Is it ever cool to send a parting note to an ex?
July 23, 2012 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Is it cool to send a parting note to the ex-boyfriend I'm leaving behind when I move countries, or should I just leave it?

I'm been living abroad for four years and started seeing someone last year. We went out for about six months and had a lovely relationship - he was someone I could see myself with long-term, for sure. However, when the question of the future came up, it became clear that I wanted to move home quite soon and he wanted to stay in the country we both lived in. We both have elderly parents who we'd like to be close to. Staying together seemed impractical given the circumstances and with heavy hearts, we separated. Seven months later, I'm making my way home. The thing is, we initially stayed friends, but when I contacted him about six months after we broke up via email to express that I was having doubts about the end of our relationship and wondering whether we'd made the right choice (given our closeness and affection), he responded firmly that he's moved on and it was the right choice to make, even though it was painful. My hope was that we could at least discuss our options - as in, had we made too rash a move breaking up when we could have split our time in some way to spend time with both families. I reacted pretty poorly to his answer and sent some angry words which I now regret. I haven't seen him since though we have many friends in common and worked in the same place. I have this nagging feeling that I regret the way it ended with harsh words and I'd like to write to him to say that I loved the time we were together and will always treasure it, and that I'm sorry for the mean things I said. But I also don't want to be a dick about it and dredge up feelings which he might just want to leave in the past.

I'm interested to know whether a parting note is ever a good idea, or if it's just completely unnecessary and indulgent?
posted by pink_gorilla to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm usually a strict believer in no contact. But in this situation, I think a parting note is a good idea, especially one that apologizes for the harsh words you used before, and thanks him for the good times you had together as a couple. Make sure, if you write this, that you're not writing it in order to re-establish the relationship as an LDR.
posted by Happydaz at 3:40 PM on July 23, 2012 [11 favorites]

No, don't do that. He's moved on. Whatever you say, it's just going to make you look like you're desperately trying to reconnect to him somehow.

Move on. Forget about him.
posted by discopolo at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it's too soon; things are still too raw. If you two get back in touch in a few years as friends, then an apology might be OK.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider if it is something you want to do to make yourself feel better, or if it is something that he will actually be receptive to. If it is mainly for your own peace of mind I'd lean towards let it lie and move on. And given his response to the previous overture I am guessing he just wants to get on with his life.

On balance I would say do not send it. Remember him fondly but turn the page.
posted by edgeways at 3:57 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't do it -- this note would be to make you feel better, not him, which isn't really a nice thing to do. He's made it very clear what his feelings are on the matter, so it's time to just let it go.
posted by brainmouse at 3:57 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

An apology is almost never unappreciated, if it's genuine.

A request to discuss whether or not it was right to break up is not, in this case, since he already gave you his answer to that question.

But yes, a nice apology would be very nice. I can think of a few exes I'd love to hear that from, even though I have zero interest in hooking up with them again.
posted by Capri at 4:12 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the context of an apology, it's probably not a problem. However, don't be intrusive. See if you can write it in a paragraph.
posted by Winnemac at 4:14 PM on July 23, 2012

Apologize for the harsh words. Notify him you are leaving the country.

DO NOT not not not not, in any way, mention your prior relationship.


It's OK to end this short note by saying, "Best wishes" or whatever, but I wouldn't go all sappy with the, "Good luck in the future" type stuff.

Keep it short, pleasant, and to the point.
posted by jbenben at 4:17 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sure, apologize, but make it short and sweet. I'm sorry for what I said, I'm leaving the country and just wanted to send a last note to say we had wonderful times, thank you for that, and I wish you all the best in life.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Saying something nice is almost never a bad thing. I'd keep it short, simple, and 100 percent positive. Send the note, and then move on.
posted by Forktine at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2012

Maybe you're a better note writer than I am, but every time I've responded to that "nagging feeling that I regret the way it ended", I've made things worse. Think about how you'll feel if he takes it the wrong way and gives you an even more emphatic "I've moved on!", or, as is even more likely, doesn't acknowledge your note at all.
posted by originalname37 at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2012

Write your note.

Don't send it.

He's moved on.

You need to do the same. This may be how you process it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:28 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

I won't tell you whether you may or may not send the note, but before you do, think about whether you really need to tell him something, or whether you actually just need to get something off your chest or need "closure" for yourself or something like that. Because if it's actually an apology you want to convey to him, then fine, that's a very limited note as others are suggesting above.

But from your statement that "...My hope was that we could at least discuss our options - as in, had we made too rash a move breaking up when we could have split our time in some way to spend time with both families..." - it kind of appears you still kind of want to just say something, for yourself. And that is totally fine, and not to be judged, but it's the kind of thing you can do with your best friends or your sister or whatever when you get back, you know?

Anyway, up to you, but I know I personally would have had way fewer awkward ex-interactions (and probably way more lasting friendships, honestly) if I had learned sooner that "getting closure," while a fine goal, is something YOU need for YOURSELF, and the ex really has no role to play in the process. You need to find your own emotional peace with what happened, without requiring his participation.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2012

Yes. Send a nice note.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:44 PM on July 23, 2012

Write it, don't send it.
posted by Fig at 7:18 PM on July 23, 2012

Best answer: I am always amazed that the amount of people who are desperately afraid of looking desperate.

Listen, as long as you aren't secretly trying to start a LDR with him, what would it hurt to send a letter if it makes you feel better? Who cares if he interprets it as desperation?

I've sent letters like this in the past and it has never gone poorly for me. The world didn't melt down and they didnt send assassins after me. They either said "thank you for your very kind letter" or didn't respond. Maybe they secretly thought that I was a crazy desperate chick or some dramatic dribble like that, but I haven't lost any sleep over the possibility.

tl;dr: as long as you don't have an ulterior motive, I say go for it.
posted by Shouraku at 7:27 PM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]

I typed a whole long thing with my thoughts on this but erased it. Because, really, no matter what the outcome, I have never regretted apologizing for something I was truly sorry for. YMMV.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:32 PM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Dear Ex:

As I prepare to leave [country] I have a nagging regret over the harsh words I said the last time we communicated. I'm sorry. I love the time we had together and will always treasure it.


If you can send something along these lines (and not much more and definitely not expanding on the last sentence - you may want to omit it completely), then send a note. If you feel that you must say more, then don't send it at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:17 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

This note is going to be about making you feel better, not him. He's made it pretty clear he's not interested in contacting you. It's understandable that you feel bad about the situation, but it's no longer his "thing" to make you feel good about yourself.
posted by Solomon at 11:23 PM on July 23, 2012

It is my opinion that unless they've asked you to leave then alone, and assuming your intent is not to hurt the other person, everyone gets one final letter.
posted by salvia at 1:36 AM on July 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks to all who answered. I think Shouraku's point summarises what a lot of others have said:

tl;dr: as long as you don't have an ulterior motive, I say go for it.

I definitely don't want to rekindle the relationship or find favour with him. I think my motive is to apologise for being a dick about something that he was being pretty mature about, and to clear the air because we have mutual friends who might talk about me from time to time. I want to make it easier for him to engage in conversations with those people without feeling weird because we fell out so horribly. So on the balance of it, I think a brief, simple apology along the lines of what's been suggested would be appropriate.
posted by pink_gorilla at 4:12 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update for anyone viewing this later: I waited a while, sent a nice note. I got a nice note in return.
posted by pink_gorilla at 2:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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