How do I move on from this?
May 8, 2012 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I suffer from depression and issues relating to low self esteem. In a moment of unbelievably horrible judgment and extreme selfishness I slept with my best friend's husband. She found out. I'm pretty sure I've lost her friendship forever and I have no idea how to deal with this crushing guilt and regret.

I don't have any religion and don't believe in God. I'm currently in therapy but not finding a lot of relief there. I want to be very clear: I know that I did a horrible thing. There's no excuse for what I did. I betrayed my friend's trust, disrespected her marriage, and I'm sure she is in worse pain now than I am.

This incident happened to coincide with another major traumatic event in my life (something that happened to me, not something I did) and I spend all of my time overwhelmed with that, wishing I still had her friendship, and obsessing over the grief and pain that I caused. I selfishly want to apologize all the time but know that she has no reason to forgive me and doesn't want to hear from me.

To repeat, I'm already in therapy. Is there anything I can do besides move on and forget about having this person in my life again? Have you ever been in a similar situation and found any way to feel better or move on?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have lost friends over something I've done, though it wasn't your specific circumstance. It still hurts, years later. I think about them sometimes and wish it weren't that way. But all I can tell you is that it sounds like you are now doing everything you can do.

You're in therapy, you've got your head on straight as far as that apologizing all the time would be selfish and not the best thing you could do for her. As long as you can keep yourself on the right track that way -- it's trite, maybe, but time really does heal. I still cry about the loss of some of my closest friends, and it's been years. But time does dull the ache. Keep going to therapy!

You've got my compassion. Be kind to yourself. You're human, you fucked up, we all do. It sounds like you are now dealing with it honorably, and that's all you can do.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:04 PM on May 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Your best friend's husband slept with you, too, don't forget.

You may have done a Bad Thing, but you only got yourself 50% of the way there. Do the best you can to forgive yourself, and remember that there's another person out there contributing to your friend's pain. You can't be responsible for all of it.
posted by phunniemee at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2012 [34 favorites]

You were weak, you were vulnerable, and her parasitic husband took advantage of the situation. You did not rape him. What he did was inexcusable. What you did was inexcusable. Your friend now has to deal with the knowledge that her husband is slime and she has to do it without the support of her best friend.

Don't contact them in any way. If she reaches out to you, be there for her.

You have no choice but to forgive yourself and move on. Learn from this- in the future, when you are vulnerable, don't trust yourself around men.

You may find it therapeutic to volunteer at a women's shelter. Help other women who are vulnerable.

You didn't kill anyone. You didn't shake a baby. You were weak and you allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. You will get through this.
posted by myselfasme at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2012 [18 favorites]

*hugs* Time and distance are key. Take care of yourself.
posted by iabide79 at 3:15 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there anything I can do besides move on and forget about having this person in my life again? Have you ever been in a similar situation and found any way to feel better or move on?

Give it time, and forgive your friend for how she feels about you. You probably really hurt her, and most likely, she won't want to be around you. That's just how it will be. It's going to hurt.

In the mean time, treat yourself well. Continue going to therapy. Exercise, eat well, and try to do the things you enjoy. Take medications if they are prescribed to you. Keep going to work, studying or doing whatever it is you do to make money and improve the world. Stay away from drugs and alcohol, and take it slow with new relationships. Do not try to numb yourself, but don't cause yourself undue pain.

See if you can use this experience as a wake-up call to change some behaviors you may have been involved in. Think about what lead to it, and how you can avoid doing something like this in the future. What in your environment has made you feel the way you are feeling? What is it about the bad event that happened to you made you react in this way.
posted by shushufindi at 3:20 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also wanted to point out that your friend's husband isn't guiltless in all this.

That said, I find the best thing to do in this sort of situation when you can't roll back the clock is to aggressively focus on the future: find new interests (with new people that come with them) and begin fostering new friendships.

It's a hard life lesson, but it sounds like you've learned well and good, so actively work on not beating yourself up about it as much as possible. You *can* and *will* get through this.
posted by smirkette at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're not alone. I suppose many of us have been in similar circumstances. All the adjectives that you projected may be true, however, the most important thing you need to know is that you are not alone. You made a mistake -- a bad mistake -- but you already know that, and it can be assumed that you are flagellating yourself to an ample degree at the moment. Thus, no one here needs to remind you of difficulty. Let's leave that here, and the rest of my comment will be about how to move on from this place.

