Perhaps making peace with the past and forgiving is one of those things that becomes more important with age? I’m not sure; but, about three years ago I was struck with the urge to reach out to people from my past to thank them for their role in my life, even if we hadn’t seen one another in years, or to apologize for something said or done that I regretted. Maybe I subconsciously feared that I would soon drop over dead. All I know is that it felt good to share my appreciation or try to resolve old issues.
For those I successfully managed to connect with, this was largely a heart-warming experience.
I didn’t have anything major to confess or lingering misdeeds of a catastrophic level, I just wanted a few people to know that I could’ve done better or been better, and now I know!
I reached out to one woman on Facebook whom I grew up with. She and I were friends when her family first moved to my town, and we enjoyed a fun summer as tweens before I started to withdraw from her. For reasons I can’t fully understand, my mother didn’t like my friend and started putting pressure on me to stop hanging out with her. I never dared to rebel against my mom, so I steered myself toward other friends.
Years later, as grown women, she mentioned on social media about how lonely she was as a teen. She was adopted and her adoptive mother never warmed to her, then her father (who she was very close to) passed away when she was 17. I had no idea she was going through all of this, and I felt terrible because I always liked her and would’ve remained friends with her if had been allowed. I contacted her to let her know how sorry I was for not being there for her and explained that my actions were not by my choice. I think it made us both feel better to know the truth and make peace.
While on a high from one touching exchange after another, I (stupidly) decided to knock on yet another door. My first husband’s.
My first husband and I divorced nearly 18 years ago. Because we share no children, we have had no reason to see one another since the last time we met in court. He was in the military and moved several times since, and I happily closed the door on that part of my life and lost track of him.
What possessed me to try to contact him? Trust me, it all seemed innocent enough!
We met and started dating when I was in high school. He was my first serious boyfriend and real love. We married a year after I graduated from high school and were married for seven years.
He broke my heart when he asked for a divorce. In a way, it seemed so out of the blue; yet, strangely, once the words were spoken, I recognized what he already knew, which is that our marriage was over. I pleaded with him to go to counseling, and he refused. I pleaded with him to get help for himself because I feared he was in a mental health crisis (following a battle with cancer, the death of his father, and a major career disappointment), and he refused.
I really believed what he told me, which was that he was at a crossroads in his life and just needed to get some peace and clarity by himself and to no longer be married. He made it sound like it wasn’t me specifically, he just wanted a different life.
I found him on social media and decided to be brave and mature by reaching out to him to simply say that I hoped the years had been kind to him and that I bore him no ill will from the past. I wanted him to know that I chalked up our experience as two people who were too young and unprepared to marry. I told him that I had many fond memories of our time together, that I was now happy and enjoying my life, that I forgave him for what happened with our marriage, and that I hoped he could forgive me, as well.
The reply I received was not at all what I expected.
I never heard from him directly, but from his soon-to-be ex-wife who intercepted my message. She was very open and kind, and simply stated that, if anything, his mental status was worse, that he had been a terrible husband to her, had been unfaithful to her throughout their entire marriage, and had cheated on me through my marriage to him, too!
She thought I already knew about his affairs during my marriage; but, I was actually quite shocked and hurt, even though it had been many years later! How stupid and naïve I had been! Every positive memory I ever had of him as my teenage boyfriend, our wedding, the places we lived together, and so on were now tainted with knowing that he was a liar and a cheat! Now I felt angry and stupid for having tried to approach him as a friend; but, at the same time I was more relieved than ever to have him out of my life!
She and I continued to talk a few times. I tried to console her for her current predicament as she prepared to file for divorce, and we commiserated about some of his behaviors, which now seemed so much more dark and menacing to me. She cut off our communication after learning that he found out about our conversations. When I discovered that he started stalking my social media as a result, I knew it was time to file this whole endeavor under “lessons learned the hard way- do not repeat!”
Is it ever a good idea to extend a friendly “hello” and an olive branch to an ex?
I hear others talk about being friends with their exes, so I know it can be done. In most cases, I’m guessing these people remained in contact and on friendly terms from the beginning.
I thought our situation was merely a matter of being too young and ill-prepared for marriage. In a way, I’m glad I know now that I escaped a situation which was much worse than I ever imagined. Although I have been over him and our relationship for ages, it was somehow nice to have my sweet, youthful memories rather than the tainted ones that have replaced them.
The best gifts I have received through this experience are wisdom and strength. I know so much more now about who I am, and have lost that innocence that makes one trust and overlook too much. Because of this, I won’t be as easily duped.
I’ve also learned that some doors are closed for a reason, and it’s okay to leave them that way. Not every loose end has to be tied off into a pretty bow. Sometimes it is what it is, and we have to accept some servings of ugliness mixed in with the good.