Breakup diplomacy, help me find peace
February 16, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Breakup customs-filter. I did my boyfriend wrong, by becoming an exhausted-complaining mess, on a recent depressive lapse I had, partially due to a physical condition. He left me, scared and confused, though we were madly in love, after 3 months of this. I wish to part in peace.

28 yo F here, he is a 26 yo M. We had been together for 6 months, bliss for the first half.

I have hypothyroidy, which can cause depressive states, and was at a crossroads in my life, having recently changed jobs and feeling insecure about the future. He is a very happy, positive and supportive person, but seing me weak and emotionally unstable, he grew more and more distant, then hostile and passive-agressive. I understand a lot of it is my fault, as I was only diagnosed later, and medications helped a whole lot since then.

His hostility and my lack of perspective made me complain more and more, and I remained blind to his distress, as he felt powerless to help me, also feeling guilty about the way he expressed his frustration, yet not at ease at all with the situation.

I was so hurt by some of his passive-agressive remarks that I didn't react well and acted really cold and careless when he left me.Then he decided to move on, and regular post-breakup burning bridges occured.
I kept questionning his reactions for the next 2 months, trying to understand what had happenned to us, trying to call him on the phone 3 times, writing 1 email, and a text message. He answered, in a minimalistic, ver matter-of-fact manner, underlying that it was finished, for good, and that it was time to move on.

I recently realized he had been very clear during the relationship, about the way my sickness and situation made him feel as he had been asking me, begging me, not to be so negative at all times, repeatedly when we were together. Yet I didn't have the energy to be otherwise
I realize, now, that at the time, not even once did I adress his unease, the weight that he felt, and that I relied on him way too much to "fix me". I focused on my feelings, and acted selfishly. I really feel like I was too much in pain to focus outwardly, but in a loving relationship, it is crucial to acknowledge and respond to a SO's feelings, which I didn't do at all, instead, I reproached him his attitude, distance, and frustration.

I still love him, and our inability to talk clearly before, and since the breakup, is obsessing me. 3 days ago, I got a deeper understanding of this mess, and of my responsability in our breakup. I feel more at peace now. I wrote a letter which simply asks for his forgiveness, for many different aspects of he relationship, in which I took a part messing up.

He really, really has been clear on not wanting news or contact with me, even saying that we had never really had a real communication together.

I do feel responsible, and wish to let him know about it. Is it selfish ? I agree I need to move on, but I feel this letter would at least give some meaning, to a wonderful-then-terrible time that we shared together.
Thank you for any advice that you have.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
He really, really has been clear on not wanting news or contact with me

This is your answer. Respect what he is asking you. Feel free to write the letter and do something symbolic with it (burn it in your fireplace, drown it in the tub, etc).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2012 [35 favorites]


I kept questioning his reactions for the next 2 months, trying to understand what had happened to us, trying to call him on the phone 3 times, writing 1 email, and a text message. He answered, in a minimalistic, very matter-of-fact manner, underlying that it was finished, for good, and that it was time to move on...He really, really has been clear on not wanting news or contact with me, even saying that we had never really had a real communication together.

The best thing you can do for this man is leave him be and do better in your next relationship.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Considering his explicitly stated wishes, this letter would only serve to make you feel better. So, yes, it is selfish.
posted by griphus at 12:34 PM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


You need to write him a letter. He doesn't need to receive it. He has indicated that he doesn't want to receive it, which means that either he is already at peace with how things unwinded, or whatever peace he might get is not worth it to him.

He has set a boundary, and you should respect that. That can be tough to do when you are in the making-amends phase of things, but that's why we make amends -- like the 12 steps say -- only when doing so would not cause further harm.
posted by gauche at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand a lot of it is my fault, as I was only diagnosed later

Just wanted to say, it was NOT your fault. You were ill. Nothing to blame there.
posted by Trexsock at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


"...sending this letter..."

The fact that you wrote it is perfectly okay. It just doesn't need to go past that.
posted by griphus at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get yourself well. Look towards the future. No letter. You don't need to keep absolving yourself of the past.
posted by Katine at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


No I wouldn't sent it to him. Focus on yourself now.
posted by mleigh at 12:36 PM on February 16, 2012


I was in a position that, at least superficially, was a lot like your boyfriend's: I was in a relationship, it started good, but - for various reasons I won't go into - she became increasingly negative and frustrated, in a way that I could not help at all. I recognized that she was unable to recognize or address the problem; I realized that being with her made me more unhappy than the idea of being single. So I broke up with her, and moved on immediately.