First of all, it takes two to tango, so to speak. You had a partner in this activity, and they are equally to blame. If either one of you had put the brakes on the moment, things would be different. Neither of you did, and thus here we are, however you did not cause this, rather you were a participant in it. Do not internalise it. It does not mean you are a bad person. You made a mistake, and you were not alone in doing that.

Next, how to heal. You have to accept the situation as it is now. Do not wish it to be any different, do not reminisce of a time when this had not happened. That will not help. You will always have those memories, and you can go back to them in the future -- in a fond way -- but for the moment, you need to accept your new reality. You have lost your friend for the time being, and maybe forever. And that is okay.

Then, as mentioned, you were in a bad place. If you were in a better place, perhaps you would not have made this decision. If anything amongst many variables had been different, we would not be having this conversation right now. Things happen in our lives. Sometimes we become people that we do not recognise; people that we do not want to be. That has now happened to you. It's not pretty, but it is part of your life. Accept it as such. If you can, embrace it, as it's a part of yourself that was hurting and drove you to a bad place. Forgive yourself.

How do you forgive yourself? Do not fight it. Something happened one night. And there was an effect. And now you are sad. That is it. Cause = effect. Allow yourself to be human. In the history of people, many similar -- and much worse -- transgressions have occurred. Human history is littered with them. That is not an excuse, but a comfort. A comfort for the fact that you are fallible, you are human.

I have witnessed similar circumstances several times. And from the outside, you don't see perpetrators and victims. You see people that made decisions they wish they hadn't made. Decisions that they wish they could take back. And then you see them move on. And they have full, rich lives. There is a period of healing, but thus far, healing has always occurred.

You will heal. You are not a bad person. You are not alone.
posted by nickrussell at 3:23 PM on May 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

You are not a bad person. You did not do a horrible thing. You made a mistake. He made a mistake. You now focus all of your energies on healing yourself from your traumatic event.
posted by mleigh at 3:27 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going to use depression and low self-esteem as an excuse for this bad behavior, then by God, get help for your depression and low self-esteem. I hope you see your disease for what it is. You can play the victim for long stretches of time, but you can also be a tornado in other peoples lives. Please let this be your bottom, something you will try to make up for by being a happier and stronger person, no matter what it takes.
posted by phaedon at 3:30 PM on May 8, 2012 [55 favorites]

If this were me, I would try to do some penance. Not stupid penance, like lashing myself with a belt, figuratively or literally, but useful penance that puts some good back in the world to replace the good I dismantled. Like waking up early every morning to go make breakfast at a homeless shelter or collecting garbage from roadsides. I wouldn't tell anyone about it so I couldn't use it to make people think better of me. And, should I be confronted with an instance of having to either confess to what I did or cover it up, I would totally confess. Owning up your bad deeds is the best way to get past them.

Note: my sense of personal atonement is rather Medieval.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2012 [21 favorites]

Also, I feel that asking forgiveness from the person you have wronged is asking them to be the bigger person and to comfort you for your bad deeds and I would never ask someone to forgive me for something really bad to help me feel better about it.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:37 PM on May 8, 2012 [17 favorites]

Note: my sense of personal atonement is rather Medieval.

It's actually not far off. When we have done things we regret, our 'spiritual bank account' can empty. One of the ways to refill it is to help other people out. It doesn't have to be people in the same situation, but giving of yourself generously can be a very positive path to healing.

I would never ask someone to forgive me for something really bad to help me feel better about it.

Agreed. Forgiveness is offered, not requested. And you do not need it to move forward. The most important forgiveness is that which one offers their own self.
posted by nickrussell at 3:41 PM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Were you drinking or using drugs? If so, this might be a good time to stop.

When you are able, take a good, long clear eyed look at why you decided it was ok to sleep with your friends husband. Were you secretly jealous of her, are you competitive with female friends, over-susceptible to male flattery or did you and he make a terrible tequila induced mistake that never would have happened otherwise? Think on your motivations and resolve never to be that person again then you'll be able to move forward. But you need to be a bit calmer before you can really examine your motivations I think. You sound like you blame depression for cheating but that's not a symptom of the disease afaik. Everyone screws up. The only way to move on is to own it and know why you did it, not make excuses.
posted by fshgrl at 3:42 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

A comment from another member that wishes to remain anonymous:
I did this. Not husband, boyfriend; not once, but many times. She caught us in the act, and it was horrifyingly awful. I will be honest, it pretty much upended my entire life. I am fairly certain that she has never forgiven me -- that was almost 20 years ago and I haven't spoken to her since.

