I don’t know if this is a terribly small problem, or if I’m just not seeing the larger picture, but this has been eating at me for years.
I (she/her) have been married to my husband (he/him) for almost 30 years. He can be kind and funny and generous. At the same time, there is one issue that bites and nibbles at me. He will never say he’s sorry.
The most recent example was this week, when our son bought groceries for his own lunch, only to discover later that his father ate it all. Not a big deal, of course. Son said he only wished his father had apologized. His father said he wouldn’t and went on a tear about how he did all the grocery shopping, etc., etc. And yes, he does most of the shopping. And yes, it’s a minor thing, but a quick “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was yours” is also a minor thing. If I wanted to count coup, I probably could, but why? We’re family. We help each other. We apologize when we screw up. At the same time, he apparently does. My contributions don’t count. Our son paying rent and running errands and doing work around the house doesn’t either.
I want to say this is him being frustrated by his job and COVID-19, but I’m all out of excuses and I’m tired of walking on egg-shells. Part of me wants to book a flight to Alaska and disappear for a few weeks.
I don’t have to live with this wee fragile teacup of a man, so forgive me for laughing a bit as I read your letter, and allow me to suggest laughter as your best shield and response. Not because this is a small or unimportant problem, but because laughing at big problems sometimes makes their absurdity clear to everyone in the room, and because it gives you a way to interrupt your husband’s boring and predictable self-justifications and put attention back on the person whose food got scarfed (and etc.).
After 30 years of marriage, you know better than I do that your spouse is unlikely to ever change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn to your son at moments like these and say “Hilariously consistent, and yet, I think the words your Dad was looking for were ‘I’m so sorry I ate your food, I didn’t realize’.” Then you and your son can mutually roll your eyes at him before you go about your respective days and leave him sputtering in the kitchen.
Which is harder for him: Apologizing when he screws up, or being laughed at when he refuses to apologize when he screws up? Everyone in your house will find out!
If the prospect of laughing at your husband’s refusal to apologize makes you feel less exasperatedly amused and more like *afraid,* here’s a useful website for managing your safety concerns. Here’s a resource about couples’ counseling, if you think having a referee and ground rules in place would help you discuss how his refusal to ever apologize makes you feel, and here’s a good website for playing a game of fantasy “Anywhere but here.”
I’ve never been, but I hear Alaska is lovely this time of year. xo