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Forget apologizing; instead, pay a good deed forward

Forget apologizing; instead, pay a good deed forward

Q: A few years ago I got into a relationship with an older (by 10 years) engaged man. I was an emotional mess and he was also in a bad state, although I didn't really recognize any of that at the time. When he finally had the guts to tell me in no uncertain terms that he did not love me or plan a future with me, I lost it and tipped off his fiancee. I didn't apologize for my role in the whole thing and now I feel really bad about that — about having pursued him when I knew he was engaged.

I know through mutual friends that they reconciled and have since married. Would it be good/okay to write now and apologize, or is that just stirring up old pain for no reason?

Are Apologies Always a Good Thing?

A: Oh my. That would be, (b) Stirring up old pain for no reason.

Apologies aren't a good thing when the apology does nothing to improve the quality of life of the person you wronged. Had the fiancee been your friend, for example, or sister, then I could see her being haunted by the betrayal, and therefore (arguably) liberated by an apology.

But if you and the fiancee were essentially strangers, then what does she gain from having you back in her life, even if only on paper? You didn't know her personally, and so you meant her no harm personally, which she'd know if she paid attention. Your apology wouldn't tell her anything more, except that you felt bad. Maybe she wished that on you then, but even then it was beside the point; the road to peace was through her fiance, one way or the other.

That doesn't leave you entirely without recourse. Doing something rotten that you know was rotten and that you can't undo or repair will feel, understandably, like a personal low point — but as anyone who has navigated out of the depths can tell you, it's part devastation, part opportunity.

Your impulse to apologize is an impulse to be good. So, find some other, private ways to be good, to balance out the losses you caused and then some. It doesn't erase your mistake, of course; all it does is change the proportions of what you leave in your wake. A preponderance of good reduces mistakes to exceptions.

Tell lesbian friend 'girls' night out' means no partners, too

Q: I have a friend who is a lesbian. Whenever we have girls' night or traditionally women-only events (baby showers, bachelorette parties, etc.), her partner always comes. We are not really friends with the partner, although we frequently do get together as couples. It feels weird to not invite her, but it feels like she shouldn't come either. Am I making this more complicated than it should be?


A: No, you have a fair point. To act on it, though, you're talking deliberate exclusion — always, ah, challenging.

But if you state your case clearly that you see "girls' night out" not as man-free companionship, but date-free companionship, and ask your friend what she thinks about that — and if your relationship with your friend is good, and if her relationship with her partner is good — then it shouldn't be a problem.

That's three "ifs" and a "should," if you're keeping score at home.

Forget apologizing; instead, pay a good deed forward 05/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 4:30am]
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