There’s a meme I made a while back that I post from time to time. The lead-in caption reads, “When you’re making up with someone and they take responsibility for their part in the argument and you also take responsibility for yours.”
Beneath this lead-in is a photograph of actress Tatyana Ali in her role of Ashley Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She looks extremely touched, has one of her hands pressed over her heart.
I made the meme because it’s honestly pretty much my favorite thing ever — that moment when you’ve been fighting with someone, and you come to an understanding. Particularly when it involves both sides admitting to their contribution to the conflict (however great, however small).
Any time I post the thing, however, I get a bunch of incredulous comments. Things like “wait, this happens?” Or the more direct “not a thing that happens.” And also a common sarcastic variant, “And then I woke up,” suggesting it only happens in dreams.
The Behavior Isn’t Universal By a Long Shot– But I’ve Seen It A Lot
This reaction is frankly kind of weird to me. It’s true that I’ve known my fair share of intransigent, selfish, defensive people. One of my parents very much fit this mold, and it was a constant strain and stressor in my childhood, coping with that reality.
I’ve even dated a few. My ex-husband rarely, if ever apologized, even when he was way out of line (i.e., doing something like throwing an object against the wall or calling me a name). And they weren’t meaningful or descriptive apologies even then.
But it hasn’t been universal. For example, my second (and current) husband is an incredibly good apologizer. I also have ex-girlfriends who were also excellent at making up in a substantive way. And it’s not just a romantic phenomenon: I have countless friends who excel at this behavior.
Actually, looking at my life, it seems to be what differentiates the people I get and stay close to from the people I don’t. Which makes a lot of sense… frankly, everyone screws up sometimes. No one is perfect. And it is a huge deal when someone can actually deal with it responsibly and directly, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug, change the subject, or deflect.
A Behavior Doesn’t Have to Be Universal to Be Realistic
And yet… like clockwork, every time I post this, I’m told by quite a few people (though not everybody, for the record) that it doesn’t happen.
And every time that happens, my mind travels back to my ex-husband. Not just because he didn’t engage in this phenomenon (although he didn’t, as I mentioned), but also because when people comment that way, THEY SOUND EXACTLY LIKE HIM.
Because, you see, that was the exact way my ex-husband talked. Any time I would discuss the kind of relationship I’d like to move towards — one where we built a deeper understanding of each other’s inner lives, that I wanted to build a shared intimacy unique to us — he’d dismiss it as something foolish. Something unrealistic.
“No one does that,” he’d say.
And even if I told him I’d had it in relationships prior to him — romantic ones and also friendships — (because I had), he’d interrupt me and tell me that I didn’t really. That I was mistaken or people were lying to me.
And that he respected me too much to lie to me.
So every time I hear people say things like that — in response to a meme I’ve posted or something I’ve written — I wonder why they’re talking themselves out of deep, meaningful connection by saying it’s “unrealistic.”
And I also find myself wondering if they also dismiss their partners’ desires the way my ex-husband dismissed mine.
They might just be joking of course. But one never knows.