How I moved on was, at first, by forgiving myself. Not in the "aw that wasn't so bad!" sense, but in the "well, that happened, and it will never not have happened. The past will never be any different" sense. Then I spent some very hard time asking and answering some very hard questions, both on my own and with the help of a therapist. Those questions boiled down to "What was I hoping to get out of these encounters? What did I actually get out of these encounters? How did I think I was going to get what I hoped out of these encounters? How was the actual encounter different than I expected it to be? What are some other, non-destructive ways I could pursue those same goals?"

It's easy to type those questions now, but it took years to pick through all that stuff. Unfortunately, I don't know of a quick way to deal with it, but the sooner you start your work, the sooner you'll see results.
posted by mathowie at 3:44 PM on May 8, 2012 [26 favorites]

What you did was wrong. It wasn't a mistake--you knew it was wrong when you did it. But every human being in the world has done something wrong, has hurt someone they cared about, and has justly lost that person's regard. All we can do is learn to do better next time.

It seems clear that you understand that what you did was wrong, why it was wrong, and why your friend may never forgive you for it. This is the learning part, and I honor you for doing this work. Now you put those lessons to work in your life, and you will be infinitely less likely to shatter the trust of others who are dear to you, and others you have yet to meet who will be dear to you in future. You can be a good friend again, but probably not with this woman.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:47 PM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I selfishly want to apologize all the time but know that she has no reason to forgive me and doesn't want to hear from me.

Did you apologize? Has she asked to not hear from you? Assuming not, send her one handwritten apology letter that expresses your deep sorrow and regret for the pain you've caused and how much you value(d) her as a friend and a person.

(In the biggest betrayal in my life, I was surprised that the friend never acknowledged what she'd done. It would've meant a lot even just to know that she understood the huge impact it had.)
posted by salvia at 3:54 PM on May 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

I can think of two friends I have lost due to careless actions on my part, and while it's been several years in each case, I still feel wistful and sad at the fact that our old bond is gone. I am on speaking terms (in friend groups) with both, which you may not be, but it's actually not that comforting because it just goes to remind me of how we used to be so much closer.

The way I have internalized that is to use it as a reminder in future friendships that I need to be more careful, less selfish, and try hard to respect others' needs. I figure that even though I can't have those old friendships back, I can do better in my new ones.

If you truly learn from your mistake, then it will not be for nothing (though certainly you can still wish it never happened).

Good luck and be strong.
posted by Pomo at 3:55 PM on May 8, 2012

It is appropriate to be upset and guilt ridden. You did something foolish and exercised bad judgment. I would suggest you flop around in self loathing and despair for about 6-8 weeks. Then work at accepting that this is not a function of depression and take full responsibility by rejecting any rationalizations, excuses or explanations for why it occurred. Then is the time to start forgiving yourself and work at forgiving of others who exercise foolish and self destructive behavior towards you. Forgiveness will come based on how you now lead your life, compassion for others and your acceptance of responsibility. And as one poster asked--if this in anyway involved alcohol or drugs take heed. If your therapist lets you, or supports you, in rationalizing this by tying it to your depression look for a new therapist who looks at your depression as a treatable illness that does not include exercising bad judgment as part of recovery. A bit overstated but you get the drift.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:00 PM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Maybe you need another therapist or maybe you can join a therapy group. You seem to be saying that something isn't working with your treatment, so be willing to change it up and be bold. Try to turn the energy you are probably using to ruminate and wallow and feel guilty into forward movement. Look at ways you can improve your lifestyle to support your treatment. For example, are you getting enough exercise? How's your sleep hygiene?
I agree that volunteering can really help you feel better.
You can apologize once, simply and sincerely, with no expectation of forgiveness and then leave her alone. I think that is the ultimate best thing you can do for her. Yeah, it's not very good, but it's still the best. When you want to bury her in your apologies, remind yourself that you have apologized (done the best possible thing) and she needs space. If it's really distractingly bad several times a day, create another action to do instead of apologizing. This is where religous people might pray. I don't really like replacing prayer with thoughts. I'm not religious, so I don't think thoughts have a lot of power on the outside world. I think you should do something small for you or for someone else. Like buying a coworker a can of their favorite soda or calling a relative just to say hi.
I think you should leave mutual friends out of this as much as possible. Be honest and regretful if the topic is broached, but don't engage in endless discussions and rehashing with mutual friends or acquaintances. Avoid the drama llamas. Don't be a drama llama.
This is a friendship ending offense, but it is not life ending. You'll feel better and you will forgive yourself. You will make some awesome new friends.
posted by classa at 4:27 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Regardless of the circumstances, you have experienced a significant loss. This person meant a great deal to you, and you need to truly grieve the friendship. It will take time, but eventually you will make peace with it. I'm not being more specific because mourning takes many different forms depending on your personality and the circumstances, so perhaps talk with your therapist about healthy ways to mourn and cope with a loss. At some point, most people need to cry and also need to rage. Often the next step is distracting yourself with other people, places, and things because while nothing will ever replace your friend, you can mitigate the void that has been left behind as you work towards acceptance of this new world order. Best of luck.
posted by katemcd at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The friend will never fully forgive you, but you don't need forgiveness from her. You need to forgive yourself, because the only person you need to live with is yourself.

