Author Topic: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)  (Read 2755 times)

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ThistleBird

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Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« on: August 01, 2013, 05:12:40 PM »
BG: I have an ex-favorite uncle. His wife is still my favorite aunt. He... it's rather complicated, and all mixed up with religion which I know we don't talk about here, but in brief he's an ex-clergy-person who after a severe midlife crisis has embraced a new ideology, still within the same religion but a little far-out, and is preaching it rather passionately. He is also someone I have greatly admired & felt close to in my younger days. He married me and DH.

Now here's the story: my DH, who cares greatly about such things, got into it with Ex-Favorite Uncle about his new ideology on an online message board they both frequent. DH was extremely civil but I could read between the lines that XFU believed he was being personally attacked. (This had happened before, and I'd tried to patch it up.) I did something really stupid and stepped in, emailing XFU to explain he was not being personally attacked. (DH was out.) The conversation got horrible. We emailed back and forth about five times and by the second email I was crying. My uncle:

- Misquoted something DH had said in a way that made it sound vicious (where originally it was quite measured)
- When I corrected the misquote, sent me a one-line email, “This is ridiculous. I'm working and I have deadlines to meet”... then when I replied, “Well I'm sorry,” he chose to continue the conversation with a crack about “back-door apologies” which ended up revealing that he...
- Believed that a friendly email DH had sent him about the previous issue was an apology (it wasn't) and therefore an admission of wrongdoing, for which he called DH “duplicitous” (to me, his wife) for debating him a second time
- Believed—assumed—DH had put me up to emailing him. (If you knew DH you would understand just how ridiculous this is. The thought of playing any such head-games never entered his mind. To me this was perhaps the worst insult of all.)


Now here's the real problem: I was a pushover back then. If you read the email conversation, what you would find between the lines of my replies is the attitude, “Oh no my uncle is mad I have to patch this up” and “DH needs to stop debating my uncle since it makes him mad.” I regret this very much. (I also regret asking DH to send the above-mentioned friendly email which caused such problems.) I now think DH has an absolute right to debate anyone he likes in a public forum as long as he is civil, and I have butted out of any involvement between him & XFU.

I also now know a lot more about my ex-favorite uncle than I ever wanted to know. I'm kicking myself for ever having admired him, actually, and for the red flags I've ignored in the past.

But it took me a long time to get there. For months after the interaction my attitude was “Oh, I hope Favorite Uncle isn't still mad.” (We see them maybe twice a year.) At some point it changed, or I changed, or something, and I finally realized I was mad, very mad, and that the things my uncle had said to me were completely unacceptable, that his idea of who DH was was so far outside reality that I really did not need to be bothered by or even consider his opinion. But by this time it was six months later. Now it's a year.

(end BG)

I've seen Favorite Aunt and XFU once since then. We talked about other things. I was more distant with XFU than I used to be but got the distinct impression he didn't notice or care. I'm going to see them again this weekend—that is, I'm going to a conference at their former church and will run into them, and spend a little time with them if they wish me to, since they live nearby. I let the conference people make arrangements for where I was staying rather than asking if I could stay with XFU and FA as I always have before. I am wondering what to say if FA realizes I'm cooling off on them, I'm wondering how to manage cooling off on XFU but not FA, since none of this is fair to her... I am feeling tempted to say something PA to XFU about “didn't want to bother you, I'm sure you have deadlines to meet,” which I really shouldn't.

And most of all, I am wondering this: honesty is generally the best route, and saying to XFU: “I believe you owe me an apology for the things you said to me, and if you don't agree, fine, now you know why I'm cooling off on you” would normally be the best thing. But the fact that it's “The things you said to me a full year ago which I doubt you even remember” makes it seem... just impossible. Is it impossible? What do you all think?

LEMon

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2013, 08:31:35 PM »
Do you think you would get an apology?  I'm thinking ex-favorite uncle isn't going to see he did anything wrong, you will just end up in a struggle with him over who is right, and it will bother you more than it currently is.  I would think hard about this first.

As it is, I would just keep things as they were.  You now have a better idea of who he is and have grown so to better handle him in the future.

I would come up with a plan as to what to say if he should bring it up.  "I'd rather not discuss that," if he wants to rehash the issue.  "We seem to have drifted apart," if he questions the chill in the air.

You can be friendly with FA and plan something just the two of you (I realized I was assuming you were female and so could do a 'girls' get-together).

katycoo

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2013, 08:36:50 PM »
What do you want to achieve?

Do you think an apology would remedy the past year of feelings and undo the hurt?  Do you think it wuold be a sufficient apology?