Please, respect his desire to not have contact. I understand your frustration, I sympathize with your desire to take responsibility. But he does not want contact, and you need to respect that; your desire to do otherwise is selfish, because you cannot make up for anything - you can only improve yourself for the future.

And that's the right way to respond to this - take the responsibility you feel, and let it improve your future, and your next relationship. But that one is over, and even if you feel a need for more closure, he clearly doesn't, and it's disrespectful not to acknowledge that.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:37 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone keeps saying don't send it. I'm curious though if that's a good idea... I mean if it really is the case you had a thyroid disorder and now you are *better* and that won't happen again, maybe you two could get back together? I mean, does he know?
posted by jjmoney at 12:41 PM on February 16, 2012


I agree with the others' suggestions to respect his wishes.

Personally, I've realized that urge to apologize and explain is a very selfish one. Apologies that say "I did wrong, and I'm sorry" are about making both you and the other person feel better. Apologies that are say "I did wrong and here's why and oh by the way I'm sorry, but let me tell you more why it happened" are not about making the other person feel better. They are about you and making you feel better.

As a general rule, I try to only offer the former. Especially since he's requested you make no more contact, it is essential that out of everything you respect that. Doing so is the only real way you can apologize.
posted by teleri025 at 12:46 PM on February 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Everyone keeps saying don't send it. I'm curious though if that's a good idea... I mean if it really is the case you had a thyroid disorder and now you are *better* and that won't happen again, maybe you two could get back together? I mean, does he know?

for me the reason is this. when someone sets a boundary with you, they are doing it for a reason or for a number of reasons that make sense to them. respecting people's boundaries, without needing to know why people are setting them (it's up to them, they're autonomous beings) is a keystone to respecting a person.

if the OP does believe that they can be in relationship with this person some day, then respecting them now, especially in this time of crisis, is invaluable. it leaves the possibility of the future open, if their paths lead them in the same/similar directions. crossing that boundary, however, could easily lead to more pain/harm for the OP and would also be violating that profound request for time/space/boundary by their ex.

writing a letter to your ex, OP, and not sending it/tearing it up/doing anything but sending it can always be healing. you have the right to all of your feelings. i wish for you to find peace someday.
posted by anya32 at 12:55 PM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Don't send the letter.

In the aftermath of a fairly heinous breakup, my ex (who initiated the breakup) contacted me to apologize for some stuff. I know she was sincere but I really wasn't ready or able to hear it then. It left me pissed off that she'd contacted me when I'd asked her not to for a reason we hadn't agreed on (we had a no-contact agreement with a couple of exceptions that included family and cat emergencies - we'd been together six years).
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


A cautionary tale: I once wrote the proverbial Let Me Tell You Everything letter and I did send it (I was in the midst of struggling for a thyroid diagnosis myself, coincedentally). The phone rang a few days later. It wasn't my ex; it was the police. No kidding.

Anyway, what's happening right now is certainly painful. But you can grieve the loss of this relationship without casting blame on yourself or trying to undo everything that happened or -- and I suspect this is what you're going for, even if you didn't use the word -- trying to create some sort of closure by contacting him to say your piece. You two may one day be back in contact (the ex who called the police on me eventually came back into my life, and we're friendly in a sort of long distance, touch-base-once-or-twice-a-year way), but this is absolutely, totally, 100% out of your control right now and possibly forever. Frustrating? Sure. That's just the way life sometimes is.

The best gift you can give yourself right now is the (kind, supportive, loving) resolution that with this new diagnosis and the insight you've gained through this process, you'll be able to do better in your next relationship.
posted by scody at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Don't send it. Partly because, as everyone else has pointed out, this a) won't help you and b) is not what he wants, but also because of this:

I wrote a letter which simply asks for his forgiveness

Asking for his forgiveness might seem like a generous thing to be doing, and a way to apologise to him and find the peace you're looking for at the same time. But forgiveness is a big, big thing to ask from a loved one you've seriously wronged, especially when that person has expressly asked you not to contact them.

