#1152: “How to accept an apology when the apology isn’t complete and you still hurt?”

Hello, Community. Mr. Awkward is improving and we’re starting to talk about release either later this week or next week. Thanks so much for the kind words and the Uncle Julio’s.

Shall we tackle a question?

Hello Captain!

I’ve got a sort of weird question for you. How in the world do you accept an apology without letting the other person off the hook? All I really know how to do is either say it’s fine (indicating it wasn’t a big deal/they didn’t do anything wrong), or continue to act mad about it even though all I am is deeply hurt.

Here’s the situation. I have a friend that often works conventions for a vendor she knows/likes a lot. They needed people last minute to join them for a con this past weekend. I happened to know another friend who enjoys conventions of this sort, so I asked her to come with me to fill the numbers for the booth. Literally all we would have to pay for is food and our transport. We were both totally stoked to be going, since people we really admire were going to be there, and it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity. I also thought it might be a good opportunity for her, since she has been unable to find a job for several years now, and if they like you at this booth it could evolve into other opportunities. So I took off work, she got a ride to my apartment, and we took the train to the con.

The trip up was kind of stressful, mostly because it was stupidly early and friend stresses about things a lot more than I do, and then stressed more when I did not also feel/exhibit signs of stress (because I honestly didn’t see what there was to stress about). Then, when walking to the hotel, she was constantly walking waaay ahead of me and not keeping to my slower pace (I’m not in the best of shape, and I’d torn my feet up in new boots previously so it hurt to walk. And there was no reason to hurry-it was 6am and we weren’t needed anywhere until after 9) then excused it with “that’s just how I am”. Which, fine, not a big deal.

But then she met a friend at the con she hadn’t known would be there. (Not someone I had known before). So she wanted to hang out with him instead. Ok, cool, makes sense. I’ll just do my own thing. But when I was hanging out with her when he wasn’t around/ available she was just… not kind. Like, I was helping her find an autograph session and we had to climb under a metal barrier at one point, as we had gotten in the wrong line. Said barrier fell and hit me on the head, hard, stunning me. She tried to put it back and snapped at me when I didn’t jump to help her (because I was seeing stars). I still have a bruise at the base of my skull where it whacked me.

After the signing, we agreed to meet up to go for food before we needed to be back at the booth. But when she showed up, her other friend was there too. And they wanted to go about a mile away for food, which I pointed out that my battered feet couldn’t take, especially not if we were going to go, eat, and get back to the booth to help at closing time (we had worked the morning, so had the afternoon off). I was also developing a killer headache and just wanted to stay in the general vicinity of the booth. Friend and her friend ditched me without a second thought.

I ended up going back to the hotel alone for some down time before we were to meet the rest of the crew for dinner. She came in and I told her about my head hurting. She apologized for snapping at me and ditching me, which I said was ok.

Fast forward to the trip home. She’s stressing again, and snaps at me several times while getting to the train. Then she orders me to a certain seat (several seats away from hers, but it’s a fairly packed train and these were the only two where we wouldn’t have to have someone in the seat next to us). After the train starts moving, she texts me apologizing for bossing me around.

I texted back that I understood, but not to do it again because I don’t appreciate it. Now, I feel weird. Should I have just said it’s ok? Because it’s not, not really. I feel vaguely abused and hurt. I didn’t asked her to come to be bossed around, ditched, and yelled at. She’s apologized for part of her behavior, but not all of it. My head still hurts, and I feel like a lot of the joy I had at coming to this con has been taken away by this and other instances of her inconsiderate behavior. I’m sad and hurt she felt ok treating me this way. On the other hand, she did apologize for some of it. So I should just let it go and swallow my hurt with a smile.

My question is, in the future, how can I accept an apology like hers, which isn’t for everything that upset me, while not making it sound like it wasn’t a big deal and everything is ok now? I’m also worried I upset her with my response asking her not to boss me around again. She said she was just trying to help me find a seat, after all. Was I ok in setting that boundary? Or should I have just said I understood and it wasn’t a problem?

Thanks for your time, and I hope despite all the bad in the world right now you’re having a wonderful day

-overly emotional and exhausted (she/her)

Hi there Emotional and Exhausted!

I like this bit of dialogue about apologies from The Fated Sky:

“My mother once told me that an apology wasn’t about being right or wrong, but showing that the relationship was more important than the problem. And you aren’t actually the problem.”

“I contributed, though. And I was wrong. And you’re important to me.”

I like the whole series but that particular piece has stayed with me for weeks now. It’s a very compassionate way of looking at what an apology is, right? For example, sometimes we say “I’m sorry” even when we’re not in the wrong and when it’s not necessarily owed to the other person, because we want to show the person that we care about healing the relationship. There are heartfelt apologies and owed/justified apologies and strategic apologies and “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry but I’m not comfortable with that” and “I’m sorry but I can’t agree to what you’re asking” non-apologies (which have their place). They’re all attempts – even the imperfect ones –  to repair or soothe something that was broken.

For me, an apology has a few different parts before it’s real: 1) The words “I’m sorry” 2) Making amends, where possible 3) Self awareness & the implied promise that you’ve learned from your mistake and you won’t do the harmful thing again 4) Actually following through with amends and with not doing the harmful thing again 5) Leaving the decision about where to go from here in the wronged party’s hands, for example, not pressuring them for a certain outcome or making it all about yourself and your feelings. This is why I love the expression “mend fences” when it comes to apologies and reconciling. You’re fixing what was broken, and sometimes what was broken was a boundary marker.

Letter Writer, your friend lost me when she wouldn’t modulate her pace to yours when you were walking up to the hotel. “That’s just how I am!” Oh, okay. Also the thing about ditching you after you bumped your head. Not even a “Hey, I know you don’t want to walk right now, howabout you stay here and we’ll bring you back something to eat” offer? Really? It’s like the second y’all got off the train you became an inconvenient piece of baggage she didn’t want to drag behind her. Not cool.

Whether or not you accept her apology, you’ve learned beyond a doubt that this friend is not a great travel partner for you. So even if you do repair and continue the friendship in some form, it’s okay to give future travel with this person a hard pass. You don’t have to inform her that’s the case in advance (delivering some kind of real or metaphorical engraved document that says “Notice: Joint Travel Privileges have been Revoked!”), you can just quietly decide “Nope! This isn’t a good idea!” and make good decisions for yourself.

It’s the same thing with debt & money stuff – You could decide to forgive someone’s debt to you and make it a gift instead, which is a very kind thing to do when you can afford it and the other person is struggling to pay it back – but you also don’t have to ever lend them or give them money again. You’re allowed to learn lessons like “this person and travel and me don’t mix” and to leave a little chalk dust on the “clean slate” to remind yourself to maintain healthy boundaries with someone who pissed you off or hurt you in the future.

Does it become easier to accept the apology if you know that it doesn’t mean that you have to open yourself up to the possibility of a repeat of the same behavior again?

In closing, Letter Writer, absolutely you can say “I appreciate the apology” without also saying “It’s okay!” or “Don’t worry about it!” or otherwise soothing the feelings of the person who hurt you. You can say “I appreciate the apology, we’ll talk more when I’m feeling less upset” or “I appreciate the apology, I really need you to promise me you won’t do that again” or some other version of “Thanks for the apology, I’m not quite ready to forgive and forget.”  It’s okay if things still feel messy after an experience like you had, and it’s okay to leave things a little messy & uncomfortable after an apology. It’s okay if the wronged person is still bruised and wary and needs some time to evaluate whether the apologizer will follow through. You can acknowledge the apology without saying everything is fine. You can acknowledge the apology and then bring up the issue and talk through it when a little time has passed.

In the end, you’ll have to decide, is the relationship important to you? What would you need from her to feel comfortable moving forward? And if you don’t get that, what do you want to do about it? A relationship where one person is always apologizing and the other person always feels entitled to an apology is good for no one.

True Story: Long ago a good friend and I did & said some stuff that hurt each other really bad. I was more the wronged party in the situation (though NO ONE was a hero in this story), she’d apologized as best she could, and yet I kept venting at her and picking at it for a long while afterward because I still felt angry and sad and unresolved. I got pretty mean about it. She took her verbal lumps for a while but eventually said “Do you want to be my friend or not? I love you and I want to be your friend, but I can’t talk about this or apologize anymore. We’ve got to declare ‘bygones’ and either say goodbye to each other or figure out another way forward.” I’m so glad she did – she was very wise, it needed to be over, and I did want to be her friend. We stopped talking about [The Bad Time of Poor Life Choices] and some time went by and it got better and then it got great. I love her way more than I wanted to chew on the bad things that happened. Very important to this decision: I trusted that nothing like that would ever happen again. People make mistakes but neither of us would make this one twice.

But there are other friendships in my life that definitely could not be fixed, and in the end it was kinder to let each other go than to keep talking it through or to try to resolve something that couldn’t be resolved. So Letter Writer, think about what you’d need in order to put this behind you. There is no “normal” or “should,” just what will work for you, and one possible outcome is that you and this lady aren’t friends anymore if you can’t trust her not to ditch you and minimize what you’re going through.

Readers, do you have (brief) stories of a time you weren’t quite ready to accept an apology? What happened? What made a difference?









312 thoughts on “#1152: “How to accept an apology when the apology isn’t complete and you still hurt?”

  1. A lot of times when I don’t feel ready to accept an apology, it’s because I feel like all my concerns haven’t been heard yet. So my script in this case might be “I appreciate you reaching out. Let’s chat a bit more in person next time we get together”, because texting my feelings rarely does much to absolve this feeling for me.

    1. I once said, “I appreciate the apology, but I want to be sure you truly understand all the ways in which I found this hurtful. I’m not sure you realize exactly what they are.”

      The tone wasn’t, “I want to have my chance to complain,” but it was more about “explaining the effect this had, so you’re aware.” More informative.

      And then I have said, “I’m not ready to hear an apology right now. Later I probably will be, but I can’t hear it at the moment.”

      1. I too have had to say this on occasion – and then just walk away, whether that be actually physically walking away from the situation or simply in a metaphorical sense (unfollowing but not unfriending on FB for example) until I am no longer too angry to think straight. By which time the people in question had usually had more time to really think over *why* I was that angry and hurt, and gave a more meaningful apology as a result – and they followed through on that by changing the behaviour that had hurt me in the first place. The only exceptions were the (thankfully very few) people whose apology was never going to be sincere and thought that simply saying sorry and nothing more meant they could carry on just as before with no change to their behaviour or how they treated me.

        If someone gets angry when I say I’m not ready to hear an apology right then but need time to myself to cool off, that’s a clear sign to me that their apology was never going to be meaningful in any real sense.

  2. my husband and I (married less than a year) are negotiating this kind of thing now. in the heat of things, he has angrily flung out an “i’m sorry, i said i’m sorry, what more do you want?” at me. thanks to the internet, i am now equipped to state that i’m firmly in the ‘the only real apology includes changed behavior’ camp. and that an apology does not require that I resume trusting someone who did or said something hurtful. if i ever have kids, can i teach them that they can answer ‘i’m sorry’ with ‘i appreciate your apology’ and not ‘it’s okay don’t worry about it’?

    (also, sending positive energy to you and Mr. Awkward)

    1. I have said, “I need more time.”

      Sometimes I just need time to be mad, and to not feel that I’m supposed to turn those emotions off right away. I need time to simmer down.

      1. 100% ! Sometimes there is a misunderstanding or words are said that were harsher than intended or something, and we can talk it out, while I then know logically that the problem is sorted, the emotions are going to stick around for a bit (I call it the “emotional hangover”). Or I need time before I’m actually capable of talking the issue through and explaining where I’m coming from. With my husband, hugs help to shorten that time but it’s a bit harder with other people!

    2. My standard response to all apologies (unless I literally believe there is nothing at all to apologize for) is “Thank you.”

      This is a habit that I worked hard to establish, because most of the time “It’s all right!” is just not accurate.

      1. Yes! I think that “thank you” is a great, underrated response for situations where you feel expected to say “it’s fine” and it’s not at all fine.

        Someone apologizes to you? Thanking them for the apology doesn’t mean you have to be done disliking what they did.
        Someone offers condolence when you’re hurting or grieving? Thanking them for the comfort doesn’t mean you have to be done hurting.

      2. It’s truly a great response. Gracious but leaving space for Feelings to continue being Complicated.

    3. Definitely you can teach your kids that! I taught my son to say some version of “I acknowledge your apology but I need time” very early on.

      Probably more from observing how I am but still it was a good tool for him that way people didn’t think that it (whatever “it”) actually *was* ok.

      1. Question: were you ever told there’s a difference between, “I accept your apology,” “I forgive you,” and, “It’s okay”? Because I was, but now I wonder if what I was taught is off base re: most of US culture.

        So, “I accept your apology,” was sort of how people are using “I appreciate your apology.” Like, I’d say, “I accept your apology, but I’m not ready to hang out again just yet.” Or, “I accept your apology, but you really do need to pay for my headphones.” So, there’s still an unresolved action. Or, “I accept your apology,” and then quiet meant you feel like there should probably be some kind of further action? But, you really don’t know what it would be, or what it would take to regain your trust.

        Whereas, “I forgive you,” means you’re all good. You both can resume good feelings, although it might still mean you don’t trust them in a specific area. For example, someone once gave me a lift home and then partway through the trip I realized they were off somehow– either slightly high or very tired or maybe dissociating? And they kept veering a bit and correcting. And I freaked out more than I wished I did, and we got in an argument when we got to the parking lot, where basically I said, “if you’re not focused enough to drive, don’t offer to drive me; you shouldn’t even drive yourself!” And my friend got defensive.

        Later, they did apologize and admitted that they were having some mental health issues. I’m still not totally clear whether they meant insomnia and therefore they were very, very tired, or they were on a new med that affected them or what the actual deal was. Still, I was, and still am, very sympathetic, and my sympathy washes away any lingering anxiety/anger I felt about their unsafe driving. So, I said “I forgive you.” I figured when we hung out again, it’d probably be on good terms, so long as I just make sure not to ride with them I’d be fine.

        We did hang out a bit once after that, and we had a pretty good time, but it was near the end of college and we ended up going our separate ways.

        And then, “It’s okay,” or “It’s fine” meant, “Please stop apologizing, you literally did nothing wrong.”

        But now I wonder if other people say, “It’s okay” even when I *did* do something wrong, so…gah. Now I’m all thrown for a loop.

        1. I think you were maybe taught how your parent or teacher thought things should be? Me, I’d rather pull out the explanation you give above, even though it’s a little wordy, than assume that my words would be received the way I meant them.

        2. You have very healthy boundaries and perspective.

          But most people (and I include myself in this group until a few years ago before finding the excellent scripts of Captain Awkward, Ask A Manager, and Carolyn Hax) very often use “It’s fine” or “Forget about it” as a way to brush aside a conversation that makes them uncomfortable.

          We are taught as early as kindergarten to “use your words”, yet in my experience most of us don’t actually put this lesson into place. I suspect one reason is that we are also taught the conflicting “forgive and forget” crap.

          1. Also as women especially we are taught to be accommodating, nurturing, conflict avoidant, peace makers, etc. You’re a woman and you’re angry? “Draaammmaaa” … “hysterical” … So much ick right there, but unfortunately the way society has learned things, ergo the rush to hurry up and “fix” it by saying “it’s ok,” etc.

        3. I think that both “I accept your apology” and “I forgive you” mean to me what you say – but they also feel overly formal, so in my (some southeast US manners influence and omg the gendered nonsense) training it feels risky, like the other person will accuse me of making a big deal of something small (even if it’s not small) or being sarcastic/passive-aggressive. So until a couple years ago I would say “it’s okay” even when it really, really wasn’t. I am now in the “thanks” camp if I accept the apology but am not okay, and it has been liberating and wonderful to have that distinction. I can imagine situations where “I accept your apology” and “I forgive you” would feel appropriate – your driving example is one – but I like having a less formal option too.

          And yes, people probably say “it’s okay” to you when they don’t mean it, depending on region/demographics. Look for face/voice cues though – one of the things that led to my rethink was my then-bf calling me on saying it was okay and making a very obvious it’s-not-okay face.

        4. I think (IME anyway) “I forgive you,” “it’s ok,” “it’s fine,” etc. kind of all mean the same thing. If someone was doing nothing actually wrong and was apologizing, I think I would likely actually say something like “thanks for the apology but no need, you didn’t do anything wrong, no worries.”

          “I accept your apology,” “thank you for apologizing,” etc. is just generally left right there. Returning the awkward as it were. To me it means that I acknowledge and accept the apology as it seems sincere (don’t even get me started on “I’m sorry you feel that way,” “sorry you got mad,” “sorry but…”!!!!!) but I’m still angry/hurt/upset and it’s going to be a while. “A while” might be a couple months or twenty minuted depending.

          The biggest thing is that I know a lot of people think “it’s ok/no problem” and so on actually mean that they didn’t do anything. We can’t have that. My husband, like so many men, will do something then apologize and when he’s told that the apology is accepted but can see that I am still irritated tries to cajole me into a better mood. That shit needs to stop universally. Women are entitled to the time necessary to process their emotions. Sorry I digress…

          Whenever he does that I tell him, very specifically that I am still mad and it’s gonna be a while until I’m not but he should know enough by now (14 years) to know I will be ok in relatively short order but to stop trying to force my feelings to sooth his feels. Feels that he wouldn’t even have to begin with if he hadn’t done whatever douchebag thing it was that he did. Damn, digressed again…

          With my son, I wanted him to understand that the social contract kind of says that we need to acknowledge when someone apologizes and the polite thing (because we are the better person mmmkkkaaayyy?) is to thank them for apologizing, but that he is in no way obligated to forgive them, or absolve them, manage their emotions about it … ever actually, and that he is entitled to take whatever time he needs to work out his own feelings/thoughts.

          Which … to make a long story short (ha! too late!) … means I made sure he knew that it was ok to tell people to back the fk off and let him work out his thoughts without the pressure to “forgive and forget.” Especially since he may choose, for whatever reasons to do neither of those things.

          1. I remember being taught this by my mom, whom I remember explicitly saying, “Sometimes people [like your friend Alice] apologize a lot, even though they haven’t done anything wrong. [Alice] has low self-esteem, and you don’t want to reinforce her idea that she has done something wrong when she apologizes for [eating her own dessert / taking time to process her stress and anxiety / making a mistake that isn’t an ethical issue, like getting a bad grade on a spelling test]. So when she apologizes for something like that, say, ‘it’s alright, it’s fine,’ or something comforting, rather than ‘I forgive you.'”

            I think the conversation came after a big lesson on forgiveness and repentance at a religious event, and I’d asked about people who repent over and over even though they haven’t done anything wrong. There were quite a few “Alice’s” in my friend group. I want to say I was like, seven? Eight?

            Anyway I’m 26 now, and I’m beginning to realize that I’ve had a few conversations where I’ve apologized, someone else said, “It’s fine,” but their body language suggested that it wasn’t fine / I had, in fact, messed up. I’m not so bad at reading body language that I have a disorder, but whenever body language and words don’t match, I have trouble with the kinds of social patterns and assumptions to make. And I’d also always been taught to question my assumptions anyway, so if someone said, “it’s fine,” with their words but “it’s not fine” with their body or tone, I always tried to ask to figure out what was going on.

            But whenever I tried to clarify, “Is it fine, though? Because, it seems like you didn’t want me to do that / that was the wrong thing for me to say,” (based on body language, which I usually implied rather than outright stated). And then they’d say, “It’s fine” *again* but their body language would be even less fine, and more angry!

            It doesn’t help that I don’t always know if I really ought to apologize. Sometimes I’ve done something wrong but didn’t know it was wrong; I’m only intuiting that it’s wrong based on the other person’s body language or facial expression– which could be an incorrect assumption! (see: RBF, angry but not at me, misreading a thoughtful expression for an irritated one).

            And, sometimes people are angry or upset when I do a good thing (like set boundaries, or clean up a mess that they said they’d get to but has been sitting there for days now) or a neutral thing that isn’t their business (like get a tattoo). So I’d apologize, and sometimes they’d say, “it’s fine,” which I assumed meant, “I know I’m in the wrong, but I’m going to feel what I’m going to feel.”

            So like, if people are going to keep using “it’s fine” to mean “it’s not fine / I don’t accept your apology / you actually didn’t do anything wrong / I’M not fine but you are / I just want to move on as quickly as possible,” which are all very different, then at the bare minimum people need to stop getting more angry when other people try to clarify what they mean.

        5. By whom were you taught that? I don’t remember any early teachers clarifying any of that although it could have happened; and apologies simply weren’t a part of my family life so my parents never talked about that.

          I associate the whole “I’m sorry”-“It’s fine!” song and dance with Girl Culture that crystallizes around 6-7th grade (the kind of thing they parody in Mean Girls). I went to an all-girls school middle & high school, so I can’t say how pressure from men/boys normally plays into this, but immediately offering up “omg no it’s fiiiine” was just part of that super-rigid social script for that age. People started to talk more freely about their emotions and behave more openly in high school though the trappings of Girl Culture remained. But I spent my teens and twenties in the “I’m fine” camp when I really would have preferred to say something more accurate, I just literally didn’t know how else to respond to an apology. I think the “be fine” pressure was generally off by that time (except pressure from specific people), rather it was ignorance and habit that kept me from better scripts.

    4. There’s actually an episode Daniel Tiger where Daniel and his friend make the friend’s older brother angry. They apologize, and he accepts their apology, but when they ask the older brother to play with them, he says, “I’m not ready to play right now. I’m still a little bit mad.” The message of the lesson is that you can hear an apology but still take some time.

      1. And it teaches that saying sorry isn’t the whole step! “Saying I’m sorry is the first step/Then how can I help?”

        I’m using it with my 5yo still.

      2. Daniel Tiger is great with apology stuff – there’s also an episode that stresses that after an apology you have to ask what you can do to make things right again.

          1. The rescue did the heavy lifting there (including photoshopping a tiny watch on him) – and then we went to see the Mr. Rogers documentary the day we met him. But yes, Daniel Striped Tiger is great, all versions thereof, including the one sleeping on my feet.

      3. I went into that show all ready to hate it because who the heck needs a computer animated rehash of Mr. Rogers (WHICH IS PERFECT) but it immediately won me over with its emotional intelligence.

        I don’t even have kids! I don’t even spend time with kids! I don’t even remember why I watched it to begin with (maybe I was in some waiting room?)! But it is great.

    5. Indeed, “I’m sorry” isn’t a two-word magic spell that erases all unhappy feelings and makes past bad behavior disappear.

    6. I’m 44 and I just learned that I appreciate your apology was a response that is a)possible and b)really great. I’m teaching that to my kids now, but how different would my life be if I was taught or figured out the difference between ‘it’s ok’ and ‘I accept our apology’ earlier. I’m grateful to have figured it out now.

    7. Yeah, the immediate “I’m sorry”is often just a anger sop. They aren’t sorry, they just want to undercut your anger – you can’t be angry because I immediately apologized! It’s the emotional version of yelling “no take backs.”

      1. Oh, this! I have a relative who is very impulsive/ lacks self awareness, so says thoughtless hurtful things ALL THE TIME. I never really put my finger on why their subsequent constant apologies piss me off so much. It’s because that’s what they’re after: “Its not fair to be mad that I repeated the behavior you’ve asked me to stop repeatedly! I just apologized!” Thank you for this.