Honestly, I would let it go, unless raised by FA or XFU.  And then you can say that the spat 12 months ago left you with a new understanding about XFU and that you were hurt by that and as such your feeilngs towards him have cooled.  Don't apologise, or ask for anything.  Let XFU lead.  Or if its FA say "I hold nothing against you, and in fact would prefer not to bring you into it.  I don't want to put you in the position of taking a side"

lisastitch

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2013, 08:54:01 PM »
I think it's unfair to ask for an apology a year later for things he may not even remember saying.

If I'm upset with my husband for something he said or did this last weekend, and I say something now, he has a chance to say, "Oh, that's not how I meant that" or "Yes, I slipped and said that and I didn't mean it and I'm sorry" or "I was in a bad mood and said that and I'm sorry", but if I challenge him about something that happened a year ago, in all probability, he will have no clue what I'm talking about.

At this point, you don't see them often.  You can be more distant.  If he notices or cares, then he can bring it up and you can explain, "These things happened, and I think you owe me an apology". 

It also sounds as if your view of your uncle has changed.  If he apologized, would he regain his former status as your favorite uncle?  Or, knowing what you now know about him, would he still be an ex-favorite uncle because  he is not the person you thought he was?

My view would be different if this had continued to come up over the course of the year.  My brother said something last November for which he owes me an apology.  The subject has come up again (more than once), and he has repeated what he said in November.  If I say something now, he knows what I am talking about. 

Good luck. 

blue2000

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2013, 04:10:31 AM »
I don't think this needs to be about one particular conversation. You said this happened before and he took things wrong. There were red flags you didn't notice back then. Now he's done it again, but over time you have stopped being worried about his feelings and started not wanting to be around him at all because of this.

I don't think you will get an apology for the things he said, and I think that is part of the problem - he doesn't seem to be half as sorry for upsetting you as you were for upsetting him. In fact, it sounds like he feels justified in ranting at you and your DH. In my opinion, cold and distant is the way to go.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.

kckgirl

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2013, 10:21:30 AM »
My opinion is that you never ask for an apology. If you think someone owes you an apology, you just decide what you'll do and feel if they give one, but you don't ask for it. The one you'd get after asking for it would be insincere at best.

Don't make any PA comments about where you're staying during the conference. See if you can, as LEmon suggested, plan a girl's only activity with Favorite Aunt. If she asks about why you didn't invite Uncle, you can just say that the two of you don't see eye to eye on things. She most likely knows, and might even agree, but I doubt she'll ask.
Maryland

Goosey

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2013, 10:53:02 AM »
I think if your uncle believes he was being attacked, asking for an apology is exactly what you shouldn't do.

Uncle was reading a subtext in the "debate" that wasn't there. FWIW, I do think your husband should not engage in a debate with him about such things. What did he hope to achieve? Obviously uncle wasn't enjoying his side of things.

ThistleBird

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 10:48:41 AM »
Thanks very much, everyone, for your thoughts & especially questions that made me think.

A point of clarification about whether DH should have debated: that is essentially the purpose of the website they were both on. Someone posts an article and it's then discussed in comments. DH has been on the site for ten years, posted articles sometimes himself, and often discusses points of disagreement and agreement on others' articles. XFU has been on for a couple years and posted quite a few articles in that time... and appeared to feel singled out when DH raised points of disagreement with him, and maybe to feel that as the article writer he was an authority figure that shouldn't be questioned. (He does get a lot of positive comments as his ideas are currently popular.) That's just not how things work on this site.

That aside... the conference is now over, and it's been very weird. I took your advice (and my instincts) and didn't say anything about the incident, and was more distant with him than with FA. They participated a lot more in the conference than I expected, so I saw them quite a bit. The weird part was that XFU was extremely warm and friendly with me. I found myself incapable of really being cold. You have to understand, this was very close family at one time... On a social level I still just feel incredibly comfortable with him. I still was definitely more distant than he wanted me to be--I could see that. The other wrinkle is that I re-connected with FA and I think we are growing even closer. (She really is a great lady.) But none of this makes me really trust XFU again, which I think is the heart of the matter.

As I said good-bye to him he told me to give his love to DH. I wonder if he's not trying to "make up" in some way, with all the warmth. All this would feel better if I didn't have the suspicion that he might, in his mind, be trying to show that he forgives DH.

I did a lot of reflecting, for which thank you for your questions. Do I expect an apology? No, not a sufficient one anyway, I don't think I ever really did. What did I want to achieve? I think I wanted to let XFU know where I stand now because I gave him such wrong impressions in the email exchange (like, that I might think DH was in the wrong.) I think that if I tell myself the truth, I also wanted to assert myself with XFU, show him my teeth, show him that I don't respect him as much as he thinks I do and hopefully hurt him. I think maybe I need to try for a little more maturity... he can figure out I don't value our relationship the way I used to on his own. I also think I need to forgive him, which I would define as not trusting someone again but as at least stopping wanting to hurt them. That way you can move ahead into the relationship you choose to have with the person, without all the stressing that I've been doing.

