Advice on how to truly heal a family rift

While they live their lives in the spotlight, ultimately, the British royals are a family unit. And, just like the rest of us, they fall out occasionally.

The difference is, of course, that the public often hears about royal family problems – especially when highly publicised TV tell-all interviews take place, such as when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey recently.

Harry claimed his father had stopped taking his calls at one point, there were allegations an unnamed royal had raised concerns about their son Archie’s skin colour, and that the monarchy had failed to support Meghan with her mental health struggles. Additionally, when Harry was asked in 2019 about an alleged rift with the Duke of Cambridge, he said he loved his brother dearly but they were “on different paths” and have “good days” and “bad days”.

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Of course, the family came together for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, where William and Harry were seen chatting. Clearly any rift wasn’t insurmountable, and social psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley says all fallouts can be healed, as long as everyone wants to make things better.

Read: How the royal family will survive the Prince Andrew scandal

“You can heal a family rift if all the members of the family involved want to do so. It takes effort, but if you don’t want to or don’t value it, you’re not going to make it happen,” she warns.

Here’s how to smooth over the cracks in any family problems.

1. Forget the timescale

Don’t think that because you fell out years ago, it means you can’t make things better now. “Just because it doesn’t happen in the first month or year doesn’t mean it’ll never happen,” says Dr Wheatley. “Quite often with the passage of time, we realise we make mistakes and we’re all fallible, and that sometimes things are our fault, too.

“In the future, you might think that if you had your time again you’d do things differently, but think ‘hang on, I still can’.”

2. Ask yourself if it’s really worth carrying this on
Look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself if how the rift’s making you feel is really worth it. Dr Wheatley says: “You may experience a feeling of regret. Is it really worth losing a close family member who’d be there for you, and has been there for you in the past, just because of something that seemed really quite important at the time, but on reflection, actually isn’t?”

3. Be prepared to accept rejection

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You may have to swallow your pride, and be prepared for any attempt at reconciliation not to work, Dr Wheatley warns. “You have to be very brave, put yourself out there and accept the fact that if you get your timing wrong, they’re likely to say no. It’s a really tricky thing to make that judgement call on the right time.”

She says you need to ask yourself if your relative is willing to listen, and points out: “There are lots of things you have to make a judgement on. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t.”

4. Be honest with yourself
Don’t just blame it on your relative – look at the situation honestly and see what part your own actions played in the rift. “Be honest with yourself about what happened to cause it, and that you might have been partly at fault,” says Dr Wheatley. “If there were things you now wish you’d done differently, think about how you can do them differently from now on.”

5. Get another opinion

Ask someone you’re close to what their assessment of the situation is. “Finding someone you trust who can say you were a bit of an idiot, if you were, is the next step,” says Dr Wheatley. “Say things out loud, rather than just in your head.”

6. Ask yourself how you can make things better
You may need to apologise and seek forgiveness, but remember that your relative may not give it. “You’re opening yourself up to a whole world of pain again,” notes Dr Wheatley. “Think about how resilient you are and how much you’ll be able to cope with, in terms of them chucking a bit of honesty your way.”

Read: Signs it’s time to step away from the family drama

7. Don’t just insist you’re right
Dr Wheatley says that rather than just insisting you were right and your relative was wrong, it can be important to have a conversation and let them know that you care, and there are things they should know. “Blaming someone for your situation and troubles is never helpful,” she says, “but you may need to say to them, ‘If you keep doing this, you’re going to end up very lonely, and I don’t think you should be in that situation, and I want to do something about it’.

“Often this comes from a place of caring, but sometimes it sounds like you’re bossing them about, particularly if you’re an older sibling, and quite often, that doesn’t go down well. But if you’re willing to communicate and listen as much as you speak, then you’ve got a good chance.”

8. Think of the rest of the family too

If there are children in the family, Dr Wheatley says any conflicting members should think about how their differences will affect them. “Think about the generations below and the consequences of your actions. By all means fall out yourselves, but don’t prevent others from forming good bonds and relationships. Try and minimise the effect on everyone else as much as you can. But it’s not always possible.

“Have in mind the positive things that will come from this – the rest of the family will benefit as well as you, and that will help boost your resilience.”

9. Physical distance might help
Not living near each other shouldn’t be a problem, says Dr Wheatley. “Sometimes physical distance can be a comfort – it can give people time to reflect on what they think. If they were already emotionally distant, what does a few miles matter? It can give them the time to reflect and talk about it with the people they care about, and then come together, perhaps thinking, ‘I hate to admit it, but you did have a point’, and sitting down and talking, to genuinely feel sorry, allowing emotions to calm and to communicate more effectively, without bubbling resentment underneath.”

Read: How to deal with being estranged from your family

10. Remember this might not resolve itself quickly

“Accept that nothing is ever perfect,” advises Dr Wheatley, “and that even if you identify the cause of the problem, it doesn’t mean it no longer exists, but hopefully you won’t repeat it.

“Don’t think of it as a progressive thing, so it might not all be resolved next time you see each other. It won’t just take a hug, it’s something significant in your life that will probably linger for a while and there’s no quick fix. You’ll probably need to maintain your position about being contrite about certain things, but being firm about the fact that you think they weren’t shiny clean either.”

– With PA

Written by Lisa Salmon