I don't think letters of apology in circumstances like yours are always and forever a bad idea. (And I say this as someone who's received one.) But even when they are sent, they work best when there's been a lot of time and space, when there's been a real opportunity for you to calmly reflect on what happened (rather than a revelation three days before), and when you just genuinely want to say sorry and aren't asking for a single thing in response. If you're still in a place where you feel like you desperately need to send this letter, right now, and because there's some kind of forgiveness or reconciliation or peace that you want from him, then you're not in a place where you should be sending anything.

I'm sorry, OP; this sounds really painful for you. It is going to get better, whatever it feels like at the moment. Give yourself some time to just breathe, and stop feeling like it's your responsibility to find that one big gesture which will Fix It Right Now, because that big gesture doesn't exist.
posted by Catseye at 1:15 PM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


It can be a terrible thing to have perspective all of a sudden, to understand exactly where you went wrong. Truly, it can be one of the worst feelings in the world. I'm sorry that you're going through this and I promise that it does get better.

But the story of your relationship, how it relates to you, is now your story only. It's not his. Those feelings are yours to come to terms with and arrive at a peace with. It's a journey of processing and forgiveness you have to take by yourself.

He's very hurt, and your relationship is a source of sadness and general negative feeling to him and he doesn't want to think about it. If you want to be kind to him and do good things for him, then do what he asks you to do and leave him alone. It sucks, and it's sad, but that ship has sailed.

You'll do all right. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:24 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you want to stir the pot and potentially cause him discomfort and pain at the expense of maybe making yourself feel better, send it.

Otherwise, listen to the (unanimous?) opinions in the above posts.




Don't send it, really, don't.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:29 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


He really, really has been clear on not wanting news or contact with me,

You sound like you love drama. He does not. Leave him the fuck alone.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:33 PM on February 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, there's a strong consensus in this thread that you shouldn't send the letter. All I can say is that if I were in your ex's shoes, I'd want to get the letter. I don't think the letter should ask for forgiveness (at least, not explicitly)--that implies that you want to hear back from him and that you want to hear that he has forgiven you; that seems potentially selfish. But giving him the chance to know that you were unwell and that you now understand how badly you behaved and that you don't hold him in any way responsible for the break-up--that all seems like stuff that it would be good for you to get off your chest and good for him to hear.

Perhaps a compromise might be to send him the long explanatory letter enclosed in a second envelope with a short note inside saying something like this: "Dear X, I have recently come to see that I completely screwed up our relationship, for which I'm profoundly sorry. I'm enclosing a longer letter that, I hope, explains what went wrong, without trying to excuse the way I behaved. I hope that reading it will help you to look back on an unhappy time with less pain but it is, of course, your choice entirely whether to read it or not. I don't expect any reply and I wish you nothing but happiness in future."
posted by yoink at 1:36 PM on February 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why do you think that that time in your life would have no meaning if he didn't read the letter? It sounds like you're still enmeshed in the mentality that you need him to fix and validate your perspective. You don't. You're enough.

Don't send the postcard; it's disrespectful of his wishes and would only serve to emphasize the fact that you aren't doing much better than you were. If you feel like you need an audience or to know that he might read it someday, you could write an abbreviated version of the apology on a postcard and mail it to Post Secret.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:44 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I recently realized he had been very clear during the relationship, about the way my sickness and situation made him feel as he had been asking me, begging me, not to be so negative at all times, repeatedly when we were together. Yet I didn't have the energy to be otherwise

not even once did I adress his unease

it is crucial to acknowledge and respond to a SO's feelings

Read the above. He is being very clear right now, and his feelings are that he doesn't want you to contact him. If you contact him, you will only be showing him that you're still not listening. Want to address his unease? Leave him alone.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't send the postcard
Er, letter, not postcard. Sorry about that.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:47 PM on February 16, 2012


Welllll ... but ... Is it not perhaps maybe possibly not so terrible to send a, yeah, postcard that simply says "I want you to know, I now understand how it must have been for you, and I'm sorry. I have lovely memories of our time together, I wish I'd done better, and I truly hope you have a wonderful life. Your friend, Anon." ?? No good?
posted by thinkpiece at 2:08 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Personally, I've realized that urge to apologize and explain is a very selfish one. Apologies that say "I did wrong, and I'm sorry" are about making both you and the other person feel better. Apologies that are say "I did wrong and here's why and oh by the way I'm sorry, but let me tell you more why it happened" are not about making the other person feel better. They are about you and making you feel better.

