It allows her to see this saga for what it is: the kind of familial dread she hears about from her readers every day. If you remove the titles and fame and extreme wealth, the core of all this drama is very common. Tension between in-laws. Long-festering power dynamics between siblings. The unbearable weight of family expectations. Who can’t relate?
Our daily Post Reports podcast featured Carolyn, and host Martine Powers asked some questions (written by producers Jordan-Marie Smith and Sabby Robinson) based on some painfully real situations that royal viewers will surely recognize. And for each, Carolyn offered advice that anyone — not just Harry, Meghan, Charles, and William — could find useful.
Here are the best parts of the conversation, edited for length and clarity:
Listen to the entire Post Reports podcast episode: “Help! My family is royally confused!’
Martine Powers: Carolyn, here’s the first question: “My brother recently released a memoir in which he talks at length about our very personal family matters. And on top of that, he and his wife released a Netflix documentary about our lives and family. I feel like there has been so much toxic communication between us already. What should I do? Should I speak out publicly, or should I try to talk to him to see if we can finally end this horrible cycle of public disgrace?
Caroline Hax: The first thing that comes to mind is that you need to go to the person. Because if the relationship wasn’t broken, none of this would happen. And I think the way to fix something like that is to own your own share of the break. Why did this break? What have you personally done to contribute to this problem?
Powers: It sounds like you’re saying to call this person and say, ‘Look, I did this wrong. I will admit that some of these things were hurtful or I shouldn’t have done it.
Powers: That is a difficult conversation to have.
Hax: Naturally. What I see a lot with these relationships that break up to this degree and for so long and so bad is there is usually a difficult conversation that didn’t happen when it should have happened, because people evaded it or they cut corners and defended themselves. And instead of just saying, ‘Okay, you’re right, I’m mad at you. You’ve done a lot of things wrong yourself, but that won’t get me anywhere until I admit the bad things I’ve done’ people don’t want to do that.
It gets even harder when someone responds to your mistake with an even bigger mistake. And I think a lot of people are tempted to say, ‘The time has come. What you did was so much worse that it absolves me of whatever I did. And that’s not true. You are still responsible for your share of it, even if it is much smaller.
The relationship may be beyond saving. It’s still better for you to acknowledge, acknowledge and apologize for what you did wrong, even just to you, just because it’s right.
The verdict on Prince Harry’s book: Juicy, humorous, resentful and sad
Powers: It sounds like you’re saying that to then, in turn, as a hurt person, go out and publish a memoir with all your beef with this person who you know hurt you, that’s a mistake too . Publishing a memoir may not be something everyone does, but I think there are a lot of people who, when they’re angry, post something on Facebook about how they’ve felt wronged by a family member.
Hax: If you object to something someone does, you deal with that person. If you’re only talking about ordinary people who have something in their family, then I think it’s vanity to blow it into the world. Why? Why did you have to tell this to everyone? There must be a reason to make something public.
If there is an alleged wrongdoing, [such as accusations of racism], which affects other people or compromises an institution, I think it is important to speak out. I don’t think other people can say, if you feel that you have been harmed by racist behaviour, you have a commitment to speak up about it. I think that the injured party is the one who is allowed to make that calculation. But I think if someone chooses to take that on, that’s absolutely defensible. It is important.
Powers: We have one more question: “My husband and I have two young children and we really want them to be close with their cousins. But for the past few years, my husband and his brother have had a huge fight, which is why our families never really see each other again. It also doesn’t help that they live in another country. How should I explain to my kids why they haven’t been able to see their cousins, and what should I do to make sure they can have some sort of relationship with them in the future?
Hax: I’ve been given a version of this question many times, and I think it’s one of the hardest to answer, and here’s why. If you cut off a family member, look down the road and recognize that this child of yours will cut you off if you do something wrong if you don’t give them a nuanced understanding of when it’s important to work on things and when it’s important to be yourself. protect and cut the tie.
Trying to explain it to a child in childish terms is almost too much to ask. So I think you end up saying, “This is an unfortunate situation and we can’t see them right now. And I know we love your cousins, and I know they love you,” and you just treat it like an unfortunate coincidence. If you don’t burden them with your own prejudices, they may seek each other out when they are in the world.
Powers: What a lot of people struggle with is, should I tell my child why I think their aunt did some really bad things that I don’t agree with and that’s why we don’t talk? Should they keep it very secret and then just let that be a mystery to that child’s entire childhood?
Hax: I don’t think the secret and the mystery equip your kids to handle things because the minute you deny people information, they start looking for it. And they will anyway. There is the point of inevitability to all of this. But I think if you stick to the truth and then what you did with the truth, you’re generally okay. So the truth is, the brothers don’t get along, the two families don’t get along, and that’s a real shame, and I wish it were different, but we won’t see them like they used to. And it is a fundamental fact. It doesn’t throw anyone under buses.
Powers: Okay, so now we have one last question: “So over two decades ago I became a widower. When I wanted to remarry the new love of my life – or maybe the old love of my life – my sons asked me not to. I did anyway. But I recently learned how unhappy one of my sons was with my decision to go through with this marriage. I love my wife. She has been a rock by my side and it pains me that my son doesn’t see how important she is to me and to our family. What should I do now?”
Hax: Deal with it. You can’t lobby people to change their mind about how they feel, and the more you do, the more stuck they become. The father in this situation has to admit that he misread it and that it cost him their relationship. And it goes back to the original answer that we talked about, where you just own your part in it for yourself, for your own conscience. Say, “You know what? I misread this one and I’m really sorry.”
You can go on for days about how “this was my life to live. I have to make my own choice. I will not decide who will be my life partner based on my traumatized child.” You can say all those things, and they’ll all be true, but there’s also emotional truth, and the emotional truth is that this is going to be a sore spot for this child.
Powers: Do you hear people going through situations like this?
Hax: I can’t think of one that’s directly analogous, but certainly the general idea of someone laying out a condition that’s just so tough and complicated. And this is the point: if the sons wrote to me and said they want to put this condition, I would tell them no, don’t. Don’t set yourself up for that kind of disappointment. Don’t let your emotional health depend on your father’s choices. Your emotional health is up to you, and the moment you put it in someone else’s hands, you’re asking for a life of complications.