I’m having a quandary about apologies. It’s not that I have a problem accepting them. It’s not that I am unable to forgive. Sometimes, I am even able to forget.
Rather, my problem is with how to respond to them.
Once upon a time, I could simply say “That’s OK” or “Don’t worry about it.”
I can’t do that as much anymore, particularly in my family life, and that bothers me. I don’t have a good way to respond to an apology from, say, my daughter or wife that I feel both acknowledges my thankfulness to have been apologized to, without letting the other person off the hook.
Let me explain, because my problem is different relative to the two individuals I’ve mentioned (I’ve left out Son of Blue because, frankly, he doesn’t find himself in many positions that require apology, and when he does, they are minor things typically).
Little Girl Blue gave me some serious drama a couple mornings ago, and eventually, she apologized. I said “thank you” because saying “That’s OK” would seem to me to give her the impression that whatever she did to bring on the apology was OK. And I want her to know I appreciate the apology. But I was reminded of how tricky this is for a little girl when I was explaining to her on the way to daycare why what she had been doing was so bothersome. She got tired of listening to me and said, basically, “I said sorry…isn’t it over now?” (3.9 years old going on 16…)
I had to explain to her that the apology is the beginning. The way to really show she’s sorry is to not keep repeating the same tantrum behaviors and other nonsense that cause me to get mad to begin with. And so I still don’t know the best way to let her know apologies are good, and welcome, and desired…but that something more is required on her part than just saying some words.
And then there is Mrs. Blue, whom I love dearly. Who shall never be replaced by anyone. Whom I would catch a chestful of bullets for. She reminds me of the problem of adult apologies, more so than any other adult, because as my spouse she has many more opportunities to do me wrong and treat me badly (and the same goes for me in relation to her…I’m no angel).
There are some recurring patterns that cause her to be unnecessarily mean to me and that cause me to get royally pissed off on a periodic basis. I’m happy to hear an apology from her, in large part because I know she means it more than Little Girl Blue does, but I don’t know how to respond in a way that says, “thanks for saying that, I really do forgive you…however, I might still be a little salty from the leftover stings and the knowledge that this is probably going to happen again in a few days or a couple weeks.” (which is a bit long, you see…)
“Thank you” seems too simple, informal and childish to me somehow, but it’s the best thing I have. In other words, I’m stuck with the same response as with my child, but it doesn’t seem to fit in the adult world, and I don’t have an alterantive.
Because “That’s OK” certainly doesn’t work. What happened wasn’t OK, or I wouldn’t have been upset to begin with.
“Apology accepted” is like some passive-aggressive formal thing. It doesn’t have any emotion or love in it; it’s a rubber stamp from the bureaucracy of the mind.
“Forget about it” certainly doesn’t work because, well, I want the other person to remember not to do that to me again.
And not responding at all verbally to the apology suggests I haven’t accepted it, even if I have.
Basically, I don’t have a point here to make, because I don’t have an answer. But if anyone has any advice, I’d love some. Even if it’s to tell me I’m vastly overthinking things.