I've done things in my life that I know I'll never stop feeling bad about. So has any adult human being in the world with a conscience. Stop trying to feel "less bad" about this situation because you probably never really will. Start trying to feel good about yourself by doing good things.

Everybody fucks up many times in life and does things that can't be rescinded. You'll never be a saint but as long as you do more good deeds than bad during your time you'll never be a bad person either.
posted by WhitenoisE at 6:02 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

People have left great advice on how to make sure you are taking your pain and guilt and using it to make productive changes in your life. Take it. This can be a turning point, and if you decide that you are never going to do something like this again then you are obligated to stop wallowing in the guilt. Guilt can be a form of self pity, and indulging in it past the point of establishing a never-doing-this-again baseline won't help anyone. You earn your right to not think of yourself as a bad person every minute that you spend acting with integrity moving forward.

Re: apologies
I think apologies can be written unselfishly if you leave out any language around excusing your behavior or asking for forgiveness. They tend to be short. "I'm sincerely sorry, and apologize for causing you this pain."

Unfortunately, I think this is one of those rare instances where it would be better to just let it be. Forgive yourself, and take solace in knowing that you will keep moving farther from this event and being the person that did this as time goes by.
posted by skrozidile at 6:41 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds obvious, but I mean it very seriously. Learn from this. Fully understand how your mental health issues can contribute to actions like this. Embed the feelings of guilt and regret like an alarm bell in your head -- to be rung if you're headed in this direction again. Self-esteem issues are a bitch, and you've added to them after that one very brief validation. You did participate and you made the decision to do it. But, any time you feel any similar action approaching (maybe he tries to contact you again and you want to respond) -- and you then stop yourself -- you'll grow, feel stronger and dig yourself out with the help of the therapy. Commit to that future change, and then live your life along with rest of us who are similarly damaged.
posted by bluemoonegg at 6:46 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

You did a terrible thing. Don't blame the husband solely. You both screwed up. The way to move on is to figure out a way you can be confident it will never happen again. You need to understand why it happened and how to change that. Sometimes, there are things you will never "get over". You may be living with this for the rest of your life. The important part is to learn to LIVE with it knowing it is a psychological burden. Focus on correcting the flaw that let this happen, focus on the rest of your life and focus on the everyday things that you still must deal with.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:13 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is will probably not be something you want to hear, but...
I was on the opposite end of a similar-but-different situation. The person who did the similar-but-different thing apologized a couple of different ways over the next couple of years. I let her know that I didn't harbor hatred for her and that I was working on forgiveness, but that I did not want her in my life. It honestly felt like her repeated forgiveness seeking efforts were mostly about her feelings, her "personal journey," her need to be loved and approved. Every time, it was a new opportunity for her to write/talk about herself, her feelings, her personal journey, ask for my love/approval. In effect, by asking me to listen (let alone forgive!) she was asking me to shoulder the burden of her guilt for her. It honestly felt just as selfish as the original act.

