Dear Amy: Several years ago, my husband and I visited his brother and wife for a vacation.
We stayed with them and relied on them for transportation.
One night, we went out to dinner. His brother ordered some fried pickles as an appetizer.
My husband told him he had never had one before and reached over to take one.
His brother slapped his hand hard and told him he would order him his own.
My husband, myself and his brother's wife were in shock.
Because we were staying with them and at their mercy, we didn't say anything. I tried to pay for our dinner after that, but his brother refused to let us.
Nothing more was said.
Since then, my husband and I agreed if we ever did visit again, we would never stay with them.
The problem is, we can't seem to get closure on this. His brother never apologized, nor has it ever been brought up again between the two brothers, even though they have stayed in touch.
Should we ask for an apology? Should we let him know how much we were hurt by his actions? We want to visit again, but we are not sure how to get over this experience.
Amy says: Many people treat their dinners like a freewheeling buffet — what's mine is yours — but there are some people (and I am one of them) who are triggered by others taking food from them, without being invited or asking permission.
What your husband did ("Hmmm, I've never had that before; I'll just help myself") was also a very siblinglike thing to do, revealing behavior between the two brothers that probably goes back to childhood.
What your brother-in-law did in response was inexcusable.
Everybody's reaction since then has been inexplicable.
Your husband and his brother have maintained a speaking relationship. He is waiting for an apology that will never come.
Unfortunately, "bro code" often suggests that the aggrieved party should just "get over it," without an acknowledgment or apology from the aggressor. It's possible that this twisted ethic actually contributed to the slapping incident, because when people don't use their words (your husband didn't ask, his brother didn't apologize), they tend to lash out instead.
If your husband wants to get over this, he will have to be brave enough to bring it up: "Look, this may seem like ancient history to you, but it has been weighing on my mind. That time you slapped me at the restaurant during our visit really shocked me. It still bothers me."
His brother will likely diminish the concern. He might say he doesn't remember it or deny outright that it ever happened. Be prepared.
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