    8. We absolutely tell our kids “thank you for the apology. Next time let’s do better”. I think it helps them understand both that just an apology doesn’t fix it, and that it’s the behavior that’s bad, and not the child that’s bad, because they can in fact change their behavior

    9. ‘the only real apology includes changed behavior’ is much more tactful than ‘I don’t give a fuck if you’re sorry unless you STOP DOING IT’, which is what I shouted at an ex.

      Same general thrust though!

    10. I can’t speak for your husband, but having been in his shoes, here’s my perspective: I’ve said similar things out of frustration when I can see that there’s nothing I can do in the moment to fix the problem (changed behavior takes time to establish), but the other person is continuing to argue because they’re still hurting. I can’t take away their hurt feelings, so the argument goes in circles, leaving me feeling like a punching bag. What I’m saying isn’t that I expect them to stop being hurt, but I do need the conversation to be over.

  3. I had something very similar (down to the ditching me at a big con) thing happen to me, and the way my (now ex) friend treated me was the first big clue that I needed to not have her in my life at all, ever. We really brought out the worst in each other – and it took the large scale reexamination of our friendship that HellCon2008 prompted to see that.

    Sometimes the answer is Nope, I’m Done With You, #SorryNotSorry.

    1. Yes, my reaction to this letter is to wonder just what kind of friend the other person had been before. Unless this event was an extreme anomaly , I would kick her to the friendship curb.

      1. Even if it was – this person SERIOUSLY injured the LW and then was a complete ass about it.

  4. An apology without feelings is like a drunken sailor on shore leave in the summer – no class.

  5. I’m afraid I’m not a good example. In such situations I tend to give the person a list of the ways I feel wronged, as in “well, thanks for the apology, but that was not cool, or that or that…” which tends to go really badly (the person feels attacked and counter argues why they HAD to do x and y). Saying “thank you for the apology” and making mental notes of how that friend is not good for travels / moments of physical pain sounds way better.

  6. My whole world changed when I started saying “Thank you” to apologies instead of “it’s ok”. I still use the latter when someone is apologizing for something that wasn’t a big deal (e.g. I’m sorry I’m five minutes late – parking was a disaster). But I find the former is better when I have actually been hurt and I need a little more time to forgive.

    I also once straight-up told one of my friends that he needed to try again later. He’d made an ass of himself while drunk (we got kicked out of a bar) and his first apology attempt was “I’m sorry we got kicked out. That guy was such a jerk.” To which I said, “Let’s try that again when you’re sober.” And he did and everything was fine.

    1. Saame. I have started saying, “Thank you for apologizing” and it feels much more honest. I end up less resentful because I don’t feel like I have to accept an apology I’m not ready to accept.

    2. (Unlurking for the first time ever to comment omg!) My husband and I had to navigate this territory after we got married and it was hard. “Thank you” is the response I go to when he apologizes for something that’s hurt me but I’m still upset about (and that he uses as well). It took us a long time to get to that point. He’s from a family who doesn’t apologize ever (everything is swept under the rug and ignored) and I come from a family who expects that an apology will immediately fix the problem (which means you can no longer discuss it after the apology has been given), and we had to find a happy medium between the two.

      For us, “thank you” is an acknowledgement of the apology while still leaving room for the wronged person to be hurt or upset about it, because we understand that those feelings don’t just go away magically.

  7. Freshman year of college, I was really upset the first time I was sexiled. In retrospect roomie and I hadn’t established a plan for such Relations but at the time I was just embarrassed and angry and didn’t want to speak to her. So I left her a note, something like “I know you’re sorry, but I’m still mad, I need some space to cool off” and she gave me space (and brownies) and after awhile we were good. We came up with a plan for coordinating Relations with our respective partners, and stuck to it.

    Our friendship later went up in flames from an unrelated issue but that lesson has stuck with me–apologies are important but it’s ok to take some time to cool off if you need to.

  8. It’s useful to practice mentally separating ‘accepting an apology’ from ‘granting forgiveness’, because we as a culture tend to conflate them. I have gotten a lot of mileage in my life from a frostily delivered ‘I appreciate the apology’ and then taking my time deciding if forgiveness is in the cards.

      1. Very important.

        That difference becomes especially obvious when the person “apologizing” immediately wants something from you.

        Ergo, it was just checking off a list in order to demand more.

        1. Ugh, yes. I had a guy ghost me and then reappear (very predictably) with a conflated apology which I frostily thanked. We had a brief conversation, catching up, and then he tried to turn the conversation toward sex.

          He is now blocked.

          1. I had this guy I had a fling with disappear without notice. After half a year he reappeared, apologized and had a really good reason for it. Like, seriously totally understandable and believable. And I told him that I understood how it happened and that it happened and I wasn’t mad at him, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give him another chance in case it happened again.

            (Then I let him talk me into giving him another chance and BAM – he disappeared. Years later he resurfaced in my texts, wanting instant emotional support for a serious illness in the family.^^)

  9. I changed my name as part of my gender transition. I nervously introduced myself with my new name at what I thought was a small, safe social gathering. In response, an old friend literally yelled – “But THAT’S not your name!” He thought I was playing for laughs. (…)
    I said to a different friend afterwards, “I know he apologized, but that was not okay with me AT ALL and I am not ready to smooth it over.” He said, “You know, you actually don’t have make it ok. You just need to make a way forward.” Basically, he said I didn’t have to say “no problem” or “I forgive you” or any of the other things that I wasn’t actually feeling at that time; that all I needed was to kind of continue the communication. And he was right. At the time, I just said, “Thank you for the apology.” Then when I was less mad, I said something like, “Hey, I appreciate your apology, and, I’m still upset about this, can we talk about it?” and we did. It was awkward for a while but then it was ok.

  10. I can’t think of specific and short examples right now. I do know that I often go for a tight “I appreciate that,” in response to an apology. It acknowledges the apology and the intent behind it, without telling the apologizer that everything is okay if it’s not. If I’m not quite ready to forgive, I sometimes ask for space to sit with my feelings for a bit, while reassuring the other person that I’m not going to be mad forever:
    “I’m probably still going to be annoyed/hurt/angry for a little while, but I’m pretty much incapable of holding a grudge overnight,” or
    “I need some space today/for the next few hours, but I should over it tomorrow/by dinnertime.”
    This gives us both a chance to cool down and think about what we want to say the next time we see each other.

    When it’s my husband, we often have a second, calmer conversation about what went wrong before and how we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It’s harder in the LW’s place, when the problem is fundamentally that she and her friend should not travel or attend conventions together. Her friend’s behavior was not okay, but it’s hard to have a conversation about it, because it’s clear that her friend was taking her stress out on the LW (and maybe got tired of the LW, hence the ditching her for the other friend?). I don’t know that a conversation with the LW or anyone else is going to make the friend better about this—this is the sort of thing the friend needs to recognize in herself as it’s happening.

    Also, Captain, I’m glad to hear that things are going better with Mr. Awkward.

    1. hi, i like your response the best – if someone has made a genuine blunder rather than behaved like a deliberate bi-atch

  11. I have many stories of times when I wasn’t ready to accept an apology. Not being ready has mostly meant the person wasn’t apologizing properly, the apology didn’t feel genuine, too many boundaries were crossed, or I wasn’t feeling safe with the person anymore. Feeling the way you do doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, LW. I think you should allow yourself more trust in your feelings. They are there for a reason. “Sorry” is not a magic word that should make the hurt in you disappear. A true and good apology will always have tolerance for your very real and justified feelings of hurt. An apology that expects you to perform harmony or normalcy is not a real apology.

    1. I would like to repeat this line, out on its own, because I think it is very powerful.

      I think you should allow yourself more trust in your feelings. They are there for a reason.

    2. I’m in a situation like this- A Thing happened with my best friend that was the straw that broke the camels back. She apologized for The Thing, but didn’t seem to understand that there was An Entire History of Things that made this Final Thing so hurtful.

      I think she didn’t like her life very much and there was a part of her that found it really hard to watch my normal/boring life fall into place. Instead of being happy for me, she either was ambivalent/withholding or would find ways to actively make me feel bad about some of the good things in my life. She had me turned around enough that I would sometimes apologize for transgressions I didn’t understand- basically apologize for making her feel insecure. She blindsided me with a long Feelings Email, detailing all the ways I had changed, after a movie night where she felt I wasn’t paying enough attention to her. She refused to have a relationship with my partner and even threw a tantrum because he attended a night out with us and other friends to celebrate OUR WEDDING. Years later, we live in different states, and enjoyed a lower-pressure friendship where we visited each other once a year. More often than not, it was me initiating it and me making the trip to visit her on her turf. On my last visit, her Darth Vader Boyfriend got blackout drunk, acted really aggressive with me and made some very personal insults. This was far from the first time, but this time it got scary. I cut my visit short and told my friend that he couldn’t be around me anymore. She apologized for his behavior, but it wasn’t exactly her boyfriend’s behavior that was the last straw. It was all the other times that I was present and supported her in difficult and even toxic situations. On the other hand, she couldn’t even find it in her to support- or even care about- the healthy, good parts of my life.

      I think someday if she comes back after some serious reflection, I’d be willing to give it another go. But I’m not holding my breath.

      1. “Apologizing for making her feel insecure.” Hi, Mom.

        It is very tough to be made responsible for someone else’s self-hatred, especially when you’re too little to understand what’s going on. I still remember being about twelve and listening to my mom’s record of The Wiz Broadway soundtrack. Near the end, one of the Queens sings “If You Believe” to Dorothy, to believe in herself and her own ability. I was listening with my door open, because I wasn’t allowed to shut my door; the next thing I know I’ve been hustled into the family room while my mother is locked in my parents’ bedroom while my father explains that, “SHE never had anyone tell her to BELIEVE in herself.” So I apologized, and apologized, and apologized, for being so inconsiderate and thoughtless for listening to a record that I’d listened to dozens of times before, because this time, it made my mom sad.

        Sometimes, a situation is unsafe enough that you know you have to say, “it’s okay” and not the more honest “Thank you for the apology,” because the latter will only get the other person even angrier, because you didn’t apologize well enough. And that’s okay! Survival is different from being with normal people.

      2. I’m in a very similar situation with a very old friend. We have been at the ‘once a year catch-up’ stage for many years. We’ve had a few issues that I did not handle well and I have apologised for them. I then get the ‘this is all the reasons why you upset me’ response (no acknowledgement of her own contribution to issues) but it did stop.

        Then the last time we saw each other, she told me I always make her feel she is inferior because she doesn’t have children. And I was genuinely astonished because the only thing I’ve thought about her deciding not to have kids is ‘I guess she doesn’t want to have kids.’ That’s it. But maybe I had done such a thing, so I found myself apologising again for the sake of an old friendship and our yearly catch-up.

        When I got home and thought back on the day I wondered why I apologised to her for something that I’m pretty sure she’s projecting on to me. I only see her once a year and we only do one sentence Facebook comments occasionally between times. So am I apologising on behalf of all her friends who became mothers and maybe passed judgement on her? Isn’t this more about her feelings about her decision than it is about me? If I make her feel this way, why did she want to see me?

        As I thought more about it, I realised she didn’t want to tell me about her life and she said some pretty mean things about how I really need to ‘get over’ the death of my mother. Whereas I had obviously made a mistake thinking that I could talk about my Mum to one of my oldest friends. But I guess people don’t really understand about grief unless they go through it themselves. So now I’m just… leaving it.

        I’m through apologising the choices I’ve made in my life. Its sad, but I guess we have just drifted too far apart.

        1. Uch — what an awful “friend.” I’d be more upset at being instructed over getting over the death of MY MOM, as if that’s supposed to be accomplished in a predefined time frame. I’d also question if she gives the same crap about children to all of her other friends who have kids. But mom grief thing is really unacceptable. Jedi hugs.

        2. I’m sorry for the situation with your friend and I’m sorry about your mom.

          Friends projecting their unhappiness seems to be doubly painful because 1.) they’r accusing you of something and 2.) that something is truly not even about you. It’s like your life to them is just this barometer of how they should feel about themselves.

    3. I think the most important part about an apology is for the apologizer to restore trust. “I’m sorry” is meant for strangers you accidentally bump into or your kids just annoyed. “I’m sorry” + [I recognize my actions and I will ensure it will not happen again speech] is meant for people you want to have a continued relationship with. That is your friends, family, kids, coworkers, boss, lady who drives your daily bus, etc. People need to know that you, as the offender, are going to work at restoring trust – because that is what you are breaking when you hurt someone. You are breaking trust. So as the offended, you have every right in that moment to say “thanks, but not right now” or some variation – and you should! Because that is how people who are boundary violators test your boundaries. And if the apology is some sort of hollow “I’m sorrys'”, then you are within your right re-evaluate the relationship itself.

    4. This.

      I had a friendship blow up in uni because my friend wouldn’t give me the space I needed to work through my emotions about the hurt she’d given me.

      She turned up in my room,wanting to apologise then and there, and she needed me to tell her that it was all OK and everything was normal again. Except it wasn’t normal and I was deeply hurt. I told her that I would forgive her and everything would be OK…but I needed a couple of days’ space and quiet time alone, because my emotions were all over the place and I needed to be functional for the course module selection later on in the day and I was stressed about that too (there was a course which was one of the reasons I’d originally picked that university – it had limited places and too many applicants, and they were going to draw the lucky students by lot).

      And she wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t give me space, wouldn’t allow my feelings to be hurt. And when I broke under her unrelenting pressure and started crying, she tried to hug me. At which point I went into full-blown hysterics, screaming and pushing out at anyone’s hands I could feel (some of which was another friend who was just trying to calm me down), because no amount of me talking or reasoning meant anything to her and my lack of consent in the matter didn’t mean anything to her either, only getting the normality back. And my normal was all broken.

      And after that “apology”, I couldn’t summon any trust for her at all.

  12. Just realized I wrote “In closing” + then another 1000 words…


    It feels good to be back in the blogging saddle, though.

    1. Welcome back! 🙂 Best wishes to Mr. Awkward and you both, I’m very glad to hear he’s doing better.

    2. Welcome back, Captain! All the very best to you and Mr. Awkward. I hope his transition back home from the hospital goes ok and you both get all the rest and care you need.

    3. Jedi Mind Hugs. We’re glad you’re back, and that you guys have a Team You that enables you to be back.

    4. I actually loved that part! I am so glad you are able to be back, and I wish you and Mr. Awkward good things going forward.

    5. So good to see you back. Sending good wishes to you and Mr. Awkward. Thank you for doing what you do.

    6. Sending you and Mr. Awkward lots of jedi hugs and good vibes! This internet stranger love you and appreciates you more than you can ever know. I wish the very best for you.

  13. Mine was a bit different because the person who was apologizing wasn’t a friend or even an acquaintance.
    I’m a referee and at one game there were a couple of players who abused me repeatedly despite my threatening and then following through on sending them off and then away from the field. At the end of the game, they came up to apologize and I think once they cooled down they had some sense that what they did wasn’t ok. But I wasn’t ok. I was shaken by how vitriolic it has been and actually didn’t want to speak to them or ever see them again.
    When they came up and apologized I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell them it was water under the bridge. I thanked them for the apology, said that I hoped they wouldn’t do it again but also that I didn’t want to discuss it further because I needed space. I wasn’t going to let them off to hook by soothing them and pretending that what they had done wasn’t upsetting.
    While this is different to LW situation, I think it’s ok to sometimes say that actually you need time and space from whoever it is. This isn’t saying that the relationship it over but that you need a break.

    1. I’m sorry that happened to you. Refs are the best, giving up time and effort to make sport happen for others. It disgusts me that players would abuse you like that, and glad you let them know that their conduct was not ok.

  14. About a month ago, my mother-in-law (who is a lovely human but doesn’t always think before she speaks) was watching my 4-year-old son while my husband and I went on a date. He asked her a fairly simple question about one of his toys, “Why does it have two eyes?” And she responded: “Because God made it that way. God made everything.”

    Suffice it to say that we have made it explicitly clear to both her and my father-in-law that kiddo’s religious education is not their purview. After everyone had taken some breathing room, Husband and MIL had a productive discussion about his experience growing up in their church and the precise reasons why we’d prefer she answer questions like this either scientifically (“because evolution”/”so we can use binocular vision to see depth of field” etc.) or respond “I don’t know” and leave the explanations to us.

    I was glad they were OK as a family unit, but I was still pretty angry myself. So I sent her a text message and told her so. I asked her to reassure me that she would never cross that line again, or I would have to make sure that any time she spends with my kiddo is supervised time. I think she figured out that I was a) super-duper serious and b) not threatening to withhold him from her entirely, but simply stating that I can’t let him spend time alone with people who don’t respect my parenting decisions and who try to circumvent them. She both apologized for what she’d said and confirmed she would try her hardest not to let it happen again.

    It was an apology that I was willing to accept, and now she knows that both her son and myself are aligned on the issue, so I feel like it was a win. If she does do it again, well, the consequences won’t be a surprise!

    I don’t know if that helps at all, LW. Sorry it’s not super brief.

  15. Well, here’s what I do: if someone I value is behaving like this and says “I’m sorry, I feel like I behaved badly” and I… internally agree, I say “Yeah, what happened there? We usually [enjoy scuba cricket], but since we got to the [scuba cricket pitch] you’ve seemed super irritable. What’s going on?”

    This comes up most often with my partner, and frankly I’m the one who’s apologizing for being low-grade pissy QUITE a bit. If she responds to a necessary and accurate apology with “Yeah, what’s going on? You’re being really spiky and frankly it’s stressful.” then it’s on me to be, you know, decent and honest and say something like “I didn’t want to whine but I’m having a high pain day and I just realized I’m being snappy instead of telling you. That isn’t fair. Can you help me find a place to sit?”

    It doesn’t work perfectly. It depends on the conversational partner. And sometimes going wide and saying “Yeah, what’s going on with you today?” is worse than just saying “Yeah, thanks, I appreciate that.” But sometimes it’s also nice to have the question WHY???? answered.

    1. I like this a lot. As someone who gets extremely stressed about travel/arriving places on time, I can imagine myself once having been a bit like the friend in this scenario. However, the Captain said, it’s on me to pay attention to and learn who I could travel with and whose style clashed with mine and exacerbated my stress so that -I- could be the one to avoid situations where my anxiety would override my ability to be a thoughtful friend and good travel partner. Not trying to let the friend off the hook here at all, if that is indeed the reason she was acting like a jerk.

    2. Ooh, this is a really good script. It usually helps me to understand what is going on from the perspective of the other person as part of reconnecting. Thanks.

  16. I like what attica said above. I think there’s a lot of conflation between accepting an apology and granting forgiveness. I also find the pressure to accept an apology can be rather gendered, but that’s a later conversation.

    My best friend an I have had to apologize several times to each other. We are both anxious people with a history of being gaslit, so we sometimes mistakenly believe the other is secretly angry about A Thing, which results in some frosty interactions. Inevitably we talk it out and apologize and things are fine.

    I think the key to a good apology (and whether or not it should be accepted) is whether or not the person is /specific/ when they apologize. Can they name exactly what they did? Or are they just trying to smooth over the awkwardness? Ex “sorry I hurt your feelings” vs “I’m sorry that I said I thought your hair looked like a pinecone, it was very cruel of me.”

    I have an ex that has probably sent me 4 apologies in 4 years. I never answer for a host of reasons, but every apology was incredibly vague and desperate (aka I needed to forgive him so he could move on.) No thanks.

    1. I have one of those exes! Yes, it’s all about him wanting to feel better about himself–no real recognition or acceptance of how his actions really hurt me.

    2. Yeah! I just got one of these from a guy I hadn’t heard from in 15 years! With a side helping of you look just like you did 15 years ago (obvs you don’t know me anymore if you think I’d think that was a compliment) and some drivel about me being the one who got away. Followed by a lot of whining when I did not immediately respond to soothe him. I sent him a token feminist diatribe but it only kicked off an extinction burst and now I wish I’d ignored him completely. Also I’m mad I have to mentally recategorize him from fond long ago memory to what the heck dude ugh.

    3. You’re so right about people naming what they did wrong. In my experience, people who stick to vague “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” generally means “I don’t like how your hurt feelings make ME feel.” It’s completely self-serving. A real apology is self-reflecting and requires ownership of bad behavior, not just “Man, this is awkward, can we pretend it didn’t happen?”

  17. The guy who wrote love languages also wrote about apology languages. I don’t agree with everything he said, but it’s an interesting read. Like how love is expressed to is, we all have different thoughts on what constitutes a proper apology. Some just want the words, some want acknowledgement of the wrongs done, some want the offender to make it up to them.

  18. I think it can be really useful to have some responses to an apology in your back pocket that aren’t just “It’s OK”. Because sometimes it’s not OK! And you shouldn’t say it is when it isn’t–not only is it unfair for you to have to tamp down your feelings, but it also tells the other person that things are fine when actually there’s still work to do.

    Some options:
    – “I appreciate the apology.” (This is great for when it’s not OK, but don’t know what else you need quite yet.)
    – “Thanks. Let’s talk later when we’ve both had a chance to process a little more.”
    – “Thanks. Can we talk about how to keep this from happening again? It was really hurtful to me.”
    – “I appreciate the thought, but I’m not ready to talk about this yet. Let’s loop back in a couple days.”
    – “Thanks, but that’s not actually what I’m upset about. What really hurt me is ____/it was really upsetting when you ___ed.” (This is useful if you think they don’t understand the problem.)

    1. Ooh, these are really good!
      Another one I like is “Thanks. Can you say more about that?/ Can you tell me more specifically what you are apologizing for? I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.” Oftentimes we find we aren’t. And then, “Thank you, but that wasn’t a problem for me. I’m actually upset because…” as above.

  19. Oof. That sounds hard, LW. I would be super annoyed with a friend who acted like that. Captain is absolutely right, that you don’t ever have to travel with this person again, even if you decide to accept her apology. Travel often is stressful, and it can bring out the worst in people. I have friends I love dearly who I would never want to travel with, just like I have friends who I know we would end up hating each other if we ever lived together.

    I’ve gotten fairly good about accepting apologies, the same way that I accept praise. “Thank you” covers a lot of ground, in both situations.

    I have a much harder time not apologizing even if I’m not at fault, or asking for one if I feel I need one to move on. Prime example (and, like Captain, no one is a hero here): I had a major injury one summer during college, that required surgery and months of recovery. Most of my friends were working full time, so I ended up hanging out with Friend L a lot, since she wasn’t working much. Friend L is a fun, charismatic person, but can be self-centered and negative, and I think we were spending too much time with each other.
    I often had to leave group activities part way through – I was still on painkillers, and had to choose between a) hanging out and gritting my teeth b) hanging out and being loopy/falling asleep mid-activity or c) go home and take a nap. If a movie or whatever wasn’t doing much to hold my attention and the pain was worsening, I’d leave.
    As I was bailing on one hang-out, Friend L got super pissed about it and made passive-aggressive, frankly a little mean, comments about me leaving. I had been annoyed with this for awhile (she’d said a few things, before, though not as much), and I was crabby from pain – as I walked out the door, I turned and said something to the effect of “I don’t know why you’ve been acting like such a b****h this summer.” And left.

    That’s the only time I’ve ever called someone that, and I was pissed at her and myself. A few days later, a group of us were carpooling to an event, and I went to her apt early to talk. My plan was to explain why I was leaving events the way I had been, ask for an apology for her comments, then to apologize in turn. Somehow, I ended up apologizing and she never did.