Not selfish so much as unproductive. We're taught a lot of messed up stuff about apologies and wrongdoing (I struggle with this myself) - how they are supposed to look, what they are for. We often are taught to feel guilt and shame that don't exactly make sense and can't be gotten rid of easily - ie, why should you feel horribly guilty about this? You were sick, it was difficult, you are better now, it's sad that illness robbed you of a relationship.

And not selfish so much as cathected. Apologies that center you are about emotional engagement and needs that you haven't named and can't address. Maybe fear or a weak sense of self? You didn't really do anything terrible - regrettable and sad, certainly, but not terrible. You were sick. You weren't even sick all that long! And anyone who is all freaked out when their partner gets "negative" (which it sounds like your boyfriend always was, outside your illness) just doesn't have what it takes for the long haul - negative things, negative feelings happen in life. If you're always worried that your partner will be "negative", you're just not prepared for the inevitable.

Frankly, I am a little skeptical of this "I must be a terrible person because I was really sick and in a bad place and after a couple of months my boyfriend - who by the way loved me very much - decided just to leave after treating me with increasing coldness while I was ill". That doesn't sound like a particularly great relationship to me, frankly. And men are far more likely than women to lack either the skills or the emotional maturity to stay with a partner during illness and are far more likely to leave.

You might ask yourself what all this guilt is doing for you (because obvs writing the letter is about guilt - you want to feel that you've done what you can, or to get formal forgiveness...yeah, forgiveness for being sick.) Does the guilt allow you to continue an emotional connection to your ex, even a bad one? Were you raised to feel comfortable in the "bad person" role? Were you raised to feel comfortable in the "I screwed up again and again I am acknowledging it and doing work on it because I am not as good as others" role?


I am a compulsive apologizer myself...currently in a milieu where it seems that explanations are expected, which is really messing with my norms. But I am driven by the need to apologize all the time because deep down I was raised to believe that I was pretty weak and awful, and others were being very gracious to tolerate me at all.
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Don't send anything. Seriously. When someone says that they don't want to be in contact with you, take them at their word and respect it. Doing otherwise only implies that you haven't learned anything and that you're still rather self-centered. Your past relationship doesn't have less meaning if he never "knows" that you feel the way you do, and if you think it does then you still have a lot of understanding to uncover yet.
posted by sm1tten at 2:29 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welllll ... but ... Is it not perhaps maybe possibly not so terrible to send a, yeah, postcard that simply says "I want you to know, I now understand how it must have been for you, and I'm sorry. I have lovely memories of our time together, I wish I'd done better, and I truly hope you have a wonderful life. Your friend, Anon." ?? No good?

No good.
Not when he's clearly stated he wants NO contact.
This is how people end up being stalkers - someone says "stop contacting me," and the other person is down with that, until their mom dies, or they have a bad day, or they want to apologize, or they want to assure the person that they didn't do anything wrong, or whatever. It might be framed in terms of just this once, I'll send this little postcard, but the recipient is bound to think ARGH! why won't they listen to me? Are they going to suddenly start showing up at my door? Do I need to do something about this?!?!

To the OP: I don't think you're a stalker. And I can understand where this impulse is coming from.
But a boundary has been drawn, and you know further contact is unwanted.

So feel free to write your feelings out, read over them, and then ceremonially burn them in fire, or put them in a bottle set adrift at sea. And then give yourself a hug, be glad that you're in the process of recovering from (and dealing with) a chronic illness, and go hang out with your friends. Have a party, go on a trip. You deserve it!
posted by vivid postcard at 2:37 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I don't want any contact with you in future" says person A.

"Here's a letter! Or a postcard! Explaining things!" says person B.

I don't see how that can possibly reflect anything other than disrespect from person B. The only reason that is ever justifiable to contact someone who wants no contact from you is if you have information relevant to their health or safety, and you know there's absolutely no other way they can get that information other than from you.

