Don't Let Their Inability To Apologize Hold You Back

April 29th, 2024

It’s important to know when your efforts are only harming you and keeping you stuck while doing nothing to push your parent forward.

Family Enjoying the Ocean

I had a clinical supervisor after graduate school who would always say, “Good news: Your childhood is over now,” whenever a client at our residential treatment center was trying to recover from a dysfunctional or traumatic childhood.

The first time you hear this phrase, it may seem jarring or dismissive. We know that traumatic memories can live on in the minds and bodies of survivors for a lifetime if not handled correctly. And she was right. This statement was factual, and it could be empowering.

You Are An Adult Now. Your Childhood Is Over.

I know you’re still reckoning with the damage it has done to you. I know you’re still hoping that things will change or improve. And things are different now: You have options.

Most adults can decide

  • who they will spend time with.
  • when they answer their phone or respond to texts.
  • what advice they take.
  • who they follow on social media, and who they allow to follow them.
  • who they share details about their life with, and what they share.
  • who they help and how they help them.

You could not control any of this as a child. You had no control over who you spent your time with, where you lived, what you ate, or what rules you had to follow. Things are different now, and you must remind yourself of that daily.

Waiting On Your Parent To Apologize May Be Holding You Back

You know that I am a huge fan of acceptance. We did an entire month of content about Accepting Your Parents in February 2024. Some adults live in a fantasy that their parents will change or apologize if they just do the right thing. It’s probably what brought you here in the first place. Maybe you’re trying to learn what to say and how to say it to get that apology you’re looking for finally.

And for many of you, these tools will work. You will use the scripts and find new ways to communicate with your parents, and they will be receptive. For others, these tools will not make a dent. Your parent will remain defensive, emotionally immature, and unwilling to change. I don’t say this to scare or dissuade you from trying; you should make as many attempts as needed to feel peace. And it’s important to know when your efforts are only harming you and keeping you stuck while doing nothing to push your parent forward.

Signs Waiting For Your Parent To Apologize Is Holding You Back

  • You devote an excessive amount of energy to fixing your parent.
  • You are distracted and have trouble pursuing anything else.
  • You constantly blame yourself for the state of your relationship.
  • You regularly replay conversations and try to determine what you would have done or said differently.
  • You hope they will change even though they aren’t doing anything different. You have trouble accepting things as they are.
  • You continue to have the same type of interactions with them over and over, only to be disappointed.
  • You have trouble maintaining boundaries or adjusting your behavior.
  • You spend much time thinking about this relationship and what would happen if they could just apologize.
  • You are repeating entrenched patterns with your parents in other relationships.
  • You’re struggling with substance use, anxiety, sleep, depression, or other symptoms related to your physical and mental health, and they only seem to worsen when you have these interactions.

It’s Time To Release This Burden

If you’ve made it this far in this month's content, you’ve learned a lot. You know how to apologize, ask your parent for an apology, and why they may struggle with apologies. You’ve worked to understand what you need to have a relationship with them and the type of relationship you can have. You’re grieving the apology you may never get and realizing it’s time to release this burden.

You can accept where your parent is right now and be open to reconciliation if and when things change in the future.

You can understand and empathize with the experiences that have led them to this place and acknowledge that you can't allow them in your life.

You can recognize when your parent behaves differently, even if they never verbalize the apology.

You can accept who your parents are and have a different type of relationship with them.

All this requires letting go of the fantasy that you can do more than you’ve already done.