    10 years later, we are good friends. I took a break from hanging out with her, and a year later she acknowledged that her behavior was, at best, unthinking. We’ve both grown over the years – she’s less passive-aggressive, and I’m better about voicing issues before I get so angry I say something I regret. I even helped her move cross-country – and if that’s not a good stress-test for friendship, I don’t know what is. I still wish we had both handled our blow up better, but I like Captain’s take on it. Our friendship was more important than placing blame for the situation.

  20. Dear OP, please take good care of your poor head! I hit my head in a very minor fall, and let ignored the headache for a week while a brain bleed gradually became an emergency. The OTC painkillers I was taking by the handful were just making things worse. IANAD and am not trying to be scary- I’m fine now – just please be mindful and conservative. I’m still working on apologies, both giving and getting, so not much help there. Feel better!

    1. Yes I was thinking this too! My mom hit her head on a shelf in a store she worked at and didn’t realize she had a concussion until she passed out while helping a customer. Thankfully the customer was a good person and found other people to help and my mom woke up at the hospital. Small head bumps can lead to big things and we don’t think of it. I hope LW is ok, and I’m glad you are too Oro!

    2. Yes, I regret ignoring past head/neck injuries too. I don’t know if it had anything to do with my four-year migraine (which started about a year after the last injury) but geez, I could have seen a doctor for free, I just didn’t know that you’re supposed to.

  21. Sometimes when I’m not feeling the apology its’ because there’s something wrong with it. When I felt like I had to accept half an apology because I couldn’t expect better, that was often a friendship dynamic that was fucked up. Not always easy to immediately pick up on why the apology can feel unsatisfactory but that feeling is coming from somewhere this person didn’t help you when you were injured (Concussions are _dangerous_), said ‘sorry’ then continued to try and justify physically exerting you with that same injury and got snappy again. ‘Sorry’ would ring hollow for me at that point. She needs to be able to give an in-full, decent apology and not just bits and pieces of acknowledgement. This friend neglected your physical well-being, you’re not being bitter if you require an apology going forward – she needs to acknowledge how her behaviour was dangerous and unfair (Regressing immediately on something she apologized for = she hasn’t mentally unpacked why she should be sorry).

    I dunno, I’ve had abusive friends so behaviour like that makes me leery as hell.

  22. I left a job that is kind of famous for its goodbye parties. They’re expected. (This job applauds-a standing ovation-as you leave for the last time.) Whoever is closest to the person plans the party because, generally, the know the person best and where they’d like to go and whose schedule they’d want to plan around to be able to attend. I left six days before my birthday. Many of my coworkers asked about my going-away party. My closest friend (not just work-friend, but world-friend, who I also happened to work with) intimated that something was planned an that it was a surprise. I directed people to her. The night after my last shift, I still hadn’t heard anything from anyone about anywhere to be. Eventually, a different friend texted and asked if I wanted to meet at (a terrible bar that I hate.) I was like “Sure!” And nine of my friends (out of the 150 we worked with) were there. They got me a glass of champagne and we split. A girl that I’ve never hung out with before said that she hoped I liked my party and that she had just guessed at what I would like. I thanked her, told her I loved it, but in my mind I was like “FRIEND, WTF?”

    But then I realized…it was my birthday just five days from then. And all of my closest friends were off for a three day weekend because a couple of our good friends were getting married. The day after that was my birthday. THAT must be the day of celebration. The wedding was a blast. I woke up the next day, on my birthday, and waited to hear from my friends. I didn’t hear from any of them. Not at all, not once. The only person who remembered my birthday was my abusive ex husband who sent me a pizza. It was a gut punch.

    Over the course of the next week, confused ex-coworker texts began trickling in. They asked if I had already had my going away party. They said no one ever talked to them about it and that they had really wanted to go. It probably made it a little worse.

    Never in my life have I been a person who has said their feelings were hurt or that they didn’t like something…but this time I did. The next time my friend contacted me, I said that I was angry and hurt. I have celebrated the heck out of her, I have listened to her go on for THREE YEARS about her crush, whatever she’s needed I have found a way to provide. I’m a single parent, I’ve let her crash stuff I’d planned on just doing with my kids. (Outings, art projects, bedtimes.) We both suffer from depression and anxiety so I’m always so careful to not make her feel like she’s a burden or that it is a pain to be her friend. I try to anticipate her needs so that when she’s really down in it, I can do something to help. And in this moment, I realized, that this person isn’t friends with me like that. So I said that I was angry and that I didn’t want to talk about it until I wasn’t angry anymore. And then I didn’t speak to her for awhile. She would text and I would reply “I’m not ready yet.” A few months later, she texted and we engaged in kind of stilted conversation. We had lunch. I’ve seen her a few times since then. Once, about a year later, we were driving in her car and she threw up her hands and said that she felt like she was mad at me and that she didn’t like feeling like that. I said that I wasn’t mad anymore, but I said I was really hurt and angry at the time and that it had changed the way I approach our friendship. She told me that she had been really depressed at the time and couldn’t get it together to do anything. I told her that I understood…but that I’d never let that stop me when I was trying to help her. And that’s where we left it…on kind of a bittersweet “things aren’t the way they used to be” note.

    1. Ouch. That’s awful. I can see why things ended that way.

      The realization that, “oh, hey, actually this friend doesn’t care about me nearly as much as I care about her,” that’s happened to me exactly twice and it’s just…it’s never okay. And I don’t know how to fix something like that? I’ve never been able to, at any rate.

      1. I think I am feeling better about it now, a bit, because I’ve invested in different things and my relationships have better equilibrium. However, she not infrequently attempts to reach out to me and spur me into being the type of friend I used to be for her (without coming out and asking) and that’s frustrating…it feels a little like “this would’ve kept going on a long time had I not stopped it.” And I’ve made some changes in my approach to my own depression and anxiety; updated my medication therapies, added meditation, and am a few weeks into doing expressive writing.

        1. Good for you dude! I’ve found writing/ journalling has helped me a lot with dealing with anxiety. Plus getting a better therapist. Glad you’re sticking with your boundaries 😊

  23. I dated a guy for a few weeks when I was in grad school. I dumped him so I could back to my ex-boyfriend, which is far too long a story of Bad Times of Poor Life Choices for this post, but the guy I’d left still wanted to be friends, so I agreed to give that a whirl.

    It didn’t go well, and while I was certainly far from blameless in the ensuing mutual meltdown, he signed off our last AIM chat by calling me a gendered insult and blocking me immediately afterward. He then sent me a Facebook non-pology. I wrote back that I acknowledged his apology but could not accept it. He wrote a giant Reasons [I] Suck[ed] speech to me in return; I responded with, “And this just proves you aren’t worth my time!”; he sent me yet another series of snipes in return; I couldn’t resist getting one last set of jabs in before blocking him; we are no longer in any form of communication.

    I’d hazard a guess that the, “I acknowledge but do not accept your apology,” line is worth it only if you’re ready to douse that bridge in gasoline and throw firecrackers on it, which doesn’t sound applicable to LW’s situation. Still, since I was pretty well done with this guy after his low blow, I was glad that I’d decided to be direct in telling him how I felt about his “apology.”

  24. I’m not the most gracious ‘hurt’ person in the world, so I totally applaud the OP for not having a complete meltdown, which probably would have been my response.

    The last apology I accepted completely was a full on “this is what I did wrong and here’s how I won’t be doing it again” discussion, along with placating “let me make it up to you” gestures, though possibly because it was an “act this way again and I’m ending our day together early and you’re going home” situation. I was well displeased.

    No real help for the OP here, just I feel you.

  25. I have been on the other side of things (I was the person who did the Poor Life Decision and deeply hurt a good friend). After she confronted me about my PLD that affected our friendship, I sincerely apologized. I didn’t understand at first how hurt she was and so I kept trying to apologize. Finally she just had to tell me point-blank that she wasn’t ready at the moment to continue our friendship and needed space. That got through to me. So we didn’t speak for about 6 months. They were a hard 6 months but I knew that I had really messed up and she needed the time. One day she randomly DM’d me a funny meme about an old inside joke of ours, and I knew that she was ready to tiptoe back into being friends. We took it day-by-day. It’s ok to be upset, OP! It’s ok to take the time you need to fully forgive your friend. Be straight-up with her about your valid feelings, she will understand.

    1. hi, id like to acknowledge the comments (all are good reading) but these few around here: pointyjess, Igmerriman, Meelo. yeah the difference in expectations with some personalities is astounding. sometimes you really dont know until oops there was an invisible expectation or boundary someone had, and then uh-oh you’re in the dog-house. I think when youre young youre more forgiving (perhaps unless youre miss or mr popular so have the pick of the lot) so you do have at least some friends, but i wish i was alot firmer with some people around me. No one teaches you this stuff – primary school, high school, uni, out in the world. or, the people youve had around you because of your school or work and theres a culture of acceptance for certain things, this penetrates your personality and habits, then this comes with you when you move on, and in a new group you adjust again to your new surroundings. random after dinner thoughts, thanks! and hope its going well Mr and Mrs Awkward.

    2. Giving people the space they ask for is almost an unexpected gift in times like this. I have a friend who said something Very Hurtful and that brought up a whole host of terrible memories. I told him I needed him to take a step back and just leave me alone for a month – it was almost flippant, I didn’t mean a literal month, but I also was hurt and angry and knew I needed space before I could talk to him again.

      A month to the day later I remember thinking, “Huh, I haven’t heard from Friend in a while, I wonder how he is.” An hour later, he messaged me and said, “I want to apologize for what I said. I don’t want you to think I was ignoring you, but you asked for a month and I thought the best thing I could do was give that to you. Will we be okay soon?” I loved that he gave me the time AND acknowledged that it might not have been enough, so he was checking in. He’s still a big part of my life, and it’s because of things like this.

  26. I just want to second that I love that Fated Sky quote and saved it myself. It’s about making amends to the relationship, whether or not I even did anything wrong or if I’m just apologizing on behalf of, or whatever. (Which is why I apologize a hundred times a day at work, mind you….)

  27. Thank you Captain, for your wonderful advice! I’m so glad Mr. Awkwars is doing better. And thank you everyone!

    After reading your advice, I feel better now about the last text on the train. I thought I ought to have forgiven her right then, but I was really upset by that point and her pointing at the seat and just saying “There!” at me was kind of the last straw. It was just an all around weird trip, and I’m still a little sore about it, but I think I’m ready to accept that compassion isn’t exactly my friend’s strong suit, and let it go now that I’ve had some time. But 100% I will not be traveling with her again, it was a terrible experience. There was waaay too much crying during and after on my part.

    It was also really weird because she stayed the night after the train at my apartment, but then when I woke up the next morning she’d already gone (and taken the art I had bought at the con with her). I woke up to a text saying she had gotten a ride from her dad and forgot to take my art out of the tube we had both packed our purchases in to take on the train.

    I haven’t seen her since, and our only interaction has been brief in a group chat, but this isnt an African violet situation, I think. I still value her as a friend and when we hang out other times we have fun. When we do see each other again, I don’t think I’m up to revisiting this with her, but I’ll know for next time that I can accept an apology without automatically including forgiveness. I really like what a few of you have said, of just saying thank you. It ends the conversation (temporary or not) without imply all is now well and forgiven but with enough of a polite response the other person shouldn’t be too mad about. Then I can forgive them when I’m ready.

    1. Apologies on my typos. This is why I shouldn’t type on a phone.

      Also, I love that quote from The Fated Sky. I just started The Calculating Stars the other day, and I already enjoy the series a lot.

      1. yeah, like…If it was an accident a normal person seeks to immediately return it. I’m a little worried that the “compassion isn’t her strong suit and I know how to let it go now” is just more putting up with the situation. Friends can be abusive and you can expect better than a friend that ‘struggles with’ compassion, you don’t have to find a way to make yourself okay with it OP. I dunno this is reminding me of times when I felt obligated to fix things or basically force myself to be okay with them because otherwise the person would stonewall and make me feel I was in the wrong. Its’ weird she’s just back to texting as normal and not immediately seeking to return the item she took?

    2. LW, you are far more generous toward this friend than I would be. After all the events of the previous day, she leaves before you wake up, and takes your art with her? This whole thing… the words “sketchy as hell” come to mind.

      I noticed in your original letter that you were worried that YOU upset HER by not immediately accepting her apology… oh, LW, your hurt, anger, and sadness are NOT worth less than any upset feelings she might have! She not only needs to take responsibility for her actions and their consequences, she needs to take responsibilty for her feeings. Managing her emotions is not your job. I understand if you feel a need to just smooth things over to keep the friendship, but if she won’t do her part, it’s going to be a very one-sided friendship. Honestly, based on what you wrote, it seems like it already is?

      Apologies and further discussion can wait, but for now, please get your art back, as soon as possible. If it was a genuine mistake that she took it, she should be quite cooperative about it. If that does not go smoothly, then you have another very valuable data point about her as a friend.

    1. I had a similar reaction to “This is why I love the expression “mend fences” when it comes to apologies and reconciling. You’re fixing what was broken, and sometimes what was broken was a boundary marker.”

      Captain, thank you for taking the time you needed for your RL, and also thank you for the time you spend here with us, knocking it out of the park.

  28. Thanks for articulating this all so well, Captain– it gets at the heart of the current mess with my in-laws, and spells out exactly why we can’t hang out until I get an apology from them, and why the apology situation is so intractable:

    (1) They have no track record of saying “I’m sorry,” just attacking/blaming the other person;
    (2) (not really applicable)
    (3) They kept bringing up my PTSD triggers around me, which is REALLY FRIGGIN’ DANGEROUS, and all I really care about is making sure they’re not going to do the REALLY FRIGGIN’ DANGEROUS thing around me again;
    (4) I’d need them to establish a track record of not doing the REALLY FRIGGIN’ DANGEROUS thing in order to regain my trust;
    (5) They’d be upset if they apologized and things didn’t go back to normal immediately, instead of letting me re-establish contact in my own time, if at all.

    I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been a year, and…I don’t see much potential for improvement…

  29. My brother the Army sergeant used to say, “I don’t want an apology. I want you to fix it. Don’t say you’re sorry; stop doing it, and make it better.” He brought that up in connection with the profuse apologies from the waiter that he’d forgotten something with the order, but he also said he used it with the guys under his command. “Don’t waste my time with an apology. Do the right thing.”

    I agree–it’s OK to decide that this experience has made you feel that you don’t want to accept this apology.
    Frankly, it feels a little “cheaply delivered.” That it wasn’t actually something she thought about.

    1. I really like the “fix it, make it right” philosophy with apologies and forgiveness. If it can be fixed, and if not, acknowledgement that it can’t be fixed. Your brother is a wise man.

  30. Is it even possible to get over it when someone can hurt you in so many ways in such a short space of time, and then be so oblivious to their behaviour that they only apologise for one small aspect of it? I can’t even imagine how you could respond to such a lame apology other than ‘I just can’t deal with you now’ followed by slow fade out of friendship. Life is too short to put up with arseholes like that.

    1. Given that LW seems to still want to be friends, the impression I get is that LW and their friend just have different priorities around convention-going and probably also communicate differently around pain/physical distress. Among other things, it sounds like LW had more of an expectation that attending the convention together implied a certain level of attention/companionship while the friend in question understood the invitation as primarily an opportunity to attend the convention and not an expectation of companionship.

      Presumably they have other things in common that make for a good friendship when not traveling and attending conventions together. Someone can easily be a good hang-out friend and a bad travel-friend. Someone with a lot of energy like LW’s friend might be great as a Planner and Organizer for social events that LW enjoys attending, for example.

  31. “Yes I heard your apology. I’m gonna be mad for a little while. I will get over it, but not yet. So stop apogizing and give me space.”

  32. Emotional and Exhausted, I understand totally your predicament of not being able to get rid of the (justifiable) feelings of hurt just because someone texted you a quick sorry for some of the things they did to hurt you. At the same time, I think you overlook a couple of things that went wrong on your end. You frame this as a huge opportunity for your friend, like you’re doing her a favor, and while I agree that there are great things about working a con, it is just that: working. She did not put uncomfortable boots on your feet just before an event famous for long lines, time on your feet, and walking. She didn’t make a commitment to put your lunch companionship above that of everyone else–especially when you were both staying in the same hotel and working together. She didn’t hurt your head.

    I don’t say this because I think you are bad. I say this because I think you are me–or how I was back when I alienated a lot of friends because I assumed their time was mine and my problems were theirs. I don’t want you to sink in self-condemnation. I want you to realize that you probably have to state outright what you want in a travel companion before you go, and that, while you are totally correct to have another long conversation about how hurt you were by your friend’s lack of consideration, you won’t get what you want if you go in thinking you were the kind, favor-bestowing friend, and they were the ungrateful wretch.

    1. Yes to all of this. LW, sometimes you just feel bruised and need some time for it to heal.

    2. Thank you for saying this, it made me take another look at what I was feeling when I wrote the letter, and there was at least a little “well, I invited her so I think she should have been nicer to me” in there. I don’t blame her for my feet or for not eating lunch with me. I’m hurt she wanted me to walk faster than I was capable of, and I’m sad that she didn’t think about me when going to lunch. But I do need to remind myself that I cannot reasonably expect people to react to things the same way I would have. Just because I would have checked my pace, and not yelled at a hurt friend, or not left them behind when I invited them to lunch but they couldn’t make the walk doesn’t mean that’s something everyone does.

      I also needed to look at the way I was framing it in my mind. The possible opportunity wasnt actually a thought when I invited her, but when the idea that it might be something she could make into a job opportunity occurred to me it sort of affected the way I was looking at this whole thing. I invited my friend to a con. I was not doing her a favor, and I do need to remember that.

      1. LW, your friend treated you appallingly. That they were selfish and inconsiderate is an understatement. You are allowed to feel whatever you feel about their treatment of you. That does not make you overly sensitive, or a jerk, or that you have a jerk brain. We are allowed to expect a minimum of consideration and kindness from the people we allow in our lives by choice, and this person did not meet that minimum standard as far as I am concerned. You do not have to justify your negative feelings about this day.

      2. Thank you so much for your reply LW1152. It worried to me that I was adding to your hurt, and as someone who has had some very bad trips with friends and needed time to recover, I didn’t want that.

        And just to stress this, she was wrong to speed ahead wordlessly and definitely wrong to yell at you! If she was really stressed, she could much more easily have said, “Okay, so since we’re going to the same place, I’ll get there and start setting up and you’ll catch up.” Hopefully, going forward, she too can be more up front about her expectations instead of snapping when she feels bad. I just wanted to say that there was cruelty on the part of your friend (there was!) and there was the general badness of the weekend that had nothing to do with your friend, and she can only be responsible for the former.

        Anyway, good luck and keep conning!

      3. LW1152: “Just because I would have checked my pace, and not yelled at a hurt friend, or not left them behind when I invited them to lunch but they couldn’t make the walk doesn’t mean that’s something everyone does.”

        These are in fact things that the vast and overwhelming majority of kind, decent people who value their loved ones ashuman beings do. Like. That bar is in fact SO LOW you need a caterpillar digging machine to find it.

        1. True, and for argument’s sake even IF only a minority of people did the decent thing, it’s a very valid option to decide to let only that minority into your life. Sure you might be “unreasonable,” but you’d have a life full of decent people.

    3. I agree with this. While your friend was insensitive (about the walking, the ditching for lunch, the physical pain), it’s also true that she may not have known how those would seem to you.

      I also find that there’s a part of my jerkbrain that distorts my perspective. I tend to think everyone around me is cooler/better company and my friends can’t wait to hang out more with their “real” friends and reject me (could this be why the speeding walking and lunch hurt you?).

      Also, some people just don’t react well to other people’s physical pain. It sucks but it’s true. Is your friend normal empathetic to physical pain or not? Is that something you need in a friend? She also could have been less empathetic due to her anxiety issues about being on time/feeling pressure.

      Or she could just regard you as a piece of inconvenient luggage and I’m sorry you had someone treat you that way.

      1. Hi, im loving this thread,(ive read from the earlier comments up till the most recent) and i love the different views and angles of how this LW’s situation has played out. i can identify with so many of them. cheesesteak in paradise, kstanly, noopnope, Kaos, i think these things you guys have put out there are good to ponder when you have hurt feelings, to help you process it and really what your version of “what should be ok/fair” is, and has something made it lean a particular way or? sometimes i (or anyone) forget and reading ove a post like this is a nice perspective viewing glass. thanks 🙂

    4. Hm I can see your point about the lunch plans – working a booth together is not necessarily a commitment to eat lunch together, and I can easily see a misunderstanding over that. It’s also a problem if OP felt she had bestowed a favor on her friend and was upset that it went unappreciated (although I don’t actually get that impression from the letter). And the friend’s anxiety over traveling is largely an indicator that these two are incompatible as travel buddies (although it is still very stressful to deal with!).

      But I disagree on the reaction to the physical pain. The friend didn’t physically hurt her, no, but the OP didn’t intentionally hurt her feet or drop a pole on her head either. “My feet hurt and I can’t walk that fast/far” and “a heavy object just fell on my head” are not obscure ailments that are difficult to understand. “I expect you not to yell at me for getting injured” is not something one negotiates ahead of time. The friend fundamentally lacked empathy for the OP’s injuries, and she is well within her rights to feel deeply hurt by that.

      For me, that’s also a complete dealbreaker in a friendship. I deal with a lot of chronic pain, so a response of “Well that’s just the way I am” to a request to walk slower so I can keep up would just be the end of it for me. Everyone can draw their own limits, of course, but I just can’t have a closer relationship than acquaintance with someone who thinks my pain is an inconvenience in their life.

      1. I agree with this. Maybe there are some factors making LW feel more hurt than they might have otherwise, but even without that…the friend behaved very, very unkindly, and I can’t imagine being in LW’s shoes and being able to do anything other than end the friendship.

        (That’s not advice on what LW should do, just an acknowledgement of how I would handle being in similar circumstances. If my friends ignore my pain, they aren’t my friends.)

      2. I think, regarding the walking thing: I have a respiratory condition that means I can’t walk too fast / far, and I’ve found if my friends get ahead of me, I have to be pretty vocal about saying, “hey! I’m back here!” Or something, pretty much as soon as they get a bit ahead of me. Like, in a tone that’s sort of teasing / bantering, usually, like, “haha, y’all are such dorks, you didn’t notice how fast you were walking.” And it usually works, because nobody feels blamed, it’s just like, it slipped their mind that they have to go slower than their regular pace because they got distracted by their conversation (or, possibly, by their internal monologue, if they’re the only other person– I have a lot of ADHD friends who seem to get distracted by their own thoughts). And they slow down.

        Whereas if I wait until we’ve gotten to wherever we’re going and then say, “Dude, why’d you walk so far ahead of me? That hurt my feelings,” then even with close friends they will get defensive, because they’re past the point where they can do anything about it, so there’s not much they can do with the guilt I’m dumping on them.

        I mean, ideally, what they’d do with the guilt is apologize, but also ideally I’d speak up in the moment instead of increasingly fuming. So! Obviously ymmv, but that’s why someone walking ahead of me isn’t a deal breaker for me. I can see why it would be for other people with chronic illnesses / mobility issues, no judgement, I’ve just been in this situation a lot and for me this is the best way to handle it.

    5. I’d like to push back on this a bit: it’s Not Cool to set a pace your companion cannot follow, or to ignore the pain of others. Moreover, LW is nervous about being allowed to still feel anger at her friend, which tells me Friend probably is one of those people who strongly object to having boundaries set with (“I’m allowed to hurt your feelings all I want, but mine must be protected at all costs”). In light of how Friend acted, I think it’s perfectly normal for LW to still be upset.