When people say "leave me the fuck alone" it is courteous and kind to leave them the fuck alone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:41 PM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


And, anonymous OP, I have utter sympathy for you and empathy with you; I have had head-messing-up illnesses that led me to treat lovely people in shitty ways myownself. But ultimately this is about you wanting to rewrite the story, not about you having information your ex needs or wants.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:43 PM on February 16, 2012


My friend's ex-fiancee once contacted her to say he was sorry and she was all like "can't be sorry by himself and leave me alone?" I think her response was typical of exes trying to reach out and say sorry. It's over, it's done with, it's water under the bridge. Move on.
posted by bananafish at 3:06 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I don't want any contact with you in future" says person A.

"Here's a letter! Or a postcard! Explaining things!" says person B.


This seems to me to overly simplify complex situations in which what people say might not best be read as if it were a legal contract. For example, a close friend of mine to whom I used to be something of a mentor went seriously off his rocker some years ago. He took to emailing everyone he'd ever known (and various newspapers) with ghastly, untrue accusations against his stepfather (who he decided was the font of all evil in the world). He also turned upon anyone who either defended his stepfather to him or refused to explicitly take his side in this crusade. After many very unhappy exchanges I finally wrote and told him that I couldn't bear to have anything more to do with him, that engaging with him made me unhappy and seemed to do him no good, and that I would ignore any further communications from him. After some dedicated radio silence from me, he did eventually stop trying to contact me.

Now, I would be delighted to get a letter from him saying "I'm so sorry for all the pain I caused everyone; I've been getting the treatment you all told me I needed and I see now that I was ill and that my delusions and obsessions hurt you and all of my friends. I apologize for the pain I caused you all from the bottom of my heart. I don't expect any reply to this, I just wanted you to know that I am myself again and that I recognize that my past behavior was insane." If I got such a letter it would tell me that the very reasons I originally told him not to contact me no longer applied. If I got such a letter I would, in fact, reply to it. So I don't actually see that it's as simple as "he said not to contact me, therefore no contact of any kind can ever be attempted for as long as you live."
posted by yoink at 3:10 PM on February 16, 2012


This seems to me to overly simplify complex situations in which what people say might not best be read as if it were a legal contract

Maybe. But your story has the benefit of including your preferences about contact, which are unknown to that person. OP, you have no idea whether or not your ex would be secretly thrilled to get this letter, so the best thing to do is to respect the boundary he has asked you for, and to not send it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:42 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"he said not to contact me, therefore no contact of any kind can ever be attempted for as long as you live."

I'm having a hard time parsing the OP's timeline, but it sounds as if everything is still quite recent. When I got the apology I wasn't ready to get, it was, for me, too soon to hear it. It actually took some years before I was really ready.

I don't think this is a case where the OP can make that call for her ex. At the very least, waiting a good number of months, or better yet a year, before sending such a letter is a safer plan. And I think it's still not a good idea to send it at all.
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except, yoink, we don't know what the other person's "now" is. And further, I am not reading the message you'd like to hear, about apologising and working on the issues from the OP's post. I'm reading, "I realise I screwed up and I'm sorry," which is great and all, but if this guy feels really burnt out by that relationship, it's just more kindling to the fire. I'm sympathetic to the OP's wanting to apologise and make it really clear that she understands she did wrong, but I'm also sympathetic to the guy who probably just wants to move on from all this.

But frankly, I also don't get the purpose of telling someone you don't want to hear from them when you actually hope to in the future, as that is cross-purposes for how I use it, but that's neither here nor there I guess. Only the OP can really know how serious this guy was when he said it and whether it would be meaningful to him to hear her apology.
posted by sm1tten at 4:17 PM on February 16, 2012


I think there is a very fine line between apologies/closure-letters/etc that are healthy and truly serve to smooth and resolve things, and those that are self-indulgent or unhealthy on the part of the person doing the apologizing. A couple of the posters have indicated that they might appreciate a brief, simple, non-obligating note from an estranged person under certain circumstances. In this case, though, I don't think it's a good idea. This person has explicitly said don't contact me, not in an "you're wearing me out right now and I need space" sense like a problematic family member, but in an "I've-moved-on-and-want-you-to-get-out-of-my-life-for-real" sense.

