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Meghan Markle’s Dad Has Revealed the Sad State of His Relationship With His Daughter, and It Offers Us a Teachable Moment

The Duchess of Sussex and her father are on the outs. Here’s how they — and we — can resolve our parent-child conflicts.

Photo Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The gulf between Meghan Markle and her father Thomas sadly continues to widen. In June, Thomas admitted to staging paparazzi photos to improve his self-image, which caused a rift between him and his daughter. This morning, on Good Morning Britain, hosted by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, Thomas revealed that he has not heard from the Duchess of Sussex or anyone in the royal family since apologizing for his misstep.  

“I love my daughter very much. She has to know that. So, I would really appreciate if she would just call me or reach out somehow,” he said, pleading into the camera. “Send me a text. Just say you’re there.” He surmises that Meghan and Prince Harry have not yet gotten over his media blunder, and they believe he’s supplying journalists with quotes for ongoing press coverage, which he firmly denies.

Although he has not heard from his daughter in months, Thomas retains hope that they’ll patch the tear in their relationship. “There has to be a place for me. I’m her father,” he told the commentators, “and I will be the grandfather to [their] children.” Thomas, who has not yet received a Christmas card from the royal family, says he wants to see a “little Meghan or little Harry,” and that Meghan will make “a great mom.”

“All families, royal or otherwise, are the same and they should all be together, certainly around the holidays,” he said. While the Markles are a particularly extreme — and tragic — example of a parent/child rift, many of us can unfortunately relate to having a strained and stressful relationship with our parents as adults. To help you navigate a thorny dilemma between you and your child or parent, Thrive Global spoke with Michael McNulty, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., a certified Gottman Institute relationship therapist who practices at the Chicago Relationship Center.

Don’t just apologize, process

McNulty says that a superficial “I’m sorry,” which doesn’t delve into the layers of meaning and emotion beneath the surface of the incident, won’t get you anywhere. “If regrettable incidents between people go unprocessed, what occurs is something called the Zeigarnik Effect: a condition in which people better remember situations they didn’t process than ones they did. And that negativity stays with the relationship,” he points out. Instead, McNulty urges parents and children in conflict to start a dialogue that allows both parties to understand where the other is coming from and why. “Also, take responsibility and create a plan to move the relationship into a better place,” he suggests.

Remember: We all mess up sometimes

When you’re fuming about how your parent or child has failed and embarrassed you, it’s useful to remember the ways you’ve fallen short of the expectations you hold for yourself, as well as the ones your friends and family hold for you. “We have to be careful about judging others harshly because everyone does the best that they can with their circumstances,” McNulty notes. He suggests trying your best to accept your loved ones for who they are. That can be a tall order, but while you share family history, you’re still two different people, and it’s useful to be aware that you can’t always expect loved ones to respond to circumstances in the same way you would. That recognition, in turn, makes it easier to forgive.

Give your loved one some space

Thomas admits that he has sent Meghan numerous texts and voicemails in an attempt to reconcile their differences, and, of course, he amplified his hope to reconnect even more by televising his wishes today. As agonizing as it may be to have your child rebuff your overtures to make amends and resume communication, McNulty says be careful not to get overzealous. After extending an olive branch with an honest and open attempt to start a reconciliatory dialogue, “leave it alone,” he says, “because if you keep coming on so strong, the person is going to feel they’re being pressured into having a conversation they’re not ready to have.”

Still, Thomas Markle, who’s so hungry to heal the rift with his daughter that he told Piers Morgan he’d appreciate Queen Elizabeth II’s intervening on his behalf, remains open and optimistic. “I’m hopeful that something will be resolved and we’ll be talking,” he said.

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