Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

My brother turned 40 last week. He and his partner threw a huge party at a stylish hotel. My husband had a few drinks and made some jokes about my brother’s lifestyle. I could tell my brother, his partner and their friends were offended, and I was embarrassed, but I didn’t know what to say right then.

The next day, I called my brother and told him I was sorry he was offended. Instead of accepting my apology, he hung up on me. Now I think he has my number blocked.

What do you think of this?

…Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught,

Though it’s not uncommon for one spouse to serve as the other’s apologist, it isn’t healthy or effective. Secondhand apologies ring hollow. Beyond that, what you offered was effectively a non-apology instead of the genuine article.

“I’m sorry you were offended” shifts the blame to the person whose feelings were hurt, so it sounds dismissive instead of remorseful.

It’s time for you and your husband to talk seriously about his drinking and his jokes.

He owes it to you and your brother to accept full responsibility for what he said without using alcohol as an excuse or pulling the “I was only joking” card. This process begins with his understanding of how, where and why he went wrong. He then needs to explain that to your brother with genuine remorse and a promise that it won’t happen again.

Since your brother has blocked you by phone, odds are he also blocked you by email. Therefore, your husband may need to take an old-school approach by either showing up on his doorstep or putting pen to paper and writing a letter.

If your husband refuses to own his part in causing a family conflict, my instincts tell me it may be time for the two of you to see a counselor.

Wishing you the best,


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