I have an ex who continued to contact me long, long after I repeatedly said "don't." He probably didn't think he was being stalkerish, and he definitely didn't think he was doing anything wrong (he was an expert boundary-crusher, though). He thought that I just didn't understand how he really felt, or that I hadn't given him the chance to prove how much he had really changed (in terms of violating boundaries, not much, apparently!) or that I was just emotional, or that I needed "convincing." I didn't.

What I ended up needing was the police. YMMV, but I'm just saying, when people tell you what they want/need/expect you really do need to believe them. On the off chance that they really DO want you to come after them, regardless of what the romantic comedies imply, it's still a bad idea. I agree with everything above; write it, burn it, whatever. Don't send it.

Good luck.
posted by celtalitha at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also don't get the purpose of telling someone you don't want to hear from them when you actually hope to in the future

When I told my friend that I didn't want to hear from him any more it was because I had no reason (after many years of deranged behavior) to expect any contact to be anything other than an unhappy one. The only message I "hoped" to receive is the one I had absolutely no expectation of him sending. I suppose I could have said "contact me when you've been through years of therapy and you've managed to get well" but that would only have been read as encouragement to keep contacting me. In other words, I said what I said because in the state he was in it was the only way to achieve the desired end. If he is ever in a different state, however, I would be very glad to hear of it.

The "don't send anything" side in this thread is assuming that what the ex means is "any further reference to your mere existence will pain me immeasurably. Simply seeing your handwriting on an envelope will send me into a spiral of misery and depression." My suspicion is that it meant "I can't handle dealing with you anymore. Don't contact me because I don't want to get into any further arguments or discussions or clarifications with you when I don't think you'll listen to what I have to say and can't envisage a useful or happy outcome to the interaction." A letter that explicitly disclaims any desire for a reply or any hope of rekindling the relationship and which does nothing but apologize for being in the wrong seems, to me, an act of grace that is very unlikely to be received as "stalking" or "pestering" and is more likely to lift an old burden than to impose a new one.
posted by yoink at 4:31 PM on February 16, 2012


don't contact him.

he'll contact you, i suspect.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:34 PM on February 16, 2012


How will you feel after you send the letter? How will you feel when it's been a week, or two weeks, or a month, and he hasn't responded? Really try to imagine that. Because I think you're going to feel rather shitty and hurt if he doesn't pick up the phone and call you. Or if he writes back to say "thanks for your note, you'll be happy to know I've met someone and it's going really well."

If so, that tells you that sending the letter is less about apologizing and more about just having difficulty letting go.

Which is totally understandable, but it means that sending the letter isn't likely to make you feel better and may not even be the "right" thing to do.

Write a pile of letters if you need to, just don't send them. If your relationships with friends and family were also strained during your illness, put some of that guilty energy towards mending those fences - catch a movie, get brunch, send a funny card.

If in a year - assuming you have moved on and are no longer in love with him and are certain that any or no response is something you are ok with - you still feel an apology is warranted, you can send it then. I did get an apology from an ex once, about 10 years after the fact. Not a lot of explanation, just "I realize that I did X and that wasn't fair, I'm sorry." It meant more to me to get it then than it would have when we were both in the fraught mess of post-breakup, and I was much more receptive.

Feel better. And if you keep feeling guilty, maybe find someone to talk to about that?
posted by bunderful at 4:51 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Step 1. Acknowledging I focused on my feelings, and acted selfishly.

That's real progress. Real insight. Ye-haw. Good Job.

Step 2. I'll pay attention to my needs and feelings but won't behave selfishly by violating his explicitly clear wishes.

That is real change. The change that happens when genuine insight and real world action match up. This is change that says that you really get that you didn't respect him and won't negate that hard earned and difficult understanding by, uh, disrespecting his wishes.

The desire to contact him is typical and normal early break up stuff. It's a fairly standard part of grieving. Actually contacting him would be self-centered.

So yeah, don't contact him, but learn as much as you can from the desire to do so.

You've come this far, contacting him when he's asked you not to will undermine much - if not all - of the work you've done. Every relationship has unfinished business, no matter how it ends. Trying to finish it with the person you're no longer in a relationship with has high potential for making still more unfinished business, one more thing to say, one more thing to apologize for, bean plate and agonize over.