      1. Yeah, I’m not sure this is a matter of miscommunication either.

        My experience: Jerkbrain blows things out of proportion sometimes, and sometimes stress gets the better from me, and I say things I am not proud of. Once I’m cooled off, and I’ve had time to stew things out, I make an apology, make amends, and try to do better.

        LW, your friend texted you almost immediately apologizing for her behaviour – or parts of it, no stewing needed. She also told you early in the day that “this is how she is” when she wouldn’t moderate her pace to match yours. What I’m hearing is that your friend knows her behaviour is jerky, but she does it anyway, because it’s easier for her to lob a few apologies at you than to self-regulate. It doesn’t sound like this was a high-stress, life-or-death situation you were in – she was stressing about getting to a hotel on time, then she was stressing about getting into a queue, then she was stressing about getting on a train. Those are significant issues for her but they are also pretty common – why is it that she has to take it out on you?

        Also, did she take out any frustration on that other friend she met at the con? Or did she suddenly discover her pleasant side when they were around? I’m saying this because when I am stressed, I am stressed with everyone. LW, it sounds like your friend was only snapping at you.

        1. Also, did she take out any frustration on that other friend she met at the con? Or did she suddenly discover her pleasant side when they were around? I’m saying this because when I am stressed, I am stressed with everyone. LW, it sounds like your friend was only snapping at you.

          Good point. It sounds like she might have been just fine with Other Friend (though we don’t see all their interactions.)

    6. You may have a point with some of that (and when you’re feeling stressed and frustrated, everything kind of piles on as ‘things that are making this suck’ a bit indiscriminately), but it sounds like LW’s main issue with the friend’s behaviour is the unkindness. It sounds like there was *a lot* of snapping.

      The friend didn’t hurt LW’s head, but she did react to LW’s pain not with sympathy, but with *getting mad at her*.

      The friend didn’t put uncomfortable shoes on LW’s feet, but she did react to LW’s discomfort walking with dismissal and treating her like a burden.

      Now, the friend is not responsible for everything that went wrong, and LW could probably have done a better job of articulating her needs in some of the situations (e.g. “It’s important to me that we have lunch together, can we pick someplace I can walk to comfortably?”). But if the friend couldn’t intuitively grasp “When I’ve been hit on the head by a metal sign, I need you not to get mad at me while the goose-egg is forming”, that’s not a problem with the LW’s expectations, that’s a problem with the friend being an ass.

      The fact that this was a favour to the friend makes things worse in my view, but not because of ingratitude, but because the friend is being unkind and lashing out *even when LW is doing them a favour*. We all make mistakes and let stress get the better of us sometimes, but the lack of a complete apology later indicates that on some level the friend considers treating the LW this way *not a big deal*. If they talk about it later, and the friend doubles-down or tries to deflect on this rather than genuinely apologizing, I’d consider that a big red flag for this friendship.

    7. Yeah. As someone who frequently doesn’t feel well, a lot of things that I tolerate from people I love are much more hurtful and frustrating when I’m not feeling well. And that’s fine! You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling bad.

      Your friend should not have snapped at you throughout the weekend. It sounds to me like she was really anxious about getting things done and didn’t handle it well. I’m glad that she apologized, because she wronged you by treating you that way. Even if you weren’t friends, that’s not professional behaviour. At the same time, I think Noopnope’s comment is dead-on. It seems like in her head, you guys went as coworkers who were sharing a hotel room, but to you, you guys went as friends visiting a convention. I realize that your friend deciding to have lunch with her friend instead of you hurt, but I wouldn’t characterize it as “ditching without a second thought.” You were invited and chose not to go because you weren’t feeling well. And, again, that’s fine, and it’s fine to feel hurt that she didn’t want to stay with you. But it’s not her fault that your feet and head hurt, and I don’t think your desire to eat lunch with her (without her friend) outweighed her desire to get food where she wanted with her friend. She didn’t wrong you by meeting a friend and wanting to spend time with both of you. She didn’t wrong you by not staying with you when you weren’t feeling well. Unless you said, “Friend, I’m really not feeling well and I don’t want to stay here by myself. Could you please stay with me?” she couldn’t have known that this was what you wanted. I’m speaking as a chronically ill person: no one, no matter how much they love you, will know how your body feels and how you want them to respond unless you tell them. And, IMO, they have every right to say, “Sounds like you’re not up for [ordinary short-duration thing they want to do that I don’t/can’t]. How about I go and we meet up afterwards?” And I’m not entitled to an apology for that, even if it sometimes makes me feel bad. I don’t own anyone’s time but my own.

      You had a bad weekend. Some of it was your friend’s fault. Some of it–the boots–was yours. Some of it was due to mismatched expectations. Some of it was no one’s fault. Some of it is just that sh_tty feeling of vague betrayal when something you were really looking forward to wholly sucks.

      1. I interpret the lunch issue a bit differently, though. The LW thought she was getting lunch with her friend together, and then found out that she was being brought along as a ditchable extra, with the main plans actually involving the other friend and the destination they wanted. The friend is certainly entitled to have her own priorities, but she should have been clearer about what she was doing and enabled the LW to come to a decision about buying into a situation where her needs would ultimately be ignored.

        It’s a confusing type of situation, because being treated like that can leave you feeling hurt and angry — and yet a complaint that sounds like you feel entitled to someone’s company sounds bad. But the real complaint is often that someone who doesn’t intend to make you a priority, or an equal in things being done “together”, should be clear about it when plans are made. At least now the LW knows.

        1. My point is that there’s shared responsibility to communicate what you’re expecting in a travel companion. “We’re going together therefore we’ll be together the whole time” is not a Universal Assumption of Travel. It sounds to me like what you’re suggesting is that the friend had an obligation to come up with her plans and priorities in advance and submit them to the LW before they decided to travel together. If the friend had an obligation to do that, then the LW did too. It could well be that the friend’s assumption was that when they weren’t working they wouldn’t prioritize being together over doing what they wanted. That’s not an egregious assumption; it’s how a lot of people travel and go to events. It sounds like the LW wouldn’t have liked that even if she HAD been feeling well, so, fine, it’s not her style. It doesn’t have to be! It was fine for her to want her friend to eat lunch with only her–and to be clear, that’s a want, not a need. That her feelings hurt after because it felt like a personal rejection isn’t bad or stupid, but it might have arisen out of expecting something from a friend without articulating it, not because the friend did something objectively wrong. We all have the right to say what we want from our friends. Neither of them did, but probably both of them should have. It takes time to learn how to do that, and step 1 is realizing that everyone is different and talking about your expectations and wants is valuable and important.

  33. Not exactly about accepting an apology (because one was never on offer), but there was a time when I had to chew over the incident for quite a while before I could figure out exactly what I was mad about. (It was not obvious on initial review of the incident.) Once I got that worked out, it became a lot clearer to me how to move forward with the relationship. I’ve had numerous situations since then where that awareness has helped me digest situations and figure out my desired outcomes.

    1. I’ve been on the other side of that. I did a crappy roommate thing (left a mess for other people). My friend was upset, and I apologised, which she accepted, but it didn’t seem to sit well with her.

      After awhile, she came back and said – “I realised I’m actually not that angry, but I’m carrying a lot of anxiety it will happen again. I don’t need an apology, I need a promise it won’t happen again”.

      So I did that and it worked out really well for us.

  34. You offered her this opportunity because 1. she likes conventions and 2. hasn’t had a job in a while (why is that?).

    Neither of these reasons are “because I enjoy her company.”

    1. Actually my first thought was “who would I want to go to a con with?” The other two just seemed more relevant to the letter/situation. I kinda thought that calling her my friend meant I enjoy her company. Shes a really fun person and usually we have a great time when we hang out. This time it just… wasn’t so great.

  35. Captain Awkward: A relationship where one person is always apologizing and the other person always feels entitled to an apology is good for no one.

    Conversely, a relationship where one person is always hurting the other person, blithely apologizing, continuing the same behavior and feels entitled to forgiveness from the other person is also good for no one. Sounds like the friend of LW might lean in this direction. I guess watch for evidence of more of the same.

    Captain Awkward: Readers, do you have (brief) stories of a time you weren’t quite ready to accept an apology? What happened? What made a difference?

    Actually, I have far more instances of waiting for an apology that never came. Or instances where I apologized for how I contributed to a mess, but the other person did not reciprocate or acknowledge their contribution to the mess.

    The most notable was when my ex was driving under terrible conditions and really stressed and I ordered him to change lanes then realized my error and told him to move back, and he screamed at me. Which was understandable (but not okay), I totally recognized the stress he was under, and that I had screwed up, and I remember apologizing in the moment for my mistake. When we got home and had a chance to unwind, I asked him if he was going to apologize for yelling at me. Nope. Or at least acknowledge that yelling at me was not okay? Nope. Apparently, he wasn’t required to make amends for his behavior until I made amends for mine? Nope. You apologize because you did something wrong and to repair the relationship as the Captain says, not because you’ve received what was owed and will now dole out the minimum reciprocity.

    That was when I first felt emotionally unsafe in my relationship. I don’t know that he ever did apologize for that incident. But he did spontaneously apologize for hurting me a year or so later, and it gave me hope that we could salvage the relationship, because he finally acknowledged on his own that he’d done me wrong (in a minor fashion). But no, we could not salvage it. I’m a slow learner, it seems.

    Hopefully, if you are able to discuss this further with your friend, she will demonstrate that she understands and will not be such a jerk in the future, and will offer better amends for the harm she has already caused you.

    But be prepared to be disappointed and to lose this friendship too. Cutting your losses sooner rather than later will save you pain when someone else refuses to do the work to maintain the relationship in good working order. You can’t make it all work from one side. Best to let go to find others who will support and treasure a friendship with you.

    1. I don’t think it’s ever anyone’s place to actually ask for an apology unless they are dealing with children. “I felt really X when you yelled in the car” should be as far as it goes, and then if the other party doesn’t think that warrants an apology, then that is actionable evidence.

      I have actually been in both situations you describe (both as the driver that has been “ordered” to do something and also the passenger yelled at) and I absolutely can’t apologize for being angry at being told how to drive. For reference, I yelled at my passenger “make up your f-ing mind” and then never listened to them ‘backseat’ driving again since that is my job as driver. Reparing the relationship meant that I didn’t take directions from them anymore – it doesn’t always mean a fake apology needs to be given.

      1. To be clear, our long-time partner dynamic explicitly involved him specifically wanting me to navigate for him. Except for the few times when he didn’t and then didn’t communicate it and got mad at me for input that I thought was okay (per our standard procedures). But that’s no quite the same as the scenario I laid out.

        I totally understood *why* he screamed at me, but it was more extensive than what you shouted at your friend. And frankly, I have a lousy memory for verbatim past conversations. I know I asked him to acknowledge that yelling at me is not okay, even if it was understandable in the moment. He made it clear that he felt he had the right to yell at me when he thought I deserved it. In other words, he had the right to treat me badly. Because frankly, people should not be yelling AT other people. Whether or not an apology was owed was part of that conversation.

        And frankly, when someone causes you harm, you have a right to both express how it made you feel and to ask for what you need or want as amends for that harm. Ask, not demand. And if an apology is what you need to feel like amends have been made, it should be okay to ask for it if the other person hasn’t yet offered it. It’s generally good to head into a difficult conversation only after having done a personal assessment of what desired outcomes would look like for you, in concrete, realistic, and practical terms.

        Is this another ask/offer cultural divide?

  36. LW, I think the first thing to figure out is what you really want your friend to apologize for.

    I suspect that she could apologize for stressing out on you, for ditching you, for ignoring that you were injured, snapping, bossing, she could apologize for all of it and you still wouldn’t feel right.
    Because what she needs to apologize isn’t her individual actions, but that she was all-around a shitty friend all weekend.
    Moreover, she was shitty to you when you were doing her a big favor. You enabled her to go to a con that she otherwise couldn’t have and at which she could have made contacts for future employment.

    You did her a big favor and she should have been overflowing with thanks. Instead, her behavior reeks of ingratitude.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d not be wondering what kind of apology I wanted from this person, but what kind of friend she is.

    To your direct question, I go with “thank you” or “I appreciate that.”

  37. Captain, so glad to hear Mr. Captain is doing better! I hope you and he can start on those 22 Uncle Julio’s meals soon.

  38. I think the advice here to look at boundaries is very helpful. A while ago work friend who was also becoming kind of a personal friend really said some mean things to me. I actually made a point to say to her, as neutrally as possible, that she was really hurting my feelings–twice! And she never apologized or made any sort of effort at even recognizing my feelings. We are still work friends but I dialed wayyyyyy back on the personal friendship, because that crosses a boundary for me. Something to think about. You can still be friends with her, but it sounds like she might not be the kind of person you can expect much from.

  39. Ohhhh….apologies. Right now I am sitting at my desk waiting for one from my mother who thought it would be funny to tape a photo of a certain orange colored buffoon into my birthday card. She then wrote offensive quotes from the aforementioned buffoon as my birthday wishes. We literally have not spoken since the “that was disgusting and you owe me an apology” email I sent her regarding it. I know that there will be a non-apology when we finally do speak again (I’m sorry you couldn’t take a joke or I’m sorry you felt that way but I was just trying to be funny are likely the apologies she’ll utter. Never fear! I will push back. HARD!)

    I am a fan of a sincere apology. In an instance as referenced above, I would need the person to say exactly why they’re sorry. I don’t like the I’m-sorry-you-feel-that-way version. Basically this boils down to I’m sorry that you have feelings about something shitty I did, but I’m not actually sorry for doing it. I’m also a fan of the words I accept your apology as a response. It’s simple and true only if you mean it to be true (don’t say it if it’s not true). I don’t say that it’s fine or it’s okay, because it’s not. It wasn’t fine that your friend treated you like that and it’s not okay to be mean to someone, walk ahead of them, or leave them out of a planned meal.

    LW, your friend owed you a better apology than you got, for sure. Frankly, I think that you’d be well within your rights to reach out to her and say “Hey Friend, you know I was thinking about the other day when we did that event together. I know we talked about it, but I wanted you to know that you really, really hurt my feelings and it wasn’t fine or okay. I won’t go on about it, and I will accept the apology you gave me that night, but I don’t think that I made it really clear to you just how hurt I was and I needed to say this for myself, if for nothing else.”

    1. MImi Me: I am sorry that your mother sent you a birthday card featuring the Pumpkin Spice Shit Clown. Do you have a dart board?

      1. I feel bad about laughing at this as someone who lives on the other side of the world and isn’t affected by his destruction much if at all, but “Pumpkin Spice Shit Clown” is one of the best names I’ve heard for him so far. I hope things go well in the midterms.

  40. This is all absolutely true: One night during my senior year of high school, my sister’s girlfriend sought out my boyfriend who she had also known a long time and told him she wanted to give him her “real virginity” (because to her, lesbians don’t have “real sex” I guess?) They had sex. He confessed to me, and I told my sister. Que everyone breaking up. I didn’t want to see either of them every again. He kept calling and showing up, trying to get me to talk to him. I refused to even look at him.

    After 6 days my sister decided to take her girlfriend back. Her girlfriend picked up my now ex boyfriend and brought him to my house. I walked out while they’re telling me they’re sorry they hurt me. They both followed me with my sister following them. Then my sister’s girlfriend said these words that my family still jokes about 15 years later, “why can’t you just let it go? It’s in the past!”

    6 days. It had been 6 days. 6.

    I started yelling, “bitch, what do you think this is, the Lion King? do i look like Simba or rafiki to you? And it’s been 6 days! 6 freaking days! Can you let me breathe?”

    She gave some half baked apology and they left. Eventually to keep my friend group together I felt like I had to tell her we were cool. At least my ex’s apologies were more honest and sincere. We dated again 6 months later but it didn’t last more than a few months. No trust.

    1. I hate that you went through that, but I also have to say that your response is epic. “Bitch, what do you think this is, the Lion King?” is meme gold waiting to happen.

  41. After many months of slowly building trust and trying to have a tolerable relationship with my mother, she had a huge blow up (she was 100% in the wrong) that destroyed that fragile trust. I didn’t speak to her for a month, and when I checked messages she’d given her usual non apology like “well maaaaybe I shouldn’t have ___” along with a bunch of excuses. I do still want to maintain some form of relationship, because it makes keeping contact with the rest of the family easier.

    So I looked at the half apology as the best she’s probably capable of, and reopened limited text contact. It’s been another month, with us text messaging about once a week. I’ve been getting a lot better at focusing on what *I* need (still a lot of space and distance) rather than giving in to what she wants (to spackle over this and go right back to how things were before). What’s helped is that (so far) she’s been patient with just texting and hasn’t pushed to start phone calls again.

    1. We may be hitting that point with my motherinlaw…actually, I’ve been there and trying to stay supportive anyway for months, but after she sent a scathing email, I took myself out of that support role. And she turned her attention to my husband who is withdrawing because the criticism is now directed at/through him instead of through me.
      It hurts, doesn’t it!?

      1. Yeah, it’s particularly disappointing because she had been doing so well for the months before that, and I had let myself think that mahbe we had made real progress and maybe she had moved past that kind of tantrum behaviour. Nope. :-\

        1. This is the story of my relationship with my mother. I am now at the point in which I feel like I know her pretty well and know she can’t do better and know not to expect or hope for any better. Our relationship is based on tight tight boundaries. At some point I realized my hopes for better behavior had nothing to do with her and everything to do with an ideal mother I always wished I had.

  42. The story brought back to me a passionate friendship of several years, where I gave many apologies and received none in return. I wish I’d said what your friend said sooner.

  43. My apology story is: My abusive ex would give angry or insincere or self serving apologies, or apologize but then list a whole bunch of grievances about me to follow up (usually those grievances had to do with me not accepting his crappy behavior). Anyway. He would demand that I accept these apologies. My scripts were “Thank you for saying that,” and, “I appreciate your apology.” And that was -it-. I wouldn’t say anything beyond that, and if he pressed me I would just say, “Ok” and “I’m sorry but I can’t take care of your feelings about this” on repeat. Your mileage may vary, but these things worked -for me- while I was still in the relationship because they prevented me from getting sucked into some weird loop of taking care of the feelings of the person who harmed me, and they also worked because over time, having to resort to these scripts over and over showed me that my feelings and my communication did not matter to this person. If we had been able to actually have a dialogue about it, I would not have needed any scripts. Ultimately, the thing that solved the issue was getting out of the relationship, because my ex did not want to look at himself. So, LW: Maybe zero in on the part of the Captain’s advice about “How important is this friendship to you?” If the person is a good friend, and you want to try to address it, try one of the Captain’s suggested scripts and try out a dialogue. If they are able to hear you and you two reach some sort of work-through, great, they are probably a real friend who was just having an off day. If talking gets you nowhere, or if this kind of thing happens over and over, consider that they are perhaps not a nourishing friend.

    1. If we had been able to actually have a dialogue about it, I would not have needed any scripts.

      This is brilliant and belongs right up there with “reasons are for reasonable people.”

    2. So glad you left that relationship. My ex never apologized, but he always listed the grievances as justification for his behavior. (Occasionally he’d just start listing grievances out of the blue.) At the time of the breakup, he came this close to an apology: “I know I owe you an apology, but I owe an apology to myself first…” followed by a lot of words I literally didn’t bother to hear.

  44. Sending love to Mr Awkward!

    Everything others are saying above about space and how to handle it is great. I think that the other piece to this that I’ve been working on a lot is forgiveness. Lord knows I could do a better job forgiving people who love me and didn’t mean to hurt me. That doesn’t mean I have to make it ok, but forgiveness in my heart is a skill I’m developing. Still working on it though!

    1. That’s a great point, thank you! I can forgive her without it being ok too. One does not equate the other, maybe? Definitely something I’ll think about.

  45. I had a coworker whose modus operandi was yelling. He didn’t pick up the phone, he didn’t walk over. He yelled. The explanation was he was old and had started out working with printing presses and that’s loud. Hah. That had been twenty years earlier.

    He yelled for me exactly once. I was a millimeter away from quitting, shaking with rage, and also crying.

    He and the MD of the firm both came over to apologize. I wouldn’t speak to him. I told the MD that if he ever raised his voice to me again I was out. Also I didn’t care why he did it.

    The next day I did accept his apology. He never again raised his voice to me, or around me.

    I never forgave him.

    1. Thank you for being an example of not forgiving. There’s this pervasive belief that you *must* forgive someone when they apologize (and often if they can’t even manage that!) and not only is that not true, it’s deeply harmful.

    2. This is a interesting twist–often we talk about forgiving people even though we cut off all contact.

      You kept the contact and never forgave.

      There are so many definitions of forgiveness.

      1. This is pretty typical of me. I rarely cut someone off. I rarely stay angry. Even so, I remain wary and guarded around people who’ve harmed me.

        I’ve often said that I forget (the details of the offense), but I don’t forgive (the person who committed it).

      2. I think that’s a very good point about different definitions of forgiveness. I’m in the camp of forgiveness means working to release your anger, apology or not. It does NOT mean to me that you must trust or interact with that person again unless you want to.

        Others think forgiveness means going forward as if whatever it was never happened. If that’s what forgiveness means to you, it makes complete sense that those people might refuse to ever forgive some scenarios, apology or not.

    3. I was just fired for crying and shaking after a colleague yelled at me (and declared that he didn’t have to listen to me).

      No apology from the colleague or the institution, just straight to “you’re fired for showing emotion.”

        1. Thanks guys. I have to go in to sign the final “you’re fired” paperwork today, so your support is extra bolstering.

          Male colleague, female me, and for bonus points, we were talking about how best to shipper survivors of sexual assault in our community (of which I am one), and he stood over me shouting “I don’t like your tone!” And then I began reflexively apologizing, but apparently I had the wrong tone when I apologized for my tone. And then I cried and the rest of the office literally turned away.

          And now I’m fired and he’s still seen as “the woke employee.”

          I’m just now realizing how gendered my reflexive apologizing is.

      1. Male colleague emotionally yells, but crying employee (female? or non-genderconforming?) is fired for showing emotion. If this is in the US, this might be an EEO violation and a possible lawsuit.

        This is outrageous that this happened to you. I am so sorry.

      2. Thanks guys. I have to go sign the final “you’re fired” paperwork tomorrow, so I really appreciate the support.

        Male colleague, female me, and for bonus points, the conversation was about how to best support survivors of sexual assault (of which I am one) and what he was yelling was “I don’t like your tone!” And then I apologized for my tone but apparently my apology for my tone also had the wrong tone so he yelled some more and then I cried and now I have lost my job.

        The apologizing as a knee-jerk reaction, I’m now realizing, is hella gendered.

        1. May I suggest you consult a lawyer about this? Some of them offer free consultations, to determine if you even have a case. IANAL, but I think you just might have a case, here.

          Also, this is horrible, and I hope you find a much better work in the future, AND that you get a huge settlement, because this is horrible, and they need to learn not to treat anyone that way.

      3. Good grief. As Cap points out, they’re ignoring his rage and shouting because they don’t count as an emotion, but your distress does. I hope you find a better job with better people very soon. Jedi hugs to you.

  46. To be honest I’m absolutely stunned when anyone makes any attempt at apologizing. It pretty much never happens for me. A little over ten years ago my partner and I dumped his brother and his nephew within a couple of months of each other. His brother had always been an asshat and one night really insulted me out of the blue. It was the last straw. No contact since. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care.

    The nephew and wife were traveling with us on a cruise. We spent the first day together and then they completely ditched us for the next six days. Didn’t want to have a meal with us or even a drink. We didn’t expect to live in their pockets but it was completely over the top. They even changed their airplane seats going back home. We couldn’t really figure a way to let that go.