So... Don't do that. If you have not yet done so, heart-felt (but more or less concise) apology is in order for sure. It sounds like you really miss her and need the support of a friend like her right now, but don't put in the situation where she either has to deny you this support or put your feelings above her own, both of which will be painful for her.

The good news is, you have a second chance! In fact, you have a million other chances with friends who are not her. I think all the advice from people to start doing good things and making changes is very good advice.

IANAT, but in my experience:
While you should not use your mental health issues as a excuse for more destructive behavior, people who are dealing with low self-esteem and depression are often unintentionally very self-centered. When you get through this traumatic period and have learned better coping mechanisms for treating yourself and others with care, you will likely be in a better shape to repair your relationship with your friend or at least meaningfully express your regret to her. So, that be a motivation for you to make some serious progress on the underlying causes.
posted by lalalana at 7:23 PM on May 8, 2012 [19 favorites]

Leave your friend alone. Her life has been upended enough by what you and her husband did. whoever is to blame for what happened - you, the husband, both of you - it is not your friend/his wife. She has enough to deal with without having how badly you feel about it being inflicted on her.

If your depression and low self esteem are serious enough to put you in a place where you made these choices, please continue in therapy. Perhaps consider establishing a moratorium on any emotional or sexual relationships or decisions until you've reached a better place for yourself.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:11 PM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another voice for sending a short, heartfelt apology. What your friend is going through is guaranteed to be horrible; knowing that you own what you did and apologize for it may help her get through some aspect of it. Knowing that you have said that you own it and are sorry may also help you. Your journeys to forgiveness will be very different, and may never lead you to the same place, but some sort of apology will likely be a crucial aspect for you, and could very well be of significance for her, too.

I think lalalana was incredibly insightful when she said that those who create these kinds of situations often use the apology as a way to speak only about themselves, yet again - I've been in similar, though much less charged, situations and lalalana's exactly right - any ensuing "apology" ended up just being a rehash of why the former friend was justified in what they did. Don't do that. Personally, were I your friend, I think I would want a note that just said "I did this, it was a mistake, I deeply regret it and the pain it has caused you. I realize we may never speak again, but I want you to know that if you ever want to contact me, I will welcome that." It would give me some closure, but place no burden upon me of replying/feeling that you require a reply, which could just add another layer of difficulty upon her.

Know that we all make mistakes in life, big, small, catastrophic, and otherwise. You are not a bad person for having done this, but do not, under any circumstances, shy away from the process of learning why you did this, as a way of earning your own forgiveness and ending the cycle of negative actions.
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:55 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

How would you feel right now f she had NOT found out?
posted by the foreground at 9:02 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I did something somewhat similar, in that I slept with a colleague who had a girlfriend. I didn't know the girlfriend, and the colleague "groomed" me when I was in a really bad place, traveling all the time for work mostly alone and sometimes with this one colleague. He pretended to be my friend when I really needed one, and I fell for it. All along he only wanted one thing, and once he had gotten it he dropped me completely.

I felt terribly guilty for what I had done, and my self-esteem was rock bottom. Then an abusive man came along, I knew he would abuse me, all the signs were there but I moved in with him anyway. He ended up beating me up, telling many lies to turn people against me, and stealing from me.

I've come to believe that I got into that abusive relationship to punish myself for what I had done. I'm telling you this story to warn you to please not do what I did. You need to get help for your self-esteem and figure out a way to forgive yourself. Make a decision that you won't do anything like this again, know that you're better than what you did and that one mistake doesn't define who you are. I like the idea of putting some good back into the world to make up for the bad.

Above all, don't let anyone else punish you for what you've done, as it won't do any good to anyone. Walking around out there with really low self esteem is actually kind of dangerous, as bad people will recognize it and take advantage. As I say, work on that, probably with therapy.

Once you're feeling a bit better, you'll feel deserving of friendship and you'll find new friends. Perhaps one day years from now your friend may forgive you, but for now give her space and time to heal too.
posted by hazyjane at 10:51 PM on May 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

You can't undo what you did, you can only learn from it.

Unless your friend comes to you, consider her lost forever.

A formal apology is in order, but be sure not to ask for anything. A short letter, expressing your remorse for hurting her will be enough.

