Part­ner’s slight, real or in­ferred, re­veals pair’s real prob­lem

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION - CAROLYN HAX

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

tellme@wash­post.com

Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group/NICK GAL­I­FI­ANAKIS

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