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Apologizing to ex could spawn problems with partner

Respect present partner before rehashing past relationships

Q: I was married for 27 years, and I am now 25 years into my second marriage. My first wife remarried before I did. While I was a steady provider and protector during my first marriage, certain incidents may have been (were) hurtful to her. Extramarital affairs were never an issue.

I wanted to write her and, in a way, apologize for any pain I might have caused, but this might be self-serving and really do nothing for the other party other than potentially inflict even more pain. Nevertheless, I want to find closure for myself and possibly for her, even though I am not sure if she needs or wants it. What is the best approach, and what are the best words for doing that?


A: If someone were to "in a way" quote-unquote apologize, then the passive voice would be the way to go. "Certain incidents" … incidents "may have been hurtful." (Bad incidents! Bad!)

But if you want to take full responsibility and apologize for the pain you inflicted on your ex-wife, then arrange your words in the active voice: "I am sorry I hurt you. I know it might be self-serving of me to send this to you now, after so many years, and I don't want to inflict even more pain by getting in touch with you now. However, I wanted to apologize for what I did."

If I read you correctly, you're not asking whether to apologize, but how. However, please don't contact your ex unless your decision is the result of careful consultation with your current wife. Any closure you get from one marriage won't be worth much if it comes at the cost of keeping secrets in another.

Mutual confusion signals it's time for young love to breathe

Q: I'm in my mid 20s. I met a girl at a program last summer and had a huge crush on her. I didn't pursue because she had a boyfriend. She broke up with him for another guy in the program. They did the long-distance thing for a year, and we remained friends over that time as well. This summer, she and I were back at the program, sans boyfriend. Our attraction grew. We hooked up. She professed strong feelings for me, and she told her boyfriend about her feelings and our hookup and asked him for a break. He rejected her request for space and gave an ultimatum. She stuck with the status quo, but her feelings for me haven't abated. Her actions in the last couple days of the program didn't match her professed intentions (renewed flirting, in which I was an equal, guilty partner).

Now she's had time away from both of us, appears intent on breaking up with boyfriend, but then is indecisive in the next moment. I'm crazy about her, but my friends are warning me to stay away. We've been communicating since we left the program, but should I just back off until she decides what she wants?


A: Yes, yes, back off. You can't make her slow down long enough to breathe between men (you all know about each other, so at least there's that). But you can keep yourself from becoming part of her man-stacle course. If she means it, she'll come to you.

Although: What if she's back at the program next summer, and you aren't?

Apologizing to ex could spawn problems with partner 08/16/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:31am]
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