I can’t erase the past, so now what?
June 18, 2020 3:33 PM Subscribe
Last year I was in a relationship that I think was pretty unhealthy for both of us. While deeply depressed and trying to process what had happened, I wrote a post on social media about it, asking people for advice. I didn’t intend for my ex to see it. I thought the post was on a platform they hadn’t used in years, and I took further steps even beyond that to anonymize it. I posted it from an account they didn’t know and wouldn’t recognize and tried to avoid any identifying details.
They just wrote something on their blog that makes me think they probably saw it and were really hurt by it. I feel sick, literally sick, at the possibility. I don’t know where to go from here.
I can’t apologize to them or explain myself. We have gone no contact and we really, really need to stay no contact because being in contact just hurts us both. And there’s some chance they didn’t see it and I’m misinterpreting their blog post. If I were to write them then they would know about my post and that would cause further damage if they hadn’t seen it in the first place.
That’s what I really want to do, though: write and apologize. If I could write to them, I’d say something like the following:
I’m so sorry.
I swear I didn’t mean for you to see that. You speculated that I might have done it deliberately. You wondered if I intentionally wrote things perfectly crafted to hurt you. I swear I didn’t.
Or at least… I don’t think I did. It’s funny, you talked about how my post made you question your sanity. Like, maybe you were all of the things I said about you and you didn’t realize it. That’s how I felt, reading your post, reading that other blog entry — you know the one I mean — and reading some of your emails to me last year. I didn’t recognize myself in them either. I didn’t recognize the inferences you made about me, about my actions, as anything about who I knew myself to be.
Am I that deliberately cruel? Did I really fetishize you? Did I really make you do things you never wanted to do? Am I potentially abusive? I didn't feel like I was doing any of those things at the time. It blindsighted me, came completely out of nowhere, when you said I was.
Nevertheless, those things encapsulate all of my biggest fears about myself: that I’m a destructive, evil person who forces people to do terrible things. In our relationship, I made myself more vulnerable to you than I’ve ever done for anybody. I let you in to see more of me than I have ever let anybody see of me before. And what happened? You became scared of me. You fled. Maybe, as you say, that was your trauma acting. I’m sure it wasn’t your fault in any case; emotions are emotions, and you couldn't help yours. Your fear was real, whatever the cause.
But this is what I keep thinking: maybe the cause was me. Maybe you saw something in me that I’m terrified of believing is there in myself.
I don’t think I deliberately set out to hurt you, but if I were abusive and cruel, isn’t that exactly what I would think? How can I know? Maybe I’m exactly what I always feared. Maybe you were right to run. Maybe you should have run far away as fast as you could the moment I sent that very first stupid, stupid email.
Maybe last year everything I did that I thought was helping was really just hurting you more.
You see, I really understand that surreal feeling of reading a bizarre mirror-universe distorted picture of the relationship you thought we were having, because I feel the same way.
When I was making that post, I wasn’t trying to lie or even be unfair. Looking back on it, I do see some things that were untrue: direct quotes that were actually paraphrases, inferences about behavior described as though they were the behaviors themselves. In my defense, I wasn’t fact-checking everything; I was too upset. It was all I could do to get through the day at the time without vomiting or wanting to kill myself. I wrote that post through a haze of tears and I puked after writing it. It's funny that you called it a masterclass, because it was far from the pinnacle of writing clarity.
And, yeah, I was probably unfair in it. I don’t even know anymore. I don’t know what is real and what isn’t. You know how depression works: it puts the most painful, hurtful slant on everything. That’s the mindset I wrote it in. That’s the mindset I’m still in a lot of the time. I did my best to be accurate, but what I was accurate about was my state of mind. That doesn’t mean at all that I was accurate about you.
I’ve told you before: I think you’re pretty wonderful. I still do. I wasn’t lying. Even in all of my distress, none of that post was about your character or personality. It was about behaviors that I was hurt by. I probably misinterpreted a lot of those behaviors; I think there’s been a lot of misinterpreting going on both ways. But I still have the utmost respect for you. God help me, I still love you, however destructive that love has been for both of us.
Ultimately, I just keep thinking this: inductive inference is hard. We were doomed the moment we stopped being unable to communicate freely. That’s when the hurting began. Two very fragile people, both in tremendous amounts of pain, getting very very little real data about each other. You know what iterated learning chains do when they don’t get data from the external world: they converge to the prior. It turns out that both of our priors (about us, about relationships) were pretty hurtful, and we couldn’t correct that no matter how hard we tried.
I have so many regrets, but one of the biggest in all of this is that one of the deepest and most meaningful relationships of my life has turned into — well, it’s turned into this ginormous mess. I miss you. I miss us and what we were, what we could have been, so very very damn much.
If I could wish for anything — other than the ability to go back in time and stop myself from sending that first fucking email in the first place — it is that I could stop hurting you and I could stop hurting me. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to fix any of this. Everything I do or fail to do just makes it all worse. This is like a nightmare from which I cannot awaken.
But please, please, if you believe nothing else, please believe that none of the hurt I inflicted on you was intentional. I know that doesn’t erase it. But I really, really am sorry.
That’s what I would send. I can’t send it.
Writing this helped. Posting it here helps too because it lets me pretend that they might see it somehow.
So, my question: What else can I do? How can I process this and move on? How do I stop hurting myself and them? How do I make things better, or at least be able to accept that I can’t make things better?
This post was deleted for the following reason: Heya, I'm sorry you're going through this, but AskMe isn't for this kind of ... halfway-maybe-hoping to communicate with an ex via the text of the post? A rewrite without that could work fine - hit us up at the contact form if you'd like to edit. -- LobsterMitten