    I don’t want to make it a gender thing if it isn’t, but it has certainly been my experience that there are way fewer apologies coming from males. Maybe I’m wrong.

    1. Could definitely be a gender thing. In my experience, lady-jerks tend to give fake apologies (the “I’m sorry you’re so jealous of me!” apology speech from Mean Girls is hilariously / awfully true-to-life in my experience with bullying women) whereas dude-jerks just straight-up refuse to apologize or admit they were any way in the wrong.

      That being said, both are terrible to be on the receiving end of. Sorry you had to deal with that.

  47. With respect, LW, I don’t think you realize even now the shocking enormity of her actions.

    I understand that you might be in the States and not have health insurance, but you should have been taken to the ER; a head injury of that nature severe enough to make you see stars and cause a bruise can result in a concussion, which can have lifelong results. One does not play around with concussions, but more importantly one does not ditch a friend who might have suffered one for any reason. What she did, that one decision, was utterly unforgivable.

    Please, LW, if at all possible: see a doctor.

    1. Thank you for your concern, I really appreciate it. It’s been a couple weeks now and I’m fine. The bruise faded after a few days and I never experienced anything but some dull pain until it went away. She honestly didn’t realize what had happened – she was too focused on getting to the autograph session.

      1. Some of my loved ones fall down a lot, for reasons varying from clumsiness or poor shoe choices to disability. When your friend falls, you stop what you’re doing and stick around until they’re up again, until and unless the fallen person gives you the ok to go on ahead. Period.

        Whatever you were trying to get to before is now officially less important than the person on the ground.

        Remaining fixated on an autograph was an absolute asshole move on your friend’s part.

    2. So, having had a concussion, I agree that they are serious, but having no prior exposure to one (and hitting my head lots), I could see prior-concussion me downplaying it hugely. I see the leaving after as just more thoughtlessness. She seems rather on the clueless side, really as the train seat dictation – apology also went.

      LW, I hope you are taking care of yourself and your head. Do see a doctor if you haven’t already.

    3. This struck me as well. The friend’s other behaviors come across to me as annoying, but the fact that she didn’t make sure you were okay when you hit your head (and even left you to go do her own thing not too long afterwards) is really worrisome. I think it’s pretty common knowledge that hitting your head can be dangerous.

      I have to admit, I’m having a hard time focusing on the “apology” portion of the letter because I’m so much more worried about the LW’s health. I hope you got the chance to see a doctor and that you’re okay, LW.

    4. (To clarify my previous comment: I wouldn’t say the friend’s actions were “utterly unforgivable”, because there might have been a misunderstanding — maybe LW kept her pain completely hidden and never mentioned it. But I still think it’s worrisome that the friend was so focused on getting to wherever they were going that she didn’t stop to make sure LW was okay.)

      1. I would agree that “not caring about someone’s obvious physical pain” is a bit of a tell for me.

        I had a friendship that took its deathblow (there had been a Very Bad Thing festering for years in it, we cleared the air pretty painfully, and this was the tentative trial balloon of making it work afterward) when we went to a concert where the fog machine was running *hard*, a few months after I’d had a debilitating respiratory illness. I spent both sets coughing, then choking, then having to duck outside for air repeatedly. She never asked if I was okay, and she never followed, and she never said, “C’mon, this is hurting you, let’s just go, it’s just a band.”

        That was kind of a lightbulb moment for me — that it didn’t matter to her if I was physically suffering. And I’m telling this story because when I read the bit about her reaction to you being *hit by a metal divider on the skull* I had that same little tingle. If friends’ health isn’t more important than autographs, I’m not sure that’s a quality friendship.

        I mean, blow to the head? Screw the autograph.

    5. I also thought the LW should see a doctor about that head injury, if it’s possible to do so.

    6. On the one hand, probably yes. On the other hand, LW didn’t go to ER either and I’m not comfortable with making the friend responsible for LW’s (bad) health decisions. They were not knocked out and lying around, they were injured but in a way that they were able to decide to go to the ER themselves, and it’s not friend’s job to get the LW to the ER if LW doesn’t do it (says an MD who regularly moved her halfway resisting friends to a doctor/ER/a hospital if she gets the impression that it would be wise, but yeah, I realize it’s not exactly my job to pressure my friends into seeking care *if they don’t want to do so themselves*.)

      1. also, lots of people just don’t know how dangerous it can be. If someone is moving around, etc., we think that means they’re fine. I remember how shocked we all were about Natasha Richardson, and not everyone has gotten the info.

        (People generally don’t know that a dangerous bacteria in rice isn’t killed during cooking, and leaving rice at room temperature can make you sick)

  48. I feel like I’ve been in the LW’s situation a lot, and “dial[ing] wayyyyyy back” on the friendship seems like the way to go to me. This “friend”-person sounds rude and obnoxious and self-centered, and such people rarely change so much that they become kind and thoughtful. It’s just not worth the effort with people like that. (This is a lesson it has taken me about 30 years to learn — I needed to see a lot of life and the world before it sank in. At some level I was raised to believe I had always something to deserve that kind of treatment. I wonder if this could be at issue with the LW as well. If so, I recommend therapy and lots of it.)

    BUT what I really want to say here is that it sounds like the letter writer suffered a concussion when she hit her head. Seeing stars and getting a bad headache afterwards are indications that this was a brain injury, albeit apparently a minor one (since the LW walked away, eventually, on her own steam). Even minor brain injuries can cause long-term cognitive, emotional, and social problems (especially if this was not the person’s first-ever head trauma), so I beg the letter writer to get herself seen by a neurologist (ideally one who specializes in concussions) and to follow medical advice about follow-up treatment and self-care. Please, LW, be your own best friend when it comes to your health, and don’t delay in seeing a doctor.

    Finally, I want to echo all the kind comments above regarding Captain and Mr. Awkward. Wishing you both the greatest and most immediate peace and happiness!

  49. I accepted an apology from a coworker who behaved very badly on the second day of a job we were working together, to the point of having a temper tantrum in the office before storming out and leaving me crying in fury. He came back to the office later that day and apologised. I maintained a resting bitchface and told him to never do that to me again.

    I am civil with him. I am cordial with him. I will work with him if I am directed to work with him.

    I have dialled waaaaaaaaaaay back on personal interaction with him, I will not travel with him if I can help it, and I have not forgotten his behaviour. Trust is gone.

    LW, my advice to you is to never travel with this friend again. You and she are not compatible when it comes to travelling and events.

  50. DH and I have occasionally had those delightful squabbles which happen between long term couples. (Stupid stuff ..no particular topic… nothing earthshaking…. just nuisance.). Well, long story short we calmed down and DH apologized for starting the trouble. I told him I accepted his apology but was still exasperated with him and was going to take a few minutes to calm down in the bedroom.

    Delighted to hear Mr Awkward is improving. My very best wishes for continuing health and peace for you both. Grace and peace.

  51. One of my favourite analogies for such a situation is this (and unfortunately I can’t remember where I originally saw/read it):
    “Take that porcelain plate and throw it on the ground.”
    “Okay.” *throws it on the ground*
    “Now apologise to the plate.”
    “I’m sorry, plate.”
    “Is the plate still broken?”
    “So now do you understand why sometimes apologising isn’t enough to fix things?”

    Too many people seem to think that if they apologise, the other person is obligated to forgive them, and often others around them will expect them to play ball just to ‘keep the peace’. When I was a child, my mother would make me apologise to my ‘friends’ for being upset when they bullied me (she seemed to think it was better for me to have abusive friends than no friends) but as an adult, I’ve become a lot more unforgiving. Most apologies tend to fall into the “I’m not sorry I did the wrong thing, I’m just sorry I got caught/am facing consequences for it” or “I expect this two word apology to make up for all the long-lasting emotional damage I’ve done” or the “you need to forgive me so I can’t feel better about myself and move on (with teh unspoken “I don’t care whether YOU feel better or not”)” categories, and, just, no.

    I’ve had a lot of this sort of crap from family members, but one of the worst was from someone who I had thought was a good and trusted friend. At her birthday party, another guy she had invited (a friend of a friend of a friend, she didn’t know him that well herself) kept trying to talk to me and I wasn’t interested, so I kept moving away (at one point I actually straight out said to him that I wanted to go and talk to someone else and he got in my path and KEPT trying to talk to me). He was good looking and liked some of the same hobbies I did, but he kept talking over the top of me any time I tried to talk, and he just gave off a Bad Vibe. The next day, she called me and the conversation went as follows:

    Friend: “Oh, hey, Bad Viber spoke to me and said he thought you two had a lot in common and asked if I could give him your number, what do you think?”
    Me: “Please don’t do that.”
    Friend: “But why, you have so much in common!”
    Me: “That’s true, but I am not interested in going out with a guy who talks over the top of me all the time and doesn’t take no for an answer.”
    Friend: “Okay, but I think you’re making a mistake.”

    Later that day I got a call FROM BAD VIBER HIMSELF because my friend had given him my number after I SPECIFICALLY TOLD HER NOT TO. Unfortunately this was back when I had a crappy old phone that didn’t have the ability to block numbers, so cue months of texts and voice mails harassing and abusing me for not going out with him and then for not answering his other numerous texts and calls (in the end I had to get a new phone and a new number, which I did not give to the ‘friend’).

    Now, if she had genuinely apologised and been truly remorseful and acknowledged how much harm her actions had caused me, could I have forgiven her? I don’t know. Unfortunately she didn’t do any of those things, instead choosing to insist that because her *intentions* were good (ie. “You’ve never had a boyfriend, you must be lonely!”), her complete disregard for my boundaries was okay. She would literally keep saying, “I’m sorry it turned out badly, BUT-” No. No but. You did the wrong thing, and you won’t acknowledge you did the wrong thing, and you’re acting like I’m overreacting about the emotional harm and non-zero-chance of physical harm that could have followed. Friendship over. She tried to get in contact with me a year or so later but I thought about it and realised, “Nope, I’m still too angry at her” and that was it.

    I guess one last thing I’d say is that even if someone is truly sorry, you don’t owe them forgiveness, and conversely, no one owes you forgiveness. If someone doesn’t want to forgive you for whatever reason, you can’t logic them into forgiving you.

  52. Ten years ago, a friend and mentor said an extremely painful thing to me out of the blue; I countered with something lame because I was so stunned that I couldn’t come up with anything. A few weeks later she called to ask why she hadn’t heard from me and I reminded her of her comment. I received a casual apology and “you know my big mouth.” However, her cavalier attitude ended our relationship.

    Fast forward to last month when I encountered her in a coffee shop. She was nervous as she approached (verified by a friend who was present) and definitely wary. Her first words were, “I know I hurt you terribly and I am so ashamed. I had a way of blurting out whatever came to mind but I have learned from this, I want to apologize.” I replied, “You just did, and I accept it.” We hugged and parted. The friendship is long over but the sincerity of her words helped heal an old wound.

  53. I really like this guide to apologies by katykatikate:

    I don’t think it’s at all unjustified that you are still hurting. Your friend did a shitty thing and you get to feel shitty about it. You also have zero obligation to help/explain/coach her through her processing said shittiness and subsequent restitution or reconciliation. Spoons be limited. Use them as you see fit.

    1. It is a good apology guide. The only thing I might add is— if you have done damage, please at least offer to try to make amends. Katykatikate emphasizes not trying to “undo,” but… I dunno. I’ve had someone apologize to me for taking $7,000 of my money, and I know it was a huge thing for him to apologize, and he did so following those steps, but… I’d love to have some of that money back, you know? I’d kind of like to see the OP’s copay for follow-up on her concussion covered, if possible, or at least a gift card for a movie off Amazon. Origami cranes out of Starburst wrappers. A coupon for shoveling snow. Something tangible, useful, and obviously no-strings.

      1. Years ago, I broke a piece of antique jewelry that a friend had loaned me for an event that I was working for her.

        It was a complete accident (part of it fell off, unnoticed), but she was REALLY upset, and she was right that I should have taken it off before the afterparty (obvious in hindsight, but it was a pretty whirlwind evening.)

        I apologized, a lot, but she was hurt and dismayed, and an apology couldn’t replace a unique piece.

        So, I asked her if I could buy her a piece of similar vintage, something that she picked out, because I wanted to make amends and do what I could to make her whole.

        She said that no one had ever done that — tried to actually make reparations, rather than just apologizing with words and expecting her to get over it.

        We’re still friends to this day, and I think that action is what made the difference. I couldn’t replace the exact piece that was broken, but I could try to make up for my mistake.

        (Yes, it was an accident, there was no malice or deliberate carelessness, I had no idea it was so fragile — but she was *hurt* during a time of high stress and high emotion, and I cared more about healing our friendship than I did about being “right” that it wasn’t my fault.)


        Captain, I’m really glad to hear that Mr. Awkward is improving — I respected your request about not sending messages of support when you were already swamped, but you guys have been in my thoughts. Best wishes to you both ❤

        1. I actually do think it was your fault. Anything you borrow, you’re responsible for. You should have been extra careful. You absolutely did the most honorable restitution thing though—kudos to that.

      2. “[…] if you have done damage, please at least offer to try to make amends.” – Hell, yes.

        The one and only time in my life when I did not make it to the bathroom in time to throw up, it of course had to happen at a friend’s house. (Yeeeesss, alcohol was involved. Lots of it.) She cleaned up after me, brought me a pair of fresh pajamas, water, my glasses – she was a damn champion and I was so, so, so, so grateful and so, so, so, so sorry. We had a day spa trip planned for the next day already. Do you think I paid her 90$ fee? Damn right I did, after another round of apologies!

  54. My kids are 2, 4, and 6 and this is the script in my house of how to handle apologies: kid A) I’m sorry I _____ kid B) thank you for the apology kid A) Is there anything I can do to make it better? I also very much encourage and model the phrasing “I did it and I’m sorry” to make the distinction between “I’m sorry this thing that is not in my control or my responsibility happened to you” (I’m sorry you’re sick, I’m sorry your friend hurt your feelings etc) and the other kind of apology that includes accountability. “I lashed out at you because I’m worried about xyz. You didn’t deserve that. I did it, and I’m sorry.”

    1. Mine are 4 and 5 and I can’t tell you the number of times at school/daycare when I hear an adult tell a child, “Now say you’re sorry!!”. NO, NO, NO! Making a child apologize only teaches them that the only reason to say “I’m sorry” is to avoid getting in trouble. I talk to my kids about what went wrong and ask questions along the lines of “how do you think that made her feel?” “why do you think he cried when you did that?’ And then I suggest to them to “have a conversation with ___ and make things right” This encourages them to approach the other child and use their own words to convey that they understand where they went wrong and try to make it right. Never, ever force a kid to apologize. Totally the wrong message!

      1. I wish I’d gone to school with more (any) people who had parents like yourself. Loads of people from the future would like to thank you for doing such a great job teaching your kids empathy.

      2. I don’t know, I think that there are times when a young kid is not going to promptly grasp how the other person felt or why that matters, but the words “I’m sorry” still need to come out of their mouths, because it’s a social ritual that’s the first step toward making the other person feel better.

        Genuinely understanding how the other person feels, experiencing remorse, and figuring out what they might do about it are really important, and it’s important to talk to kids and help them figure those things out. But kids still have to say “I’m sorry” when they’ve hurt someone even if they don’t yet feel sorry, just like they need to learn to say “thank you” as a social ritual before they are really emotionally ready to grasp “this person did a nice thing for me, and they will feel bad if I don’t show that I appreciate it.”

    2. Oh, my thanks were meant for both you and GreenDor. To quote myself:

      Loads of people from the future would like to thank you for doing such a great job teaching your kids empathy.

  55. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to calmly point out when an apology falls flat. “I appreciate you apologizing for bossing me around, but I’m actually pretty upset by the whole weekend. You know my feet are hurt and you plowed ahead of me when we were walking. You ditched me multiple times for your other friend, and you weren’t just bossy, you were really mean too.” Then let it sit. Friend will either be a good friend and acknowledge/apologize for the rest, or not. Then you either need to let go of the situation….or let go of the friend depending on which is more important. Also, remember, forgiveness isn’t just about letting the other person off the hook, it’s also about giving up your anger/hurt/resentment so that you’re not carrying those feelings and wearing out your own spirit.

    1. Sometimes people apologize quickly and perfunctorily to avoid really listening to the person they’ve hurt. (“I SAID I was sorry, sheeeesh!”) The injured party may not choose to discuss their feelings more but I think the apologizing party should be ready to listen. The amount of listening is in proportion to the degree of hurt and the importance of the relationship.

      So a quick text to apologize for a whole weekend of profound unkindness is a very sorry apology indeed. At a minimum, Friend owes LW some version of “are you ok? How are you doing with all this? I am here to listen if and when you’d like to talk.”

      1. reminds me of a four year old i know who will yell “SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY” over the top of you trying to talk to him about why you’re upset… but he’s learning that’s not okay

    2. “…And you YELLED at me for being nearly KNOCKED OUT in the process of helping YOU get to your f’ing AUTOGRAPH LINE!”

    3. I have issues with this definition of forgiveness. For me, I can’t forgive somebody until I feel safe from what they did. “Carrying it around” isn’t the issue. If I’m still “carrying it around,” it’s because I’m still dealing with the hurt. And “forgiving” doesn’t fix the hurt.

      1. “Yeah, I’m carrying something. It’s armor. It may be heavy, but it has a purpose.”

  56. Ugh, I have 3 recent major relationship blow-ups, all very different.
    #1 didn’t even apologize at all, continued to think that there was nothing wrong with the way she was treating me, and eventually I just cut her off … at first, I was all, well, I’ll probably be friends again eventually, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t need get in my life.

    #2 did apologize, once right away, and once later when I told him I was ready to hear an apology. But he’s hurt me too badly for it to be worth trying to repair the relationship, so I ended that relationship.

    #3 is super sticky and ongoing, and I’ve gotten “I’m sorry” but no promises of changed behavior, which is the most important part of it, but also, it’s my dad, and I don’t really know how to deal with this situation …

  57. LW, now you know why she probably can’t find a job. She has a poor team / collaborative behavior. What stroke me is that she kept repeating the same dismissal, apologising, repeating it, in a loop. I would be done with her, and certainly not worried about hurting her with your answer. You probably had a concussion after the barrier fell on your head, and she just let you to have lunch with an other pal ? She sucks. Some experiences reveal that friends are not great.
    But about you: you are a bit too much in a list of grievances. Let it go. Don’t invite her again. Don’t try to make the career of other people either. Don’t mix friendships and jobs.

      1. Yeah, I think the “list of grievances” was part of the context of the question. I don’t get the feeling LW is making a decision to wallow. If she’s still sort of wound up about her friend’s shitty behavior (I would be), it’s because there hasn’t been a meaningful apology or promise of improved behavior. There are several ways to move forward regardless of whether she wants to try to salvage the friendship, but I don’t think she’s “too much in a list of grievances,” at least not right now.

  58. I broke up with a guy I had been dating in grad school. About a month later he saw me on the phone and guessed (accurately) that I was seeing someone new. He sent me an email asking me if I was seeing anyone new and saying that it was ok to tell him if I was. So I tell him yes and he replies with an email telling me to f*** off and calling me a bitch and a whore. (Good thing it was ok to tell him; I’d hate to know what he would have said if it wasn’t ok!)

    Later that day I had to see him in class and he pretended that nothing had happened. I told him that I wanted to no personal interaction with him until he had apologized. Well, he did apologize for two of the three things, which I noticed, but decided to ignore for the sake of keeping the peace in my 13 person grad school program.

    A year later, after graduation, we met up briefly to say goodbye and he apologized for the last thing. He knew exactly what he was leaving out the first time around.

    I’m glad that I accepted the partial apology even though the fact that it was partial rankled, since it made that year more pleasant, but man my spidey sense that the apology omission was intentional was spot on.

  59. Not necessarily for this specific issue, but… Once I got into a horrible vicious cycle with a good friend where we just kept managing to hurt each other until we were expecting to be hurt and thus much more sensitive than we would be with others, which caused more hurt…. We decided that we wanted to keep the friendship and we have (2 decades later and still going strong). However, I definitely learned that even with the best of wills you can’t break a habit so quickly and easily as you’d like. So when in a similar situation I would recommend keeping in mind that the other person may well be doing the best they can. If they were doing Hurtful Thing X 100% of the time they’ll probably go to 90% of the time and then 75% and then maybe 40%, etc. For me it was helpful to remember that so I could remind myself that we were both trying our best and it was in fact getting better even if it didn’t feel like it. (And not all relationships are such that you’d want to keep going once they get to the vicious cycle part, but if you do decide to hang on, it’s helpful knowing that the other person may truly be trying their best even if it doesn’t feel like it.)

  60. If I understand you correctly, dear Letter Writer, then the question you are struggling with underneath “Should I just accept the apology and be done with it?” is “Should I forgive this person?”. Underneath of which I assume lieth the big question of: “Do I feel that what this person did to me is unforgiveable?”

    This is solely for you to decide. It is a hard question, it is a hurtful question. Pondering ending a friendship is a painful process.

    Personally, I could not forgive this. I read the situation as: Your friend only wants you when you are convenient to her, as in getting her a job, taking her somewhere she wants to be, i.e. the convention. Your friend does not want you when you are INconvenient, as in: your friend doesn’t want you when you are in physical pain. Your friend doesn’t want you when you get hurt. Your friend doesn’t want you when you get hit on the head so hard that you see stars. I find this alarming. The whole “That’s just who I am!” shtick is abusive 101. It’s bullshit. “I don’t want to walk any slower!” is not a character trait. “I will keep walking at my usual pace even when you are in physical pain!” is not a character trait. HELL, “I will ignore your physical pain!” is not a character trait. These are behavioural choices. Behaviour is NOT “just who you are”. Behaviour is a choice. Your friend chose to ignore your physical pain.

    Being stressed out by travel, I understand. Ditching an injured person in acute physical pain because someone shinier came along, I do not.

    I’m sorry, LW. I completely understand your pain. What your friend did was horrible in my book. I view her behaviour as using and abusing you. I think she showed you who she is through her behaviour: a user and abuser. Believe her. I hope you can heal from this by talking to actual friends who actually care about you and your well-being.

  61. Sounds like this friend had another Thing going on about being at this con, which somehow contrasted with LW being there. Discomfort at being a Worker rather than a Free Agent? Wanting to be some other version of themself which LW’s presence seemingly obstructed? The species of snappishness reminds me of how I acted with my mom when I was a tween-teenager and really wished I didn’t have to be at Event or Location with, ugggghhhhh, my mooooommmm (who, of course, I loved *at home* where she wasn’t embaaaaarassing me). In other words, Friend sounds pretty immature (unless they are also a young person?). I feel like a measured, “Friend, these specific behaviours that weekend were inconsiderate and made me feel bad; I’m not asking for an apology right now, I am just communicating some information here” after the LW has cooled off would be a good idea, if the friendship is worth having. Friend can then sit with that information and decide what to do with it – apologize, explain, apologize and explain, get defensive … Hopefully not the latter! Friend does seem to realise they were being a jerk, but maybe they need some distance from the Thing they were doing at the con to be able to do a real apology.

    My (very nice!) partner is a skilled rhetorician, and during distressing arguments has a way of apologizing for something very similar to but not quite what I am angry about. I don’t think they are doing this deliberately; I think their subconscious brain weasels figured out a long time ago that this strategy was an effective way of protecting their ego while deflecting blame. (“Well, I DID apologize [for drinking too much], so if they are still mad [about me not leaving the party when I said I would or texting to say I’d be late] it is THEY who are being irrational! I am not a terrible person!!!”) This means that I have had to learn to communicate precisely what I’m angry about. This is often impossible in the heat of the moment, especially when you add on the frustration of a tangential apology. It’s annoying not to get satisfaction right then, but tabling the conversation until morning means that I have time to process and articulate, and they have time to reign in their weasels.

