Dear Amy: My first wife, “Stacey,” and I married young. She loved me. We had three children together.
I was immature and had little concept of what was required for a successful marriage, although my parents had an almost idyllic one.
After 13 years together, I left the marriage. The divorce I initiated was difficult for us all.
There were several reconciliations and I spent about a year in analysis. Ultimately I left and married my second wife. She and I have been very happily married for over 30 years.
There are children (now grown) from both marriages, and they all get along incredibly well.
Stacey remarried (happily) and after many years in the wilderness we are able to attend family activities and engage in cordial conversation.
I have a desire to apologize to her for all the pain I caused, but I am not sure whether I am just trying to make myself feel better. I wonder if doing this might just cause her further pain or anger.
Our adult children are aware of my feelings and have advised me to let things be.
Based on this brief synopsis, can you give any advice?
– Regretful but Happy
Dear Regretful: You say that you and your ex now have a cordial relationship, and so a note from you wouldn’t necessarily create a problem for her.
Your impulse to apologize, make amends, or work on paying down your Karmic debt is laudable. Despite the fact that your children are advising you to “let things be,” I hope you choose to do this.
Sample thoughts you might use: “Over time I’ve come to understand how immature and selfish I was.” “You absolutely deserved better, and I appreciate that you seem to have found a far better partner than I was to you.” “Thank you for raising our children so well.” “I am so sorry for the pain I caused you and the kids.”
You might want to end your note with this thought: “I don’t need any acknowledgment from you, but I hope you receive this in the spirit I intend it – as a sincere apology.”
It is important that you detach completely from any expectations regarding the outcome. If your apology angers her and she responds harshly, then – maybe she needed to do that, and you needed to hear it.
Dear Amy: I started dating “Iris” five months ago.
We’ve seen each other two to three times a week and have gone on trips together.
Recently she decided to stop drinking, as it was becoming a problem for her.
I support her completely. In the five to six weeks since she stopped drinking, I have seen her only three times, and for only about an hour or so.
She always says she has plans.
She won’t come to my place or stay over because she says now that she has anxiety if she’s away from home, although she still hangs out with family/friends several times a week, and as far as I can tell she continues to be active.
I can’t help feeling like she’s phasing me out of her life and doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore.
When I ask her if there’s anything wrong between us, she says everything is fine.
She doesn’t acknowledge my feelings or seem concerned that I see something wrong. She insisted that I’m overthinking things and that maybe it would be good for me to get some therapy.
I’m not sure what I should do.
Dear Worried: This change in your relationship may be related to “Iris’s” decision to stop drinking.
Either she has stopped, and being with you is a trigger for her – or she has possibly resumed drinking and doesn’t want you to know.
(Her choice could also be a result of another issue.)
Her insistence that nothing has changed, even though it obviously has, is a red flag. Yes, you should assume that she is phasing you out and that she is not willing to be honest with you about her reasons.
It is rational to wonder why someone is not being straight with you.
You don’t seem to need therapy. You may, however, need to let Iris go.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your forceful response to “Perplexed Partner!,” whose boyfriend purchased Hitler memorabilia as a gift for his son.
Any thinking and sensitive person should recognize that these items are loaded with heartbreaking associations.
Dear Appalled: I was surprised to learn that there is a robust market in this material.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.