Sometime last week, I read a short little gossip item about how Adam Levine is apparently apologizing to all of his exes for his past behavior in advance of his upcoming wedding to Behati Prinsloo. I didn’t think much of it, because who really cares about Adam Levine outside of his adorably homoerotic relationship with fellow “Voice” judge Blake Shelton? But then I saw a teaser for a segment on a morning news show about how apologizing to your exes is a “trend” or something, so I did some Googling to see what Adam hath wrought. And lo and behold, according to The New York Post, NYMag.com and Fox News NY, going on an “ex apology tour” is a THING now. I’m not sure how I feel.
The idea behind an “ex apology tour,” especially in advance of a big commitment like a marriage, is a desire to wipe the slate clean and start this new phase of life without the burden of guilt for having been a total shitbird in the past. At its most authentic, I can understand how being in a healthy, happy, mature, committed relationship that’s headed for marriage could give a person new insight into their past behavior and an ability to recognize negative behavior they couldn’t see before. That’s great! Growing as a person is a great thing! But is it necessary to share it?
I suppose it depends on the motivation. Are you apologizing because your ex is really owed one? Or are you apologizing to unburden your own guilt? And if it’s the former, are you sure your ex wants to hear it or is apologizing just going to open an old wound? On one hand, finally getting an apology that’s been a long time coming can feel really satisfying and even provide closure. On the other hand, it’s awfully presumptuous to assume an ex even cares what you have to say for yourself after all this time.
I’ve been in both positions, with the same person in fact. I have long forgiven an ex of mine for the shitty, shitty circumstances surrounding our breakup and have sincerely wished him well in life. But I’ll admit to being deeply hurt that, for no reason I can fathom, he didn’t acknowledge an email I sent about my dad’s death. The length/seriousness of our prior relationship, as far as I’m concerned, makes such an email fall under the “it’s only decent to reply to this” category of ex communication. (And yes, I am sure he got it.) Were we ever to run into each other, I would hope “I’m sorry” would be among the first things to come out of his mouth.
But I have things to apologize for too. For the last eight months, I’ve also been doing some 12-Step work as part of my participation in Nar-Anon (for family members/friends of drug addicts) and Steps 8 and 9 are all about making amends:
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
I’m not a drug addict who’s caused serious harm to my loved ones, mind you, but doing the 12 Steps has made me better able to recognize past mistakes I’ve made and take responsibility for them. Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I see so much more clearly how my own behavior contributed to the dynamic between us and ultimately our breakup. I didn’t do anything hugely “wrong” per se — like cheating or lying or getting physical or saying hateful things — but I certainly made mistakes and could have handled things better. It would feel good to make direct amends to him.
But therein lies the rub. It would feel good … for me. I can’t imagine that he would find my apology satisfying enough to warrant injecting myself into his life again, especially given his lack of response to my last communication. So I don’t do it. I try to apply what I’ve learned and regretted and felt sorry for with him, in my relationships with people who in my life now. That seems like the best way to make amends in the grand scheme of things.
What do you think of this so-called “trend”? Let’s debate it in the comments!