  62. I haven’t been able to accept an apology, partly because at the time I didn’t use my words to say “I know you’re stressed and anxious but I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that,” and now I feel like I missed my chance, and partly because my own Jerkbrain won’t let go of the hurtful things that were said. The friend in question is still dealing with their own mental health issues so I’ve decided to put her in the ‘low doses friend’ category, do lots of journaling and nice things for myself, and never go on holiday with her again. It still hurts though, and I wish there was an easier solution!

  63. When someone’s specifically acted in a way that hurt me, or was inconsiderate, or unkind, what I’m mostly looking for is an indication that The Thing Will Not Be Repeated, or at least that they will try to mitigate the situation. Example: I have a Chronically Late and Flakey Friend.

    “I’m sorry I was 20 minutes late, Thing Happened” is fine, lateness happens sometimes because of things outside our control. “I’m sorry I cancelled at the last minute” is also fine, because this friend has genuine Life Stuff that makes last-minute emergencies a depressingly common part of their life, and I’d rather miss out on the occasional hang-out with them than miss out on their friendship.

    However. “I’m sorry I didn’t call/text to let you know when I was running late, didn’t answer your call when you got worried, turned up an hour late and did so as a result of some entirely avoidable problems” is not so great. And unfortunately did start to become a pattern with this friend, who had taken “I am happy to accommodate your scheduling issues” as blanket permission to not think about the impact of their actions on me at all or make any reasonable effort to be considerate.

    What I did was, next time they were late for a thing, and apologised, I said some words. “I understand you’re sometimes a little late for stuff, and I know why it happens and I’m always happy to try and work around it with you, but I really do need you to tell me when you’re running late. A text is enough, but if I’m stuck waiting for 30 minutes again and I don’t know where you are, I’m going to assume you’re not coming because I need to get on with my day”. And then I followed through on that.

    The next time they were late, and didn’t text, I did what I said I would do. It didn’t take long before this friend started making an effort to text if they were late, and to start trying to give me a heads-up with more notice if it looked like they might need to cancel. “I accept your apology for X but in future please don’t do Y” is valid.

    I will say LW, from the picture you paint of your friend, they kinda sound like the sort of person who’s normal method of operations defaults to “do what I want, apologise after, do it again if I want”, where the apology is more a habit than a meaningful thing, and where the issue isn’t with walking fast, or ditching you, or being bossy. The issue is they treat your comfort, needs and time as less important than their own and expect you to put up with it. “That’s just how I am” is never a good sign when someone’s done something inconsiderate.

  64. My friend and I went to New Orleans and as soon as we crossed out of our city limits she became this horrible controlling freaking out mess. She abandoned me (and my 2 year old son who was with us) in New Orleans and I had to figure out how to get home several states away. Later she dumped a bunch of my stuff at an intersection somewhat near my house. We had been friends for years but never travelled together. It was the worst trip I’ve ever been on, and I’ve hitchhiked across the country.

    A few years later she’s knocking on the door of my new house. She came in and apologized. I told her I accepted the apology but holy cow she had acted like a monster and we would not be continuing our friendship. We chatted for a while, she told me about her darling new pill habit and after an hour or so I said good bye to her for good. I don’t hate her, I have no ill will toward her, and it was nice of her to come and apologize.

    LW your friend sounds like a complete asshole. You spent a lot of time in your letter justifying why you didn’t walk the right pace or whatever. There’s no one right pace. There’s a mutually agreed on pace (that your friend did not give you) and there’s the pace where your friend takes every opportunity to leave you behind. Please feel free to not be friends with this person anymore, and also, to extend yourself some consideration and credit. Trust yourself that you know what you want (to eat, to take care of your body, to enjoy yourself) and that what you want is OK and that someone who is not giving you that (through rushing you, through berating you, etc) IS A JERK and you don’t have to be friends with them!

  65. I have a long time friend who sent me an email saying something like “Who do you think you are talking about feminism”.
    What? i thought. Who are you to tell me what I can talk about on myFB?
    But it turns out that she was just writing out her thoughts, which for some reason she does in email format, but accidently sent it.
    she said she was sorry asked if we could get past it…I said yes, but it might take a while.
    Now we are back to normal.

    1. I’m glad you’re satisfied with the way this worked out and I hope this question doesn’t mess with your peace around that, but… Who puts the name of the person she’s venting about in the “send” field unless she actually means to send it? Once that name is in there, it’s so easy to accidentally hit Tab & Enter keys that your cat walking across the keyboard could send that email.

      I’m wondering how many other thoughts your friend intended to write down and never send somehow got sent anyway.

      1. I don’t know… that’s the exact kind of dumbass move that’s the reason I do much of my written venting by hand. Let me tell you about the time my cat jumped on my phone and followed my ten-years-ago acrimonious stupidhead ex’s mom on Twitter (she sent me a message recommending “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” so win) or accidentally outed my roommate’s cheating on Livejournal…

      2. tangent: when I have to respond to a problematic email at work, I hit reply, then delete the name(s) and don’t put them back in until I’m certain I’ve got the right tone. much safer that way.

      3. I would consider it possible (based on similar experiences with felines) that the friend didn’t even mean to write to Bopper. In my email program if you type even one letter of a name it will helpfully fill in an entire email address for you which may or may not be the right person. Very easy to have a bit of help (feline, typo, whatever) with putting in an address that want even for the right person. (Of course Bopper may already know that they were the correct, if also unintended, recipient. But it could also have been someone completely different.)

      4. I would consider it possible (based on similar experiences with felines) that the friend didn’t even mean to write to Bopper. In my email program if you type even one letter of a name it will helpfully fill in an entire email address for you which may or may not be the right person. Very easy to have a bit of help (feline, typo, whatever) with putting in an address that want even for the right person. (Of course Bopper may already know that they were the correct, if also unintended, recipient. But it could also have been someone completely different.)

      5. i once sent a friend i was travelling with a text venting about how annoying he was that i intended to send to a completely different friend because i was thinking about him and not the recipient when i sent it. i was stressed, and it was not a kind message and he was really hurt. i super, super did not intend to send it to him though! sometimes brains just short circuit in unfortunate ways

        1. Note to self: Always vent in a word processing program. Copy/paste into email only if I really mean to send it.

          My biggest danger is replying in haste and repenting at leisure. If you hit “reply,” the address is already filled, and you’re already in a state to argue/vent.

          Yeah, from now on, word processing is my friend.

  66. First things first: you hit your head on the weekend and it’s now Wednesday. Please see a doctor if at all possible. Let the people around you know what happened to your head and ask them to take you to the ER if you seem strange. I mean sure, your friend might not know the gravity of concussions and head injuries, maybe she’s very young or something, but I feel that even penniless, inexperienced, irresponsible very young people (say, me in college) are perfectly capable of calling a friend who works in healthcare or is just good at life to ask advice, and sitting with you to make sure you’re ok, and finding out if there’s a nursing station or anything at the con. Also as an FYI, if present me were you friend in that situation, I’d have closed up the booth and taken you to the ER, and canceled my plans to be present and make sure you don’t go to sleep, or find someone trusted who could do same.

    I don’t want to imply that there’s something wrong with you for having “too low” of a standard of behavior for people you let into your life. Because I’ll be honest, when I was living the chaotic, unconventional life of a young wierdo with other young wierdos, it took me a good long… decade or so to sort out what was a standard of behavior simply based on what conventional people do, and which I shouldn’t expect from my fellow weirdos, and what which standards of behavior formed a baseline of decency which is timeless. That involved learning to trust my gut and emotions, which meant learning to understand my gut and emotions, which meant becoming aware that I needed to learn to understand them. That’s why I was ready to stand up and say what I felt and needed yet was unable to do so, because it would still take a few years to learn to understand and articulate what I felt and needed. Which is something I’m reading into this letter, of course I may be off base. I wish someone had told me earlier that lots of people have problems with these issues, and these things can be learned (anger management, “focusing” technique, and various other therapeutic emotional awareness programs exist for this purpose). So I’m telling you now, sorry if this whole comment was just me reading something about me into your letter that wasn’t there.

  67. “Don’t be sorry, be different”

    That’s the line a high school teacher would use in class when students would talk during class, get chided, and then apologized. Her rationale was that you can’t be very sorry if you’re not changing the behavior that required the apology.

    That line probably won’t go over well in most circumstances, but it helped me think about apologies in general and what they should mean. She made a very good, concise point, that I still remember long after high school.

  68. My oldest, best friend and I had a period of six months where we simply didn’t speak to or see each other, because I accidentally slept through my own birthday dinner with her and another mutual friend. I’d apologized immediately, but it was clear that she was still angry and I needed to figure out my life (I’d been hiding from some deep trauma with the help of a minor alcohol problem). I got a therapist, and finally asked my two friends to meet me for dinner so I could apologize in person. We hashed everything out over sushi and tears (mmm, salty) and we’ve been back to normal ever since.

    Sometimes forgiveness and amends are easy, and sometimes they take time and effort and introspection. I’d never experienced anything like that before and it was so good and important that I did.

  69. I’m a white woman who recently spent eight years in undergrad/grad school studying white privilege and racial inequality. My friend of 10 years was a black woman who doesn’t much want to talk about issues of race. We’d been growing apart for some time – She had always been kind of mean, but with less and less in common as our lives went different directions made it harder to deny this big difference in the way we treated/wanted to be treated by each other. We stayed friendly only because I moved away and we only saw each other for lunch dates a couple times a year.

    Then on Facebook, I treated her like my ‘black friend’ that I could talk about all things race-related with. She had never been That Friend, but I was on some righteous zeal and I forgot about that. She told me I had been shitty. I apologized. It was a shitty, defensive apology – definitely fell short of the Captain’s standards. She stopped speaking to me and after a while, I apologized again. A much better one this time. She said she did not want to talk about it. Then I asked her how she felt about our friendship in general. She said she felt we’d been growing apart. I said I felt like every time we got together, she seemed annoyed by me and like she didn’t want to be there, and that it had been getting to me for years.

    I asked her if she wanted to take a break. She said yes. We wished each other well, unfriended each other on Facebook, and haven’t spoken since. That was a couple years ago.

    The truth is, our friendship has degraded to the point where it wasn’t worth salvaging the relationship after my bad behavior. I was tired is the constant anxiety I had around her, of accepting behavior from her I’d call out in anyone else. She was clearly tired of my shit too, and had been for a while.

    We had been close once though. And sometimes when I think of her, I feel a pang, but mostly I’m just so relieved that we salvaged some respect for each other and ended our friendship with kindness. Friendships are so very individualized and personal and unique that it’s hard to come up with a set of rules to govern the shapes they take. You know your friendship best, LW. Wishing you all the best

  70. I had a similar situation happen where a really good friend was sort of a jerk to me when she came to visit because she hit it off with an acquaintance of mine when she was supposed to be visiting me and was literally boxing me out of conversations all weekend. Long story short she apologized and dated the guy for 3 years so I guess they really did have a connection!

    We never really became close again, it was definitely a learning experience about her and I just don’t think being close friends would serve either of us, but we’re still friendly and chat about light things (travel and t.v.).

  71. You are allowed to set boundaries that upset your friend. Truly. You don’t need to accept an apology that doesn’t communicate a willingness to make amends and not repeat the behaviour. You deciding not to accept this apology or continue this friendship would not make you a bad person. I know I’m repeating what everyone else has already said, but maybe repetition helps?

    I’ve had apologies I accepted from friends who were sincerely sorry. I’ve made apologies to friends and loved ones when I hurt them and was sincerely sorry. Important: not all of those apologies resulted in a resumed relationship, and when they didn’t, I/they accepted that and moved on. I’ve been in the position of trying to figure out how to take a non-apology or incomplete apology, and I have to say I can’t remember a single time when I was glad to have accepted a faux-pology and move forward with a resumed relationship. In every case it turned out, in the end, to be a sign of a friendship or other relationship that was better off done.

    Examples: “I’m sorry [that I fell out of contact and didn’t talk to you for three days,] but you know how I feel about you!” from a man I was dating. We didn’t date for much longer, and I can’t say I regret that.

    “I’m sorry that I alienated you, and I hope you can forgive me” from a relative whose actual action was to not respect my boundary that abusive family members were not welcome in my life and I needed to know if they were going to be present at family events so I could avoid them. And who further expressed a determination to continue violating that boundary due to her own “baggage.” Let that relationship go. Felt very relieved.

    And on the other side, there was a time years ago when my daughter was younger, and she was sad about something related to her father and I getting divorced, and I took it ridiculously personally and said things I regret. She wrote me a note about her feelings later, and I wrote a note back with an apology in it that I guess helped because she’s had it taped to her bedroom wall ever since. The gist of it was that she was entitled to feel hurt and upset, and there was no timeline for feeling better or forgiving me, and I was sorry and would never do it again. (And I haven’t.) We’re very close and she trusts me, and I know that’s not because I’m perfect but because she knows that if I mess up I take responsibility and fix it.

    I think it’s a reasonable standard not to accept an apology that is less than the one you would offer in the other person’s place.

  72. The last time I was in this position — and I was 100 percent the wronged party — my response to the apology was a quiet, stony “I’m really p****d off at you.” It was a response to the apology, which means I acknowledged it, but it let the other person know they weren’t off the hook. They later gave me a heartfelt apology in which they accepted full responsibility for their actions and promised never to repeat them. That combined with some cooling-off time was exactly what I needed. Our relationship is as strong as ever. Most importantly, I don’t feel any resentment when I look back at that time. The resentment is what kills friendships and relationships.

    I think the “I’m still angry” response works because it doesn’t reject the other person’s apology, lets them know the extent of your feelings and serves as a wake-up call that they screwed up more than they think they did. Plus it’s hard to argue with. They can tell you that you shouldn’t be that angry, but that doesn’t change the fact you are and your anger isn’t magically going to fade away because they don’t agree with it.

    In my case the person with whom I fought was self-aware and mature enough to think about their actions, realize how awful they were and give me the thorough apology I deserved. LW, I’m not sure your friend is like that. Her behavior isn’t impressive, but maybe there’s hope. It looks like she spontaneously apologized on the train, so maybe she’s capable of seeing that her behavior isn’t great, she just needs to be made aware of how not great it is.

    1. **my response to the apology was a quiet, stony “I’m really p****d off at you.”**

      I love that. Because it doesn’t pretend everything’s fine, but it also isn’t lashing out, just stating a fact. I’d be tempted to list the 10,000 reasons *why* I was pissed at the person, which might make it worse and/or exhaust me.

  73. There’s a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar on how apologizing has been weaponized toward women. It’s all about saying a transgression is okay and demanding forgiveness so someone can feel off the hook, with no promise that said transgression will not happen again. Glad Mr. Awkward is on the mend, and my thoughts are with y’all.

    1. I’ll have to look that up — it kind of fits with some thoughts I’ve had lately about forgiveness being a means to control people. Like, in how people (especially, but not exclusively, women) are told to forgive the transgressions against them, instead of seeking justice or reparations. How it is entrenched in many religions, which enables religious leaders and/or political elites keep the suffering and disenfranchised from rising up and rebelling against systematic inequalities.

      Er, okay, I’ll get off my soapboax now and look up that article. 🙂

    2. The whole demanding of forgiveness from trangressor (and society) is why I’ve never been comfortable with it, even with the “forgiveness is letting go of your anger” definition. I’d be more amenable to it if justice and reparations (mentioned by AndTheRest) were more readily available.

      1. Oh, Gods, especially with the “forgiveness is letting go of your anger” definition.

        I was raised by parents whose response to my continuing to feel hurt by cruelty/bullying to the point of reliving it in 1:1 time frame and emotional impact was (Dad) “You sure do hold a grudge” and (Mom) “Wow, you never forget anything, do you?” Only much, much later in life did I learn that what I was experiencing was called PTSD and that their blaming me for still being hurt was like blaming my bleeding on my holding a grudge against the knife.

        To this day, sentiments along the theme of “Why don’t you just let it go?” and “You shouldn’t hang on to grievances like that” are damn near triggering. No, I haven’t watched Frozen, and I’ve also fallen a little out of love with Cowboy Mouth about it, why do you ask?

        Wounds bleed. Healing takes time. When time and space aren’t given, and the wounds just keep being dealt, healing doesn’t get a chance to happen. Dear world: Stop demanding that victims “let it go”, stop telling victims that “refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping it kills your enemy.” Just stop. We’re human too. Our hurts matter. Our wounds bleed.

  74. I had a friend yell at me and get very angry with me without a good reason. (She was sober at the time.)

    I told her that her behaviour had really, really hurt my feelings and upset me.

    Later, while drunk, she apologised.

    I still didn’t feel emotionally safe around her, so I brought it up again when she was sober.

    She said that I “was going to have to let it go” and that I was going to have to stop talking about it.

    We haven’t seen each other since.

    I want to keep the friendship, but I feel I need a proper apology when she’s sober – and she’s made it clear that’s not an option.

    I also don’t feel emotionally safe that she won’t yell at me/get angry with me again.

    1. Oh, isn’t that lovely and fun when the person who did the damage instructs the person who was damaged that it is now time to forgive and forget. My dad literally said those precise words to me. Then he said, “Let go and let God.” In a fatherly tone. Because he had earned so much right to act fatherly towards me.

  75. Letter writer you sound relatively young, which is fantastic! You have a whole lifetime a head of you to remind yourself you are important and you matter and it’s ok to say no to shitty behavior and to speak up and advocate for yourself.

    In an ideal world your friend would have noticed the pains you were going through. And in a slightly less ideal world you would have said “friend let’s come up with alternative plans/walk slower/ hey you probably didn’t notice this but I can’t keep up/I was really looking forward to hanging out with you, is it alright if all three of us hangout” and your friend would have smacked her forehead and blushed really hard and said something like “awww jeeez I didn’t notice that this was making you uncomfortable. I’m sorry, let’s work it out together” and you too would have hugged and had a wonderful time.

    Sadly that didn’t happen, and we don’t live in an ideal world (if we did there would be soooo much I would change), and neither I or the Cap or you can force your friend into being a better person. You can only effect you and what you are willing to put up with. So in an in-ideal world you stand up for yourself, and when someone responds in an un-ideal way you get to decide if that’s what you want to put up with. When your friend says “well that’s the way I am pick up the speed slow poke” you get to respond with “wow that really hurt my feelings”. When she shouts at you after being hit in the head you get to say “wow I’m in really a lot of pain. Now is not the time. Please help me get up”. And if your friend reacts badly to all those possible script you can always say “I am sorry that you chose to react this way. I think I need a break from us right now. I’m going to do my own thing/end this conversation/hang up the phone”.

    It’s sad that people we care about can be inconsiderate, but remember you have a lot of power about how much you choose to engage with them. And remember you deserve to be treated better than this, and your best advocate should be yourself.

  76. LW, I’m really sorry that your friend treated you this way and is it’s hard for you to look back on the con with positive feelings.

    I think there are more choices than “swallowing your hurt with a smile” or not accepting her apology. I think the Captain is right about this friend not being a great travel or event buddy. I have some dear friends that I can’t do certain things with – like that One Friend you can’t make one-on-one plans with because they almost always flake, or that One Friend that you can’t do stuff that has a hard start time with because they’re always late. I definitely have friends I would not travel with (or wouldn’t travel with unless I were doing all the planning because Spontaneity!! often doesn’t actually work as a travel plan).

    What bothers me is this was not a one-time occurrence over the con that could have been chalked up to anxiety, stress, or tiredness. And your friend clearly knew that what they were doing was Not Okay enough to have to apologize multiple times over the weekend.

    Your actual question was about how to accept an apology like hers, and you don’t have to! You really don’t have to. There is also a big range of options between ‘apology accepted, it’s 100% ok’ and ‘angry forever!’

    Taking some time to think over what would have made it okay or what Friend can do now might help – whether or not she actually does, but to think about in the future.

    I personally am not okay with someone apologizing and then repeating the same behavior over and over, and this friend sounds like she would be a better small-doses (or no-doses) friend.

  77. I was in the opposite situation, where no matter how much I apologized, the person who I had offended refused to accept or believe it, to the point of stating that my apologies were as rude as the original insult. She engaged in weeks of verbal abuse and gaslighting where she launched vicious personal attacks on me and twisted everything I said or did into something offensive. The final straw was she started calling me names, at which point, I finally stopped contact with her. All of a sudden, she was as sweet as pie, acting “concerned” about me, but I was so emotionally drained that I simply cut her off and never spoke to her again.
    LW, don’t be that person. Your friend acted like a selfish, inconsiderate bitch, and even if her apology is sincere, you have every right to tell her you need some space before resuming your relationship.

    1. I’m sorry, LW. It’s always such a let down when a friend is disappointing like this. I’m enjoying reading the responses as I want to be better in these situations. I recently went on a trip with a friend who snapped at me a number of times, ignored me for her phone for long stretches over dinners) then when she “came back” was super negative, and asked me what was wrong when I eventually didn’t seem to be in a happy mood anymore), full on ignored me as I was talking to her/asking a question – turns out it was deliberate, because when I called her out she first mumbled “oh I didn’t know you were talking to me” (there was no one else there). When I pointed this out, “I thought you will still talking about (subject that she deemed ok to entirely ignore!)

      Also lots of passive aggressive complaining for a half day after we did something she fully agreed to. When I eventually said “it seems like you’re upset so maybe we should talk about it”, it was met with lots of “what are you talking about, so I can’t say ANYTHING then??”

      She messaged me after the trip about some random thing and asking if she owed me money (yes, she did) – in one of her moods she left me to pay for the hotel. When I didn’t respond the same day she started sending sad emojis.

      I failed here too because I didn’t know how to say “Im upset because you were rude to me throughout this trip” without it being friendship ending. We discuss d the money thing and I told her I’d have to check – she seemed mad and kept saying “how much”. I told her she had also paid for something so we would have to do the calculation (why is it entirely on me to keep track of this?). I said I’d send her the hotel receipt and it turned out she wouldn’t have owed me a ton – so I sent it satin as much. No reply and no messages since.

  78. The problem with saying that you don’t want to play right now or that you need some time to be mad is that the statement assumes that there will come a time when you do want to play or won’t be mad anymore. I don’t necessarily know that in the moment. In many situations, I will get over it, but in others, well, I don’t know. A statement like that can make the person who has done wrong think that it’s just a matter of waiting it out without having to think about why someone might need more time. It’s like being temporarily fired from a job while simultaneously knowing you’ll be rehired and given back-pay.

    I do like “what changes need to be made so it doesn’t happen again?” Going back to the specifics in the letter. Traveling together to an event and sharing a motel room but being on your own for meals and during the day IS one model for how to handle free time. So is going off with a friend you don’t have a chance to see often. This isn’t a model I like, and it wouldn’t be my assumption, but one change that could be made is clarifying the assumptions before going. I’ve known friends to go to bars together with the assumption that either may ditch the other if they meet someone they want to go home with. Again, this is not a model I would endorse, but knowing ahead of time what my friend is thinking so I could make a decision about going with them is better than getting an apology with no idea if it might happen again.