Of course the "wonderful-then-terrible time" you shared has meaning. Part of the process of breaking-up, of "letting go" as you say is understanding and being at peace with the likelihood that your meaning and his meaning no longer intersect. Both will change over time. You'll know your healing from the break-up when your meaning is enough to sustain you and you don't feel much need to influence his.
posted by space_cookie at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


If he has been really clear about not wanting to hear from you and you go a head and send this letter...that's creepy.
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:45 PM on February 16, 2012


Personally, I'm in favor of more communication. And "I was crazy because I was clinically ill" seems like really crucial information that he does not have.

I don't think it will kill him to get a letter. He can always not open the envelop if he really, really doesn't want to. And it might help him to hear your acknowledgement that it was your fault.

It doesn't sound to me like you're in stalker territory, given what you want to write, so long as you are explicitly not asking to communicate with him further.
posted by musofire at 6:01 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, OP, I notice that you yourself has recognized that what you are really looking for is "peace." You are presuming that because you have that OMIGOD I MUST COMMUNICATE WITH HIM feeling that you will feel peaceful if you do so, but I doubt that this is the case (especially since I suspect that if you did send the letter, you would move on to unpeaceful thoughts like "Did he get the letter? What did he think? What does it mean that he hasn't replied? Did I make a fool of myself?") I do think you need to honor your need for peace and resolution because clearly this is so painful for you, but you don't need to listen to that obsessive part of you that is telling you to contact someone who told you not do so. I would suggest that you look into other routes to feeling peaceful -- cognitive therapy and CODA come to mind.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:14 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yoink's posts make some lovely distinctions on the finer nuances between making amends and respecting "no contact" wishes. So...a little tinkering with my first thoughts. I think writing him a letter now is a very very bad idea for all the reasons I and others have stated. This isn't to say that you shouldn't ever write him a letter.

Writing a letter from the place of "I still love him, and our inability to talk clearly before, and since the breakup, is obsessing me...but I feel this letter would at least give some meaning" strikes me as a replay and continuation of the kind of behavior that you say precipitated the end of your relationship. He clearly does not want that and you should respect his wishes.

The best apologies are heavy on acknowledging pain caused and wrong-headedness. You've got this. You don't just write that you hurt him, you explain how. Also excellent qualities in an apology. Good apologies reference the source of distress that spurred bad behavior and at the same time assume full responsibility for it. You sound like you're doing well on this front, but it may take more time in good health to get a clear view of other possible contributors to your behavior. Don't skip this part. Hollow apologies reach for the easiest, nearest excuses. If there was something underneath your illness fueling your treatment of him, you'll have to own up to that too.

Good apologies also have some behavior changes to back them up. Insight into what went wrong on your end is vital, but it takes time for new understandings to translate into changing how you act. You're feelings are likely still raw, you sound like you're in a feverish leaning curve. Writing a letter now about how you've changed while still obsessing is basically a giant red flag screaming "nothing's changed."

So wait. Wait until these changes become more permanent and clear before deciding to do anything you can't undo. Wait until you know your expectations from him are exactly zero. Then....maybe it would be okay to write. Later. Way Later.
posted by space_cookie at 10:18 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anonymous said: "He really, really has been clear on not wanting news or contact with me"

So don't send the letter. If you have half an ounce of respect for this individual's wishes, respect them.

Wanting to send the letter doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, it's a sign that you're going through the relationship-grieving process, which is a good thing. The time for contact is now past, no matter how much better it will make you feel. You aren't going to fix or solve things by sending this letter. All you'll do is make the other person feel uncomfortable by ignoring them and their express wishes.
posted by Solomon at 12:11 AM on February 17, 2012


I just wanted to point: you referred to him as your boyfriend. Stop that. He's your ex. Part of moving is letting go of that title -- and with that, the feeling that you owe him an explanation and an apology for a time in your lives where it sounds like neither one of you was at your best.
posted by spunweb at 2:49 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mod note: From the OP:
"Hello, and thank you so very much for all your insight. There is definately a lot to think about, consider, as well as to learn, for me during the coming months. I think that space_cookie and Frowner especially gave me insight on what that guilt means to me, and the proper "aim" that I had in mind, as I wrote the letter.