Goosey

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 10:51:52 AM »
point of clarification about whether DH should have debated: that is essentially the purpose of the website they were both on. Someone posts an article and it's then discussed in comments. DH has been on the site for ten years, posted articles sometimes himself, and often discusses points of disagreement and agreement on others' articles. XFU has been on for a couple years and posted quite a few articles in that time... and appeared to feel singled out when DH raised points of disagreement with him, and maybe to feel that as the article writer he was an authority figure that shouldn't be questioned. (He does get a lot of positive comments as his ideas are currently popular.) That's just not how things work on this site.
I think that regardless of whether that's how things are done on the site, he needs to make adjustments when responding (or not responding) to people he knows and has a relationship with in real life. He doesn't need to debate with him just because he posts something and he shouldn't now that he knows the hubub it causes.

Zizi-K

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 10:58:08 AM »

I did a lot of reflecting, for which thank you for your questions. Do I expect an apology? No, not a sufficient one anyway, I don't think I ever really did. What did I want to achieve? I think I wanted to let XFU know where I stand now because I gave him such wrong impressions in the email exchange (like, that I might think DH was in the wrong.) I think that if I tell myself the truth, I also wanted to assert myself with XFU, show him my teeth, show him that I don't respect him as much as he thinks I do and hopefully hurt him. I think maybe I need to try for a little more maturity... he can figure out I don't value our relationship the way I used to on his own. I also think I need to forgive him, which I would define as not trusting someone again but as at least stopping wanting to hurt them. That way you can move ahead into the relationship you choose to have with the person, without all the stressing that I've been doing.

This sounds like very productive reflection, and I agree with you completely that while you may want to assert yourself and 'clarify' your position of a year ago, to do so would be immature and unproductive and would not do anything but further damage to the relationship. It's sort of like when someone gets in a good jab, but you only think of the comeback later. It's too late, you'll only look hung up if you raise it again. It sounds like you comported yourself with dignity and integrity when you saw him last, and that's what counts.

TootsNYC

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 11:16:27 AM »
I have a policy--sort of a "what happens in Vegas" policy--for online exchanges.

So, so many people behave differently when they are typing into a computer screen.
I've decided I am going to treat that as a separate arena. If people are rude on a forum, or by email (especially if it's at all related to that forum), I'm going to react by cutting them off in that arena.

If their rude behavior or discourse bleeds over into real life, into face-to-face interactions, then I'm going to hold it against them there.

I have a Rude Political Uncle whom I have blocked on Facebook and email and everything. But at my mom's funeral, and all the family gatherings connected with it, I made it special point to touch him on the shoulder, etc. I don't want that online weirdness, which isn't *real*, to poison the relationship in real life.

I'll admit--it has *damaged* it. But it's not necessary to me that all my relationships with people be flawless, or full of only good things and no frustrations.

I think it's important for me to allow other human beings to be flawed. They can be Favorite Cousin in one arena and Least Favorite Cousin in another.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Statute of limitations on asking for an apology? (long)
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 11:33:06 AM »

I did a lot of reflecting, for which thank you for your questions. Do I expect an apology? No, not a sufficient one anyway, I don't think I ever really did. What did I want to achieve? I think I wanted to let XFU know where I stand now because I gave him such wrong impressions in the email exchange (like, that I might think DH was in the wrong.) I think that if I tell myself the truth, I also wanted to assert myself with XFU, show him my teeth, show him that I don't respect him as much as he thinks I do and hopefully hurt him. I think maybe I need to try for a little more maturity... he can figure out I don't value our relationship the way I used to on his own. I also think I need to forgive him, which I would define as not trusting someone again but as at least stopping wanting to hurt them. That way you can move ahead into the relationship you choose to have with the person, without all the stressing that I've been doing.

This sounds like very productive reflection, and I agree with you completely that while you may want to assert yourself and 'clarify' your position of a year ago, to do so would be immature and unproductive and would not do anything but further damage to the relationship. It's sort of like when someone gets in a good jab, but you only think of the comeback later. It's too late, you'll only look hung up if you raise it again. It sounds like you comported yourself with dignity and integrity when you saw him last, and that's what counts.

I agree that it was very productive reflection.

I think because you almost idolized this man, you are hurting that as you grow and mature you are seeing his flaws. Your finding he has much more of an ego than you realized and probably a lot more closed minded than you realized. When he was the "supreme" authority figure you just took this attitude as justified, but now you see them for what they are.

I wouldn't worry about an apology for this instance. Instead I would use this interaction to modifiy your existing relationship with this man. You can still love and even respect him, flaws and all, but you do not need to be subserviant to him. Start thinking of him as you and your DH's equal, not the authority figure.