    But really, I reread the letter and see all the things Friend didn’t apologize for. She did apologize for being bossy but not for all the stressing and all the being inconsiderate. No wonder LW is having trouble accepting the apology. There’s too much missing! I really don’t see this friendship going forward. Friendships can survive individual bad acts, even ones that are pretty bad, but I don’t have much hope for them surviving a general basis of being inconsiderate most of the time.

    1. The problem with saying that you don’t want to play right now or that you need some time to be mad is that the statement assumes that there will come a time when you do want to play or won’t be mad anymore. I don’t necessarily know that in the moment.

      Except that you do NOT need to feel bound by that assumption.

      You can stop any time you want. You didn’t sign some contract.

      Later, if you are still mad, or if you don’t want to know the person any more, you can bring it back up when you’re calmer and discuss it more powerfully.

      Or you can say, “You know what? I don’t think there’s anything you can do that will make me accept your apology. I’m permanently mad, and this friendship is over.”

  79. I just had this happen. A person I’m super close to messed up and hurt me pretty badly. I was furious with the practical consequences I had to face, along with the negative feelings towards him. What made me want to keep this person in my life:

    1. He betrayed me out of carelessness, not malice or indifference. I think this is important for people (especially femmes) to pay attention to, I have a lot of friends who refuse to see this and rather than set boundaries or end the relationship, they make excuses/lower their standards/justify/defend the crappy behavior of people who don’t care that much about their feelings.
    2. He is terrible at apologies in general, I always have to tell him “you need to apologize to me” when he screws up. I told him this time and he apologized immediately and was genuinely contrite. It was obvious how awful he felt.
    3. He has been super responsive to my texts and emotionally supportive, while not asking for that in return (note: my texts are focused on me and my needs and feelings, I am not hammering into him to guilt/shame/verbally bludgeon him for hurting me. People who do this are assholes).
    4. He has given me space, lets me initiate contact without “punishing” me (i.e. withdrawing or getting upset or picking fights with me)
    5. He’s been softer with me. We have a relationship where we often push and challenge each other. Call each other out on our shit. He isn’t doing that right now, he’s being much more validating and supportive. He isn’t pretending everything is fine to avoid feeling bad about hurting me, he’s owning it.

    I actually texted him the other day saying that while I miss him, I’m still mad and need time/space to get over it. He said he knows and understood. I don’t hold grudges, but I do have a temper and am quick to anger and slow to simmer down and very sensitive to feeling betrayed. I need time to let my anger work it’s way out of my system. I don’t want to process with them or talk or figure things out. When I’m ready I will tell that person what I need in order to trust them again. Either they show up, or they don’t.

    LW – I don’t know how much this person cares about you but they sound kind of awful. You certainly can’t travel with them again, but are there other activities that you do enjoy doing with them? Hopefully these kind of trips just bring out the worst in them, but it’s also ok to acknowledge “this person isn’t kind to me so I’m not investing any more time or energy on them” if that is the case.

    1. 1. He betrayed me out of carelessness, not malice or indifference. I think this is important for people (especially femmes) to pay attention to, I have a lot of friends who refuse to see this and rather than set boundaries or end the relationship, they make excuses/lower their standards/justify/defend the crappy behavior of people who don’t care that much about their feelings.

      “Not caring enough to be careful” can be a lousy way to treat someone you care about. And it deserves an apology just as much as “did it on purpose to be mean.” (the more frequently it manifests, the worse it is; the more it contrasts with the ways they treat other people, the worse it is)

      It is different from malice–goodness, yes. But it doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

      I’m glad your friend gets it!

      1. “Not caring enough to be careful” can be a lousy way to treat someone you care about.

        I have got to the point of being utterly done with “I didn’t mean to” offered as a mitigating factor.

        “The problem is, you didn’t care enough to mean NOT to,” is becoming my go-to response.

        Life’s too short to spend on people who can’t be bothered to spend an ounce of thought on treating you like you’re worth the effort of actively forming the intention to treat you like they care about you.

  80. Oh! I have a story about some friends that is actually very similar to your personal story, Cap’n!

    Friend A owned a home, and Friend B lived there for several years. At some point, there was tension about money. I don’t know all the details (nor do I care to), but the gist is that Friend A felt that Friend B owed him money. These things happen, it sucks, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t know how this was handled by either party, or whether there was an apology, but stay with me.

    Fast forward about 3 years, and Friend A and I are seated at the same table at Friend B’s wedding. Everyone is having a good time, until I hear Friend A griping endlessly about having to give Friend B a gift, and trying to decide how much the check should be, and whether it should be less because Friend B (allegedly? no idea, not the point) still owes Friend A money. Finally, I got fed up and sharply said, “Look, Friend A, here’s the deal. Friend B is obviously never going to pay you back. You can either let it go, enjoy this wedding, and give him a gift, or you can stop being friends with him. It’s been THREE YEARS. Pick one, and stick with it, but don’t make me listen to another second of this.”

    That event stuck with me for a long time, and it informs a lot about how I handle debts, both literal and figurative. (Friend A never learned the same lesson, in my opinion. Now he is Casual Acquaintance A, and I see him once a year. It is better that way.)

    1. This is a familiar situation. I have a Friend A who used to house Friend B who still owes A a lot of money. In their case…we all ran into eachother after some years of no contact w B. We all picked up with no mention of it. A has let it go as a sunk cost and accepts B as that acquaintance they have a nice chat with at parties but won’t accept I-owe-yous from again.

      No venting sessions are had…especially not at someone’s wedding! Bygones are bygones AND no trust has been rebuilt. And it’s ok…because they’re handling their business their own way.

      On a more personal note: my sister and I owe each other a ton of money…every now and then I catch myself thinking I should mention xyz recent thing she owes me because maybe she forgot…then I remember she let me stay with her for 6 months rent-free and I laugh at myself.

  81. Several years ago I invited four of my closest friends to dinner at my place to celebrate my birthday. One of them insisted that she would make me a birthday cake, which I thought was very sweet of her. On the day of the dinner, she emailed to tell me she couldn’t make it — she and her husband were going skiing instead. I was angry and hurt — for starters I might not have even gotten the message in time if I hadn’t checked my email that day! (Plus I’d obviously already bought all the food, etc.) She apologized in a very casual manner and then was angry at me for not forgiving her immediately. At the time, I wondered if I was being too hard on her (our friendship ended as a result of this), but now I see that she thought that saying “I’m sorry!” was enough and it wasn’t for me: not only did she not include the “and I won’t do it again” bit, but she also didn’t actually understand why it was a big deal to me that she’d ditched me at the last minute on my birthday. (She and I met in a group and she somewhat regularly ditched our group meetings at the last minute when her husband wanted her to do something with him instead. I knew that if I continued to be her friend that this would continue to happen.)

    1. Oh, what a difference a consonant makes.

      “She emailed to tell me she couldn’t make it – she and her husband were going skiing, instead.”

      Should read:

      “She emailed to tell me she wouldn’t make it – she and her husband chose to go skiing, instead.”

      Couldn’t is for things like, “We had a massive money emergency, and can’t afford it,” or “We have a medical emergency and are taking care of that,” or “No transportation,” or “The cat is on fire.” She absolutely COULD make it. She chose not to. She chose it. She chose skiing over you. And that is why it hurts so much.

      Maybe someday, someone will do that to her, and she’ll finally get it. Until then, it’s good that you took care of yourself, by not putting yourself in the situation to be belittled any more.

      1. I envision making that distinction in the reply.

        They say: I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it to your birthday party. I went skiing.
        You answer: I’m so sorry you wouldn’t come to the party because you chose to go skiing. We missed you.

  82. Oh, man, I relate to LW so hard. Great advice from the Captain (and glad your world is settling a bit, CA).

    I was out for coffee with a friend. She ran to the ATM and while she was gone, I accidentally spilled coffee on my shirt. She wanted to catch the bus and I asked if I could go back to her place (not far away) and change shirts since I spilled coffee and she scoffed and I was like, “Yeah, don’t ask if I’m okay after spilling hot coffee all over myself, just yell at me for inconveniencing you…” She muttered a sheepish apology.

    I was out for brunch with a guy I was dating and he bitched loudly about how expensive the place was, bitched about how the waitress pushed the specials without suggest the cheaper stuff on the menu (like, just eggs and just toast). We hadn’t ordered anything yet, were just looking at the menu. I was like, “All right, fine, we’ll go somewhere else.” Then he kept bitching about the waitress. I was like, “You got what you wanted and we’re going somewhere else, why are you STILL complaining?” “Well, but see, I was apologizing…” And I was supposed to know that was an apology because why? Did he say the words “I’m sorry”? NOPE.

    Anyway, hope those were brief enough and not sure I’m the best at handling this kinda thing, but like I said, I empathize so hard with the issue of negotiating boundaries with inconsiderate and/or bullying people.

  83. I have two “apology situations” in my family that have made me think long and hard about apologies.

    One is family member I’ve gone No Contact with. A factor in my decision to go NC was articulating in my brain that as much and as many times as they apologized for fucking me over in one way or another and as sincere as those apologies were, they never bothered to learn to Stop Fucking Me Over, so their apologies were worthless. I told them that no apology would ever get them back in my life. Only evidence that they had *Changed* could get me to even reconsider my decision.

    The other was an out-of-the-blue shocking vitriolic probably literally spitting-in-rage attack email from a different family member. In response to my sending them a birthday card. I am by no means an innocent angel, but when the misdeeds I’m savaged for include my accepting half a sandwich that was offered and “stealing” chips off someone’s plate, there’s more going on.
    Skip to some months later and for reasons known only to said family member, I was suddenly apparently forgiven and “allowed” back into the family. Like nothing had ever happened. Said family member has never even hinted they remember what they did, much less apologized for it.

    So I too act as if nothing happened. To the extent I can. At least, I’ve never said anything about it.
    I neither expect nor want an apology. Because I realized that Said Family Member has mental health issues far beyond what I’d understood, and that the attack was triggered because NC family member had been trying to wheedle their way back in by way of soppy greeting cards. If SFM was already annoyed at me, my “acting like” NCFM would be match to gasoline.
    And because unless SFM has a revelation akin to a burning bush, they’re not going to offer one, and I’m not going to ask for one, because I don’t feel like opening the can of worms that is their mental health.
    And because all the apologies in the world wouldn’t mean shit if I don’t see that they’ve made genuine efforts to address their mental health issues so they don’t continue this roller coaster of WTF behavior.

    The attack was so savage it pretty much cauterized any wounds, so if nothing changes, I don’t need an apology because I’m not suffering.
    On the other hand, if SFM does get help and I feel I can trust them again, I won’t need an apology because I’ll be so damn happy.

    I guess the moral of the stories is: apologies are only as good as the foundation on which they’re made.

    1. “The attack was so savage it pretty much cauterized any wounds, so if nothing changes, I don’t need an apology because I’m not suffering.” This!!! so good. It’s like an experience that gives you some very good information about a person…like…if you ever feel really fragile and need some solid comfort and support and a shoulder to cry on this person won’t be it…it doesn’t mean you don’t love them just that you know what they can be relied upon for and what not.

  84. I’m someone who needs time to sit on something and get my thoughts and emotions in order before I can address it. So usually when I’m mad, I have to tell the person I appreciate whatever apology but the thing they did really hurt my feelings and I don’t want to talk to them right now. And then I’ll get back to them in a few hours, days, or even weeks. It’s not the cold shoulder, per say – or at least that’s not my intention. I’m just… mad and I have nothing nice to say, I don’t want to accept their apology, and I don’t have suggestions for how to “make it right” besides give it a little time and then revisit.

    That can be hard, because some people REALLY don’t like sitting with bad feelings (guilt, anger, whatever else). The people that can’t respect or handle my “long silences” tend to be the ones I don’t maintain a relationship.

    Prime example: I have a friend who was the Maid of Honor in her sister’s VERY huge wedding and had SO MANY responsibilities. The week before the wedding, my dad ended up in the hospital (found out he has diabetes, which is under control and carefully monitored now). I was super upset and called her, left a voicemail, and then texted her. She TEXTED me back a week AFTER the wedding (so two weeks after my call). I pretty much told her that was a really crappy thing to do. She apologized a lot. I told her I didn’t really care right now and had nothing nice to say. And then like 6 weeks later I finally texted her again, It was a slow process to start trusting her again, but I’m glad I did because she is important to me and has never done anything like that before.

  85. Thanks again everyone! I’ve been thinking a lot about this today, and I ended up getting some new information that changes how I’m seeing this trip. I shared this post with another friend, the one who asked us to come work. She hadn’t met Friend before, and had expressed discomfort at how Friend was acting/treating me. Talking about it last night, she shared that Friend was also really rude to the people who run the booth/were paying for our rooms. Which I had stressed to Friend before we arrived to be careful about, because my other friend (who wasn’t around for most of this because she was really busy with the booth) really wants to officially work for this company eventually.

    So while I was super hurt by Friend, she also potentially jeopardized other friend’s future plans which is even less cool. Its not just me being hurt anymore, which makes me feel less like my response was disproportionate. I’m also feeling a lot better about not instantly forgiving her because she did say sorry. I’m going to use some of the Captain’s wonderful scripts and some of the scripts in the comments too, if we talk about this, and also for if I feel unready to accept an apology in the future.

    Thank you again. This is a really awesome community, and you all have great insight.

    1. ” Its not just me being hurt anymore, which makes me feel less like my response was disproportionate. ”

      Is there a word for that? It’s so tragically common.

      1. Yes, we need a word for it. I could have called it “grad school” but that does not encompass all the varieties of human experience where this occcurs — like you said, all too tragically commmon.

      2. Poor self-esteem? Feeling that you, alone, are not worthy, but if other people are involved, suddenly it actually counts?

        Wait, that’s a lot of words.

        LW, you ARE worth it, all on your own.

        Also, did you ever get your art back, or is she still holding on to that, “accidentally”?

    2. “It’s not just me….” So it only matters if it’s somebody else? I’m glad you got third-party confirmation/validation/recalibration, but I really want you to see that you have the absolute right to decide whether to continue to allow Alleged Friend in your life based solely on your OWN experience. What does her behavior TO YOU reveal about her character? Do you have strong grounds to believe she is actually a good person?

      And have you seen a doctor yet?

    3. Your are an awesome person! and also my first reaction to her “apology” was generally shock because it felt like she was only texting to apologize for maybe “bossing you around” as the one moment of telling you you couldn’t sit near her on the bus…but like…okay? tip of the iceberg for all the ways she was mean, dismissive, invalidating, and rude to someone who hooked her up with a cool opportunity.

  86. I needed this. There is a woman in our group who creates drama. She likes to text one or more of us privately to bag on someone else and ask us to intervene. I don’t as a rule. Finally I had enough and set a boundary, after she did it for the nth time and she pulled out every dysfunctional reason for not being responsible for her actual behavior: I was drunk I don’t remember. I was texting while asleep I can’t recall. Now I’m suicidal bc you wouldn’t let me abuse you freely. Now I’m bipolar bc that fake threat of self harm got me nowhere. I don’t recall so why should I look back through my actual texts to see the abuse I hurled when I can just deny it? So there. Then sent me ‘I’m sorry I was upset yesterday’ and then proceeded to privately and publicly text all and sundry with a whole different story. So I sent screenshots to one person who defended her, who promptly desisted. Then she watches for when I asked the group to hang, at the pub, etc, and then privately texts others with ‘lets hang at this pub instead at the same tine’. She’s in her 50s. So it’s not a maturity thing. She now tries to speak to me publicly via text about random things but all I want to say is : you e shine be who you are. No I won’t forget, you made sure of that. She’s a seriously messed up person whose go-to is I’m going to torment you and create drama but if someone calls me out I’m gping to be a victim at any cost, no matter the collateral damage. I’m wondering: do I just wait it out? I refuse to engage in the s… show

  87. Captain, thank you so much for continuing to foster this community even while supporting Mr Awkward in this time of crisis. I really appreciate the effort of balancing the moderation of all our comments, your other work, and being there for Mr Awkward. Best wishes to both of you.

  88. Hello LW,

    You wrote that you said “I understood, but not to do it again because I don’t appreciate it”. That’s fine! You could even leave off the “understood” part. There is nothing wrong with accepting an apology and stating a boundary in the same sentence. It is polite. It is true.

    Accepting an apology does not mean the person apologizing did nothing wrong. It does not mean you are no longer upset. It means that you accept their statement of fault and regret.. The same conversation is an excellent time to set a boundary. “Please don’t do that again” is a clear boundary statement.

    The question is, what way can we change our thinking so that we recognize when our boundaries are being pushed, and feel we have a 100% complete right to maintain them?

    I’m glad you responded the way you did, and I hope you can carry that feeling with you.

  89. This is a great reply. I think there is a lot of interpersonal pressure around the fact that, if someone apologizes, things need to be “fixed” right away, or “go back to normal” instantly because the words “I’m sorry” passed by. That’s not always the case and it doesn’t make you mean or bad if you can’t do that.

    I’ve had this happen a handful of times with the person I’m dating. While getting to know one another we stepped on each others’ feet a lot, and made small and big missteps that we had to learn from. The times when I apologized it was often that she told me she accepted my apology, but she wasn’t sure how she would feel or act. I think in the past a lot of people have pushed her to “act normal” right away after they’ve hurt her feelings, and I’ve watched it happen since with other friends or family members, that ramp up and up and push her to placate them since they apologized and things should just be fine. I always have reassured her to take her time and let herself feel how she feels. A lot of hurts do just take time to heal, and also time to be sure the offending party won’t keep repeating offenses. I think just having that space to let things be and not pick or push always helps her feel comfortable and we can talk and work through the situations. Now that we know each other better, these things happen less, and take less time to get through too. Maybe you learned from others’ behavior that when they act poorly and apologize, you -must- forgive and forget right away? You can react however feels right to you. You don’t need to internally push yourself to make things fine or manage the apologizer’s feelings.

    I also want to double-down on The Captain’s advice about travel and conventions with this friend. I do lots of conventions and have run my own tables a lot- and often I will bring friends to help out and compensate them for travel and time. Some friends I found are very good at this, and wonderful tablemates and a joy to be around. Some friends are awful at this and stress me and make everything worse and many times more work. Those friends are still my friends, but they will not be invited back to share the work load or hotel with me. It’s okay to put those boundaries. Travel and conventions are stressful as a baseline, and some people just don’t behave well under that duress. That’s okay, you just don’t have to surrounded yourself with it. 🙂 Best to you in the future with all that!

  90. It seems to me that disingenuous apologies can be met with disingenuous acceptances. Someone says they’re sorry in any number of ways that show they haven’t really thought about their part in causing harm, haven’t thought about not doing the same thing in the future, and just want to be let off the hook. I can say “thank-you” or “it’s okay” or “whatever” with the same lack of thought meaning I’m still going to be wary.

    In this case, the friend sounds like a she committed a number of offenses, some which can be excused for being mere carelessnesses, some that can’t be excused that easily. Walking away from someone who’s been hurt badly enough to be on the ground is something which, for me, isn’t something that can be excused even with a thoughtful sincere apology.

    I’d also give some real thought as to whether this person is a traveling companion. Here’s my small story on that. I invited a friend I met through a hobby group to an exhibit having to do with that same hobby. When we were walking around the large exhibit hall filled with vendors and artwork and wonderful things to look at, she was tired. She couldn’t walk fast or well. I believe I did all the considerate things. I slowed to her pace. I brought her a chair and sat with her when she was winded. I assured her it was okay if we didn’t see the whole thing. Neither of us had anything to apologize for, but I never invited her to another exhibit anyway. I certainly don’t resent her for not being able to walk well, but at this point in my life, I like to energetically see everything there is to see. That just wasn’t going to work with her as a companion. If I can make that sort of decision about someone who was never actively inconsiderate, surely LW can make that sort of decision about someone who was as mean as her friend.

  91. My brother made me really angry once while he was visiting my new house for the first time with a bunch of other family. We got into a sort of unpleasant conversation about money/spending habits, with a lot of unspoken judgments coming from him. I knew this would be uncomfortable, so when this topic came up I tried really, REALLY hard to change it. But my brother just… would not allow it. He drilled down and down into this topic, asking what we spent on things and saying how absurdly expensive that was, and started comparing my spending to my parents’ spending, with the implication that it’s irresponsible and Bad because buying new stuff feeds into capitalism and destruction of the Earth. Finally I said, firmly, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” I was clearly getting emotional. He flat out ignored me and continued talking about it, so I said it again, louder. He countered that we weren’t *really* talking about it, because we were on the subject of general spending rather than How Expensive The Specific Things You Bought Were, so I left the room and angry-cried for a while and decided I’d rather go to bed than go back into my living room where it sounded like the conversation was still, unbelievably, going on.

    The next day, my brother offered a half apology (in the vein of “I’m sorry if what I said offended you” rather than “I’m sorry for pushing so hard on that topic to the point that you had to leave the room to escape it”). I told him I appreciated the apology and didn’t pursue it further because we were on the way to more Family Time activities and I really didn’t want to cry again. For days afterward, even after he left, I was seething about this. I really wanted to tell him that I was upset at the way he steamrolled me much more than about the conversation itself. But the farther we got from the actual conversation and ensuing semi-apology, the more it felt like it would be petty of me to bring up. After he left, I really worried that I would never get over it fully, but with time that hasn’t turned out to be true. I still think he behaved abysmally, but I’m not angry at all anymore. I’m just taking it in as information for future conversations, where I will be better prepared to either enforce my boundaries/exit the conversation sooner or call attention to his inappropriate behavior, depending on the situation.

    1. After he left, I really worried that I would never get over it fully, but with time that hasn’t turned out to be true. I still think he behaved abysmally, but I’m not angry at all anymore. I’m just taking it in as information for future conversations, where I will be better prepared to either enforce my boundaries/exit the conversation sooner or call attention to his inappropriate behavior, depending on the situation.


      Hanging on to anger until one gets a “real” apology is just hurting oneself. Process the anger by learning to factor their behavior into your future interactions with them. Forewarned is forearmed, so if the other person never changes their behavior, you have the tools to protect yourself, whether you decide to just ignore what they say or to go no contact.

      This is where I am with the family member who savaged me last year. Anger and hurt are gone, so I can love them and enjoy their company, but I always know where the nearest exit is, just in case.

  92. This post was made for me today, I think.

    So I’m currently in the midst of a “They apologized but forgive and forget doesn’t really work for me right now” situation. My partner of ten years recently cheated on me. Twice. In the space of 6 months.

    There are a large, large number of Problems and Issues that built up, through both our actions (and inactions) and caused a slow, steady rot to work its way into the relationship. The cheating wasn’t really about the cheating, it was an unhappy person’s response to a miserable situation and although I didn’t cheat, it wasn’t like I didn’t think about it.

    All that being said, I confronted them on multiple occasions about my suspicions (they… weren’t subtle. It was blatantly obvious something was going on) and they lied to my face again and again, before finally admitting the truth once the affairs had run their course.

    We are Working On Things. It’s going to be a long, long road. And I’m finding it incredibly hard not to constantly remind them of how much they hurt me. But I’ve been trying to keep… is it Sweet Machine’s advice? I feel like that might be wrong… in mind, where I ask myself, “Do I want a relationship a year from now where I snap at this person every couple of days about the pain they caused me? How about five years from now? Or ten?” It’s been easy to say “Well no, of course I don’t want to still feel that way TEN YEARS from now, but RIGHT NOW I’m hurt, RIGHT NOW fuck them, RIGHT NOW they need to understand how badly they fucked up.” But when is the end date to that? When do you let go? Because sooner or later, they’re going to say, quite rightly, “Look, there’s nothing more I can do to make amends here. Either accept it, or maybe we need to move on from each other.”