As for moving on, acknowledge that you did something awful (I think you've got that one in your back pocket). Discover what it was that made you have such a terrible lapse in judgment, so that it doesn't happen again. Make amends in a tangible way, volunteer somewhere, donate money, whatever you can do, you need to get out of yourself and put some positive energy back in the universe.

Now move on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's something to think about, or talk about with your therapist: are you trying to suffer to make up for what you've done? Somewhere, deep inside, do you think that if you make yourself feel bad enough you'll be forgiven, either by your friend or by god or by the universe? Because if that's the case, I'd try to work on letting go of that idea. The first step to moving on is understanding, really understanding, that this thing happened and will never not have happened. I think you're trying to balance it out by torturing yourself. But that doesn't help anyone - guilt and shame are useless emotions. It can be hard to accept that the universe doesn't care that you're upset, but it also allows you to move on.

(Note - this is coming out a little more harshly than I mean it to - the reason I know about this is that I sometimes do a version of what I suspect you're doing)
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:01 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have a few suggestions:

-take up journaling
-write one (or multiple letters) to your friend, expressing yourself-- but do not send her the letters
-add group therapy to your individual therapy
-focus on making friends/family feel better

Finally, keep in mind that mistakes are one of the things that truly make us who we are-- if we can learn from them.
posted by emilynoa at 7:06 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I really think it is important that you apologize, but not "all the time", just once. I also think it is important that you do so carefully. I have a book I often recommend, There's Something I Have To Tell You by Charles Foster, that can help you to think about good ways and bad ways to say difficult things.

salvia makes a very good point - when someone seriously betrays you, and does not apologize, then for all you know they don't care what they did, or think that what they did was right, or may even be off somewhere laughing about it and planning more and better ways to hurt you.

Sometimes, though, especially from the way people talk on the green, I get the impression that people don't apologize because they think it would just be another way of badgering the wronged party, or, as they sometimes put it "it would only be for me". These attitudes make me nuts, because there are people I've chosen to have no contact with ever again but who would definitely not outrage me if they were to send me just one message explaining that they don't want to impose their presence but they do want to say that they really regret doing me harm. But if I discovered that, all this time, they had actually been out there going "Gee I wonder if I should apologize to tel3path... nah, it would only be for me" I'd be heartbroken all over again.

Similarly, if I spent several months crying and wondering how someone could do something like that to me, and whether I was ever going to hear from them again - and then I found out that they *had* felt bad about it so they decided the best way to make up for what they did was to volunteer in a soup kitchen - well then I would know that they did what they did because as far as they're concerned, it's all about them and I don't exist. They're off feeling smug about their good works in a soup kitchen, they're a good person, who's tel3path again? The end.

So, please find a way to apologize, once, unless you have been explicitly told never to contact her again.
posted by tel3path at 8:00 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with tel3path, one short note taking responsibility for doing wrong, apologizing, and saying that you'll stay out of her life unless you hear otherwise. Make it clear you're neither asking nor expecting anything from her, just acknowledging how wrong you were. Once.

Then grieve your loss of her.

Then make a private promise to yourself about this behavior, this mistake and hurt and loss, and your desire to do something right when faced with a choice to do wrong. Associate that promise with some atonement, some corrective ritual, and with some symbol in your life. Every time you see the symbol, remember the promise and follow through on it.

I say this because you mention a lack of religion. I haven't one either. But that should not be an impediment to constructing a symbolic and ritual vocabulary surrounding your moral sense, your deep knowledge of right and wrong, in addition to the verbal-rational articulation you already possess. Religions grow out of the needs of human minds. Codify this mistake and your sharpened moral sense surrounding it, subconsciously, in a way you will actually remember and honor, not just some nice words.
posted by ead at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

To be more clear: I have been in your "friend's" position. LEAVE HER ALONE. Any attempt at apology you make, no matter how you word it or how sorry you are, is going to be nothing but salt in the wound. If you feel the need to do penance or make right with the universe, it is NOT HER PROBLEM. Her problem is that her friend and her husband betrayed her.

Someday, maybe, she won't want to run you over with her car. That day is up to her. Until then, in her mind, I can almost guarantee you that she considers you a Bad Person who did a Bad Thing. And that is something you will have to deal with on your own. It is not her job to deal with you or your apology or your feelings.

Get right with yourself. That's all you can do.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:31 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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