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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carolyn Hax: Relationship with cousin hinges on apology

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: My cousin, “Dara,” and I have been friends since we were born three weeks apart. The friendship has had its natural ebbs and flows, but I can’t think of a time when we didn’t see each other at least once a month, even though she is a busy professional while I’m a stay-at-home mom.

My second child had some health complications and I turned to Dara for help since it’s related to her field. At one point, I (being rather emotional as you would expect) felt she was being patronizing and snapped. I apologized and all was well. I thought.

Unfortunately, it happened again when she was trying to explain the surgical/recovery process. I was overwhelmed, and she said I was illogical. I said she couldn’t understand.

After my baby came through the surgery and all was well, I tried thanking her for her support and apologized for being short-tempered. Dara said she “wasn’t put on earth to regulate my emotional temper” and has indicated she doesn’t want much to do with me. I cannot believe she would let two small incidents cancel out our friendship.

Where do I go from here? I feel bad about this but also feel she’s overreacting.

– Alienated My Cousin

Whenever an apology isn’t working, look for the “but.”

You miss Dara, yes, but you might as well shout to the world that you believe you did nothing wrong.

If this is your style, then “small incidents” could easily be last straws.

You either have to agree your behavior was out of line, or accept you and Dara are finished as friends.

I am sympathetic to your stress; baby + surgery = primal terror.

That terror has passed, however. And your return to possession of your emotional faculties makes this a fine time to admit: “You tried only to help me, and I thanked you by being a complete ass to you. I’m sorry.”

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