    “Forgive and forget” is so hard, because what do you mean, forget?! How am I ever going to forget what was done to me?! But “forget” here doesn’t literally mean “act as though it never happened and you have no recollection of it”. If you really did that, you’d open yourself up to getting hurt over and over; you’re allowed to use a previous sucky situation to make you more cautious and increase your self-care in the future. “Forget” means, put it in its little file folder in your mind, close the cabinet, dust off your hands and get to the work of building a better life or relationship going forward. Should the same bullshit happen again, you can open up that file cabinet and thumb through that folder and decide if the folder’s getting too crammed full for you to be able to continue this relationship. But unless and until then, leave it be.

    1. Sheelzebub Principle.

      Good luck navigating the process of healing and rebuilding trust. That is an incredibly hard path to choose.

    2. “Because sooner or later, they’re going to say, quite rightly, “Look, there’s nothing more I can do to make amends here.”

      That’s only valid if they’ve actually done what they can to make amends. Often they don’t, but they say they have. Check out chumplady.com

  93. When me and my sisters and our spare-sibs* were growing up, there came a point where the mothers became (reasonably!) frustrated with the “I’m sorry” “it’s okay” dialogue that didn’t actually make people feel much better.

    So they sat us all down, and explained that if someone says “I’m sorry” to you, all you need to respond with is “I accept your apology”. Don’t say “it’s okay” because it’s probably _not_ (especially kid-shenanigans like hitting or teasing or generally being loving brats), but you do need to acknowledge that you heard the apology, and then make your own choices about how to keep going from there.

    Sometimes this meant we didn’t play more that day/hour, sometimes it meant we found a different game, but ultimately the six of us managed to all survive into adulthood with an understanding that you absolutely don’t have to say it’s okay to behavior that’s not.

    *just down the street from me and my two younger sisters was my best friend and her younger sister and brother. The six of us were all close enough in age to pair up into best friendships and giant playgroups and support each other…even through until now.

  94. ‘Because it’s not, not really. I feel vaguely abused and hurt. I didn’t asked her to come to be bossed around, ditched, and yelled at.’

    I think it is ok to say that. One thing I learned in dialectical behavioural therapy was to ask myself, what matters most here? Each conflict is a balancing act where I prioritise

    The objective.
    The relationship.
    My self respect.

    So if this was a person you were thinking of teaming up with a con team member as paid job – the objective of making your disappointment known might be number one (this is how we behave at cons.)
    If this was a dear childhood friend who had committed to helping you at this con only to have a bad day you might want to cut them some slack (that con went badly but hey, you are my bestie, I accept your apology.)
    If this con really mattered to you on a deep personal level then your self respect might be the most important thing (what you did really hurt and I need to tell you that.)

    There is no correct way to apply this, every interaction is a balance of objective, relationship and self respect. Your balance will look different to mine. I find it helpful to think what it is about the apology/non apology that I am caught up on because the clue is there: in this case, maybe prioritising your self respect is more important than forgiving and forgetting.

    1. I’m in DBT right now and we just went over this but the way you just laid it out makes so much more sense! Thanks! I think it’s also really helpful in LWs situation. What is the priority in this conversation…what do you hope to accomplish…what would an ideal outcome be for you? Until you know the last answer and cab pick the priority, you may continue to feel things are unsettled.

  95. LW, you broke my heart when you said “I’m also worried I upset her with my response asking her not to boss me around again…should I have just said I understood and it wasn’t a problem?”

    My read on your letter is that you want her to know what she did isn’t okay, but you’re ALSO worried about going “too far in the other direction.” Whatever that worry is made of, I want to reassure you of the following things:

    – People will still like you and want to hang out with you if you set boundaries

    – In fact they’ll probably like you more

    – Of the paths available to you, you chose the one MOST likely to make this person treat you better, but it’s still her choice whether to treat you better, and you still can’t control her actions (and if you HADN’T chosen to set a boundary and she treated you poorly, that wouldn’t be your fault either).

    – The real strength of a boundary like this is that if it DOESN’T result in her treating you better, you DON’T HAVE TO HANG OUT WITH HER ANYMORE, which in this case, sounds like a win.

    – Without a mean friend you will have more time for not-mean friends

    – You have enough not-mean friends that your life will be better and not worse without this mean friend in it. Now, I KNOW that I don’t know you, and you might have obstacles around making friends that I’m not aware of. But even with the little info I have (and the fact that you mentioned at least one other friend IN THE VERY SAME LETTER), I can make an educated guess that you can afford to lose this mean friend. Sometimes in life we can’t afford to lose mean friends, it’s an unfortunate truth. So I’m not being pollyanaish about this or doing that glib “well if they don’t like ya, you’re too good for ’em” thing people do sometimes. This is an assessment tailored to your individual situation.

    – In conclusion: IF YOU UPSET HER BY SETTING THE BOUNDARY, THAT IS **GOOD.** It is good it is good it is good. It means the boundary’s working like it should.

  96. Dear Captain Awkward thank you so much for posting this even amidst the super hard things that you are going through in life. I can’t possibly explain to you how awesome this. I found it so hard to figure this apology vs forgiveness thing out and either stayed in abusive crappy situations or became bitter, miserable and guilty. And now it’s like a missing cog has suddenly been found in my head that didn’t work before. To me it’s just such a novel idea that we can accept an apology but that does not mean we let a person trample all over us all over again. And you nailed it in explaining exactly the components of what an apology entails to help a person feel safe again after a trespass without locking into a little shell. The way you worded it suddenly helped me make sense of things.

  97. I’m glad for this post. I owe my ex an apology at some point in the near future and have been struggling to craft it. It’s complicated and he is definitely not a good person. I was angry about all the times he used me and manipulated me over the course of our relationship. While my anger is 100% justified, my expression of it was not. The expression of it is what I want to apologize for. I’m wary of actually doing it as I fear it may open me up to some nastiness from hiM even if I do it perfectly, but I also think it would give us both some peace of mind. I’m waiting until it feels safe, if that day ever comes.

    1. I wouldn’t do it personally, you don’t want contact with a manipulative person. He’d just see the guilt as an opportunity to either drag you back in or bait you into an angry response he’ll promptly blame on you.

  98. I have both accepted and not accepted
    for me it really depends on what i feel is the sincerity of the apology are they saying sorry because they really are upset that their actions hurt me are they committed to not doing it again? or are they saying sorry because its what they think i want to hear with no change in behavior.
    Sometimes I know the relationship is not going to change and I have chosen to end it despite an apology because i wanted to separate before I really started to dislike the person because of their behavior. Generally it goes like this I appreciate the apology but I think we have different ideas about what friendship looks like I think it would be better if we did not hang out.
    Other times might change the way i interact with the person still accept the apology but stop doing certain activities with that person

  99. This post resonated with me a lot. My situation is, how to respond to apologies that are coupled with self-justification. I know someone who literally *never* apologizes without -in the same breath – making excuses. It is exasperating. I’ve started answering with “OK”. Not “it’s OK”, just OK as in I heard you.

    1. I have the same problem with this one friend who I recently cut out. I never felt as though she was truly taking responsibility for her actions, and ultimately would find a way to rebound the problem back unto me. Like “well I only did that because you did this several months ago.” I kept trying to get her to realize that when a Bad Thing Happens we have to keep the conversation on that thing, because we could bring up who wronged who first, chicken or the egg, ad nauseum. I understand needing to contextualize something to make yourself feel better, it is really hard to see yourself as a bad person. I think its one of the hardest things to do. And I’d even go so far as to support making excuses in conversations with other friends about the Bad Thing That Happened. But when faced with the person who is calling you out for having wronged them…the only way to show that person that you truly love the relationship and the individual in front of you is to just say an unabashed “I’m sorry. I realize I made you feel like this…[fill in Bad Thing that Happened]…and for that I am sorry. I hope you can forgive me. Let me know when you feel safe to continue our friendship and I will be here. And I respect if you don’t want to.” On the whole, the friends who have confronted me about bad things I have done or said seem to really accept this method of apologizing. Because I mean it, I feel terrible when I make someone feel bad and want to change.

      As for the friend who seemed to not even know how to fully take responsibility, I realized I can’t be around that kind of person.

  100. I doubt I’ll say anything that other wise commenters haven’t said already, but when it comes to friends and apologies, the “changing behaviour” is the bit that I particularly care for.

    The way I was raised, the way my social circle behaved growing up, apologies were lobbed around all the time regardless of whether the other person was truly sorry, or was even supposed to apologize to begin with. People would say sorry without acting the slightest bit sorry, and their bad behaviour would continue on and on and on. As such, the way I perceive the words is just that – words. An apology, while sincere, is cheapened by lack of follow through. So, LW, do you think your friend will truly follow-through on her apology? Will she treat you with more consideration in the future?

    I’m skeptical. As soon as someone says “this is how I am”, what I’m hearing is “and I don’t believe in moderating my own behaviour for the sake of my fellow human beings in general, and you in particular.” When someone says “this is how I am” to justify treating someone badly, I can’t help but wonder if they’re always lacking in self-control, or if they just don’t bother around people they perceive as less than fabulous. LW, you said that your friend was perfectly pleasant with this other person she met at the con, and the two of them managed to enjoy themselves… I’m guessing she wasn’t at all bothered to modulate her pace for them or to do things they found enjoyable. So why doesn’t she do the same for you?

    And it’s worth saying, too, LW – even if your friend made the most heartfelt, sincere apology in the world, even if she made amends and swore never to do it again… it’s still okay for you to not hang out with her anymore. It’s still okay for you to delegate her to “small doses” friend, and stop going out of your way to help her. It’s still okay for you to decide that this experience was just too sucky, and it’s not worth risking a repeat again.

  101. With 260+ comments, I don’t know if this additional one will be useful at all, but I tend to address these kinds of quandaries in a very step-by-step fashion and just wanted to share:

    1. Decide if you want to maintain the friendship. There have been lots of posts on this already, with many people weighing in favor of seeing your friend as someone who is not worth keeping around. Only you can decide that, but I get the sense from your letter that she is someone you still value having in your life. And perhaps she is! Maybe you should just never have her as a travel partner (as the Captain points out), but still enjoy the good parts of your relationship in other contexts.

    2. If you do want to maintain a friendship, decide how much effort you want to put into addressing her behavior and apology. Right now, she apologized for SOME of the things. One of your primary questions wasn’t just how to accept the apology, but how to navigate the fact that she elided over some of the actions that were the most hurtful to you. If you want your friendship to be fulsome and close, you are going to have to address that. If you are going to put some serious distance between both of you, you may not need to – it’s not your obligation to explain your hurt to her if you are no longer invested in her understanding it.

    3. Ok, assuming you still want a close, personal friendship with her, you will need to talk to her about how her behaviors hurt you – not just the “being bossy” thing she apologized for, but walking ahead of you, ditching you, not inquiring about your injury. I’m sure the Captain has loads of previous posts that can help you navigate that conversation, but for me the gist would be: “I know we ended that trip on a bad note, and you apologized for bossing me around. But I need to talk with you about that trip because I felt really hurt by [fill in explanation of her behaviors]. I value you as a friend, and that’s why I wanted to clear the air and have you hear me and understand how I felt.”

    4. Hopefully that conversation leads to deeper understanding on her part, and perhaps a more comprehensive apology and promise to do better in future. If not, you can return to steps 1 and 2 to decide if/how much to keep the friendship. But if so, then you have the further option of all the good advice here about accepting apologies: stating your appreciation for it, pledging to work towards forgiveness and a better relationship for all concerned.

    Wishing you the best as you build your boundaries and communicate your needs. Good friendships will always survive – and thrive in! – those things.

  102. I work as an artists’ model – meaning my job is to hold still while people draw me. Usually I’m naked.

    There are, generally speaking, rules in place for how the artists/instructors need to treat their model, since being naked in a room full of clothed people in a society full of rape culture is a bit…fraught. And of course you sometimes get people who violate these rules and do something inappropriate. And if I call them out, they of course apologize.

    The apology doesn’t make what they did okay, though, and tbh I think some of these people are predators who would choose to take my usual, reflexive response of “oh, it’s okay!” literally. (“She technically said it was okay and everyone heard it so that means I have plausible deniability and can do the thing again!”) Also, I don’t want the other people in the room to think the inappropriate act (whatever it was) was, in fact, Okay.

    So I decided my stock response to these apologies would be a calm but not concilliatory “Thank you; I appreciate that.”

    I practiced it at home, out loud, until I’d mostly overwritten my habitual tendency to blurt “it’s okay.” I’ve had cause to deploy this new response once or twice since then. It worked okay as far as I can tell. I believe the other party was very subtly taken aback that I acknowledged the apology but didn’t gush that everything was forgiven. Good. Fuck them for “accidentally” touching me while I was posing.

  103. When I was a teenager, I was bullied by my friends A and B. My senior year in high school, this slowly tapered off and I got close again with A. We ended up going to college together. One day in college A brought up the way she used to treat me and told me and had reflected on it and talked to B and decided they were either going to be nicer to me or just leave me alone, and the result – us becoming friends again – was a happy surprise. She said she was sorry for the way she’d treated me. I didn’t want to address it with her. We had never acknowledged it before. Previously I could just have waved it into the miasma of negative teen interactions and enveloped it into my psyche like everything else, but having someone confirm its existence as a premeditated action that was taken was shocking. So I told her it was fine, even though it super wasn’t.

    Because the surprise side effect of her apologizing for this was that she had woken it up. I had never been mistreated in a relationship and then had the person acknowledge that mistreatment before. Literally never. Once she did that, I knew it had happened, it was done *to* me *by* them, and it could be talked about verbally. But I didn’t know how to do this, so I just stewed in it, hoping she’d bring it up again for some reason so I could change my answer. This she obviously didn’t do because she thought we had discussed it and agreed to move past it as friends lmao. The result was that I reached a point where I got frustrated with her and accidentally snapped at her about it in front of several classmates. We were both humiliated. In the car ride home she apologized to me again, this time in tears, and that sick, hurting animal in myself was somehow appeased by that, a thing I still don’t particularly like knowing about myself.

    It took me another year or two, but I finally managed to apologize for that night. I told her “I said I was okay, but I wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.” I think Captain is right about the aspects of an apology you have to look for in order to know it’s genuine. I needed to be absolutely sure that events would not repeat themselves. But I also simply wasn’t ready to be over it yet. I hadn’t processed it. Forgiveness comes from yourself, if at all. Sometimes you need time.

    We ended up being better friends than we were before, and I was actually a bridesmaid in B’s wedding 🙂

  104. I have anxiety and sometimes it gets the better of me and I become dismissive and bossy. I work VERY hard at this, and it in no way excuses my behaviour- because I *can* control it, just some days it is harder than others….. On those days I remove myself from the company of others because I can’t play nice.

    One weekend this summer I went camping with friends. I was in a lot of pain and was exhausted. I was the driver and had done most of the groups packing of things for food etc. I cooked all the meals, did all the cleaning up and became begrudging….. Even though, literally, I not only choose to do those things- I did not trust my friends to do them. I became bossy and controlling and frankly an intolerable person to be around. I felt I couldn’t leave because we were camping on an island we had to boat to, and I was the one who drove us all.

    I knew I wasn’t being fair. I knew I was panicking about things like having things properly cooked and cleaned because I was afraid of getting sick, etc. One of my friends had never been camping before and just wanted to learn, but I was impatient with demonstrating anything, so I would steal the opportunity for her to learn away.

    I knew I was 100% in the wrong, but I could not figure out how to fix it because my obsessions with time, cleanliness, and organization were overwhelming.

    So, what I did was tell my friends that I needed some alone time. I went for a 30 min walk where I tried some grounding and breathing exercises and tried to just listen to what was going on in my head and recognize- okay, my mental health is f’ed right now and my friends do not deserve my reactions.

    I then walked back to camp, asked if I could speak to the three of them and profusely apologized. And I meant every word. I still feel horrid about it to this day- but they forgave me long before I even apologized (they are wonderful)…. But, had they not accepted my apology and decided to never speak to me again, I would have totally understood. The thing is, they knew how sorry I was because I explicitly named my shitty actions. I spoke about how I was spiralling and not sure if I can reign it in and asked what they wanted to do (such as leave together, me go home and pick them up at the ferry in a couple days, etc).

    After that, I spoke about these things to my therapist. I got some better medication for my anxiety, I started to come up with ’emergency self-care’ ideas for when I get agitated, and I promised to do the hard work of really making it up….. which for me looks like telling my friends how important they are, celebrating their awesomeness, and working to recognize when I need to leave a situation before I get to the agitated point.

    I am sharing all this, because whether or not your friend may have been anxious when rushing you or bossing you around- there is ZERO excuse for that behaviour….. the ditching you thing is just cruel. If she was really sorry, she wouldn’t give a half-ass sorry while still continuing the behaviour. she would do what she could to try to heal the hurt she was responsible for causing.

    My friends forgave me and our friendships with each other are actually even more wonderful- but that has come with intensive work and effort to honour the fact that they choose to love and care about me after I hurt them. This doesn’t make me forever indebted- but it absolutely makes me thankful and appreciative because even with a heartfelt apology- they had every right to be like “nope”.

    You have every right to respond however you need in this situation. She hurt you. She ditched you. Her actions put your own joy and autonomy and comfort in jeopardy the whole trip. So whatever response you have to that: whether to cut ties, never travel with her, set firm boundaries, limit time with her, or fully embrace her- it is 100% up to you, and her shaming you for any of those choices is her clearly not learning from her actions.

  105. I think you can be willing and ready to forgive one aspect of a hurtful act but not another – and sometimes an act might be forgivable in itself or in another setting but there is something about this particular time and place which does irreparable damage to the relationship.

    I wrote in a comment on a CA post a while back about disclosing a sexual assault by a mutual friend to someone I’d known and been very close to for many years and then asked that we not discuss it further for the moment. The friend jumped in with a disclosure of his own that was not only distressing because he was not respecting my request for a bit of space but also made me completely rethink how he saw our relationship at the time the assault occurred. He’d been having an affair with the guy’s wife (and had also had a relationship with the wife’s then-engaged sister as well) and speculated that the sexual assault was either in revenge or that the perception was that friend and I were in an open relationship and I was up for a bit of swinging. I had never been – or even contemplated being – in a sexual relationship with this friend and for 38 years had viewed ours as a very close but purely platonic friendship, and as far as I knew everyone around us saw it the same way. His speculation completely grossed me out, because the idea that someone sexually assaulting me could directly hurt him was weirdly proprietorial and the idea that I was perceived within our social group as being open to having multiple partners was also fairly offensive to me given that I had only ever been monogamous and was more often than not celibate (I was not in *any* sexual relationship for several years either side of this incident).

    Although he framed his disclosure as “giving context” I felt that it was more about unburdening himself of his guilty secret. I was not at all open to the first apology he offered because he’d actually doubled down on his refusal to give me space by sending a follow up letter (which I returned unopened) but I would probably have eventually been willing to forgive the boundary trampling. What I could not get past is (a) the idea that all along he and other people saw me either as his property or as sexually promiscuous, or (b) his having inserted himself into the narrative of one of the most distressing events of my life. He can never go back to just being an impartial shoulder to cry on.

    To put this in the context of this LW’s question – I think it is perfectly acceptable to not be ready for an apology at the time it is given and to tell that to the other person, and the way they handle that information is a good indication of the quality of the relationship. It’s also okay and normal for their hurtful actions to make you question the relationship overall and to possibly come to the conclusion that it isn’t as strong or close as you previously thought, or that it is not worth investing more time and effort into. This may well give them the impression that you’re ending the relationship over “one small thing”, but you only have to discuss your reasons with them if you want to – you do not ‘owe’ them an explanation especially if you think this would be unproductive or unsafe. Neatly tied-up endings are way more common in fiction than in real life.

  106. Recently my friend Cathy apologized but I wasn’t able to accept the apology. Cathy is an old friend from college. We dated briefly in college (for less than a week) then became close friends. Cathy was really wild and fun back then. She was a big drinker and had lots of entertaining stories. I was mostly out of touch with Cathy until about a year ago when she moved to my neighborhood. She’d recently split with her boyfriend and the father of her toddler, and had begun graduate school. Cathy called and texted often, and I ended up becoming close with her again. She was still fun to be around. She claimed to be a recovering alcoholic, and to have something called borderline personality disorder, for which she was receiving treatment.

    Things ended up getting weird with Cathy. She told me lots of sob stories about how her baby daddy and family mistreated her. But the stories were full of contradictions, which led me to believe that at least some of them were not true. She often asked me to watch her toddler while she studied, worked on campus, or ran errands. It was pretty common for Cathy to be gone much longer than expected, and for her to have a highly entertaining but unlikely excuse for being away. The first time I questioned her excuse she blew up at me. It was a scary display of anger. In general I felt like I was being manipulated but couldn’t quite put my finger on how Cathy was doing it. So I withdrew from the friendship.

    Last month Cathy emailed and apologized for being “crazy and angry.” I was relieved, because I missed our friendship. When I read the email again though, I saw that she blamed her behavior on the stress of breaking up. This made no sense. As far as I knew, Cathy hadn’t been dating anyone at the time. Then it hit me. Cathy was implying that we’d broken up, and that the stress of that breakup had caused her angry outburst. She was rewriting history. And the apology was really vague. She had apologized for being “crazy and angry” but I didn’t get the sense that she had any insight into why her behavior had been inappropriate. So I didn’t accept the apology that wasn’t much of an apology. And felt even better about having withdrawn from the friendship.

    1. Stories full of contradictions – yes! I’m in a new country and looking to meet new people. I have a strong sense that one of the people who I’ve met tells me stories that are full of complete lies, and are often intended in the hope that I will pass on certain information to others. (We have really only met up a handful of times at most).

      On the one hand, I’m not directly harmed by any of this, but it’s also not something I want to be around. I don’t like feeling like this person is trying to manipulate me, even though I don’t discuss this person or their information with anyone else so….they will not be successful in any attempts to have me help create a narrative for them with others.

      I don’t have proof that this is what’s happening, but my intuition is telling me strongly that something is off. This person also offered up some really personal information about their background which….if it’s true, they have gone through some really rough things and have my sympathy….but there are a lot of conflicting details, and it feels a bit odd that they shared so much with me out of blue, when I’m basically a stranger.

      This person was also nice and did me a favor once, and keeps on wanting to meet up, so I feel bit bad constantly declining plans.

  107. It sounds to me like you actually are very clear in your heart that you need to talk to her more about this, but you could use some reassurance that that’s okay. It is.

    When you said ‘So I should just let it go and swallow my hurt with a smile’ – I can feel the bad feelings just reading it. Of course nobody would say ‘yes, I agree, swallowing your hurt with a smile is a great thing to do and you should definitely do that!’ It seems like what you’re communicating here is ‘I would like to express my hurt with a sad face’ – and I think not only do you deserve to do that, but (assuming she’s been an okay friend to you in the past) SHE deserves to know that you’re this unhappy so she can make an informed choice about how to respond.

    If you do decide to talk to her about it, one thing I think it’s worth thinking about is her stress. It’s always complicated when someone behaves hurtfully because they’re stressed – nobody is EVER wrong or bad for being stressed, but they’re still responsible for their actions.

    I think if you’re worried about being too harsh towards her, it would help a lot to avoid saying anything like ‘your stress was bothering me’ and make it clear that you don’t blame her for being stressed and you understand that her stress made it harder for her to behave as she would (hopefully!!!) have liked to.

Comments are closed.