1) There is one thing that needs precision, perhaps : the reason I say my ex-boyfriend has been clear on not wanting contact with me, it is not because he has actually *said* it. But because he was evasive when we had contacts, after the break-up, and therefore I understood that our contacts didn't do much good to anything. He never asked me not to contact him. But he indeed didn't initiate any contact, and kept it minimal.

2) 2 days after the breakup, we had a talk about the way we would cancel our christmas vacation plans together, and during that time, he said in about 7 different ways, that he still cared. For example : "I am disapointed, I was hoping that when I ended our relationship, you would tell me it still had hopes, that with your efforts, we could make do" (I had told him about the diagnosis of my thyroid problem just a little before the breakup) ; "I hope that we can still go rock-climbing together, even though I have been agressive to you", "I really just wanted us to be happy". I told him I was hurt and confused, and needed to take care of myself, and understand what had gone wrong, and he then finished the conversation with "I feel so guilty for things not working out, please take good care of yourself".

He then spent christmas in his family, far away, with no contacts (as I figured I didn't want to be a burden any longer). And it is since we came back, that I noticed he had become cold. I understand he must have realized that I had played a big part in the process, which is healthy and right, and decided to go on on his way.

3) My letter is in no way a plea to get back together, or finding excuses for my attitude. It is a simmply written recognition of the different ways in which my behaviour and words have been disrespectful (e.g : "I am sorry for not acknowledging your pain, sorry for being blind to your efforts to help me", etc.

4) At the end, I thank him for what he has given to me, and our relationship, and say that I am not expecting an answer from him. I then finish wishing him luck on his way.

5) I really appreciate all your advices, and I am going to wait many months, go on my way, grow, live, and if I still wish to be at peace, in 8 months, I could send it. A friend we have in common, recently told me that he feels a lot of guilt for not having been able to help me more. So here is everything. I am okay with not having contacts, and understand the very reasons and benefits we both get, from the cutting ties, since christmas.

Thank you again :)
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2012


I am going to wait many months, go on my way, grow, live, and if I still wish to be at peace, in 8 months, I could send it

That sounds like a very good plan. Good luck to you finding your own kind of peace in the interim, whatever you decide to do in eight months.

Bear in mind as well that your view on things might change significantly in eight months. It's so difficult to get real clarity when you're all still wrapped up in the pain and confusion and post-breakup-contact, especially after that kind of 'I acted really badly, oh heavens it was all my fault!' revelation. Not that I know what happened between you, obviously, but from what you've said here it sounds like he handled the end of the relationship and the breakup aftermath pretty badly too (I hope he meant 'aggressive' metaphorically there, but still...). Find that peace for yourself, and if you still want to apologise to him after that, you'll know it's the kind of apology you'll be happy with yourself for making.
posted by Catseye at 7:58 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't send the letter - your ex does not actually sound like he deserves an explanation. Hostile and passive-aggressive? Please. He doesn't seem like he was expressing unease, just dickery. I say don't send the letter, but not because you should respect this jerk's wishes, but because you don't owe him an explanation, and you deserve better.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:24 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


He never asked me not to contact him.

Well, then, send the letter if you want. If it will make you feel better.

But I would also encourage you to rethink your definition of what other people's being "clear" might mean. I agree with Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth that your ex sounds like he's got an issue with being passive-aggressive and, indeed, with being "clear" in any way. You dodged a bullet with this one, in my opinion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2012


I don't think you should send the letter, ever. The reason being that I don't think he sounds like a very nice person and I think you could do a lot better. My friend has a thyroid condition that manifested while she began dating her now husband. She didn't understand what was happening with her body and her exhaustion caused her to become a different person. Did her boyfriend (now husband) dump her? No. He saw that something was wrong with her and he supported and cared for her. Even now, when she has flare ups, he stands by and helps her. That is what a loving person does for the other.

It sounds like you are placing a huge amount of blame on yourself. I don't necessarily think this is mostly your fault. He could not handle your illness. Don't send the letter. Save yourself from being entangled with this jerk for months or years to come.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:03 PM on February 17, 2012


Honey, this just sounds like so much drama for a six-month relationship with a dude who sounds not especially nice. Let it go, you don't need this shit in your life.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:16 PM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


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