My opinion is that it’s weird not to see anything about the groom’s opinion. They’re his parents. And, presumably we aren’t so far gone on the details that we’ve forgotten half of this wedding is his. Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email