Make It Stop: “My Ex Isn’t Remorseful For Treating Me Badly”

I read last week’s column and recognized myself in it. Although, instead of the one feeling guilty for torpedoing a relationship with a great person, I’m on the other side of the fence. My girlfriend pushed me away so much that I was forced to break up with her. Unlike “Jack” though, I still haven’t moved past the way she behaved. A little background: My girl “Elsa” behaved badly for the entirety of our two-year relationship. When I finally realized her shamelessness about it, I ended it. Since then, she hasn’t offered an ounce of remorse for how poorly she treated me. How do I bounce back from this and keep my bitterness towards her at bay? I resent that I wasted two years of my life on her. That’s time, energy, and effort I’ll never get back. I want to know how to move forward so that this painful situation doesn’t keep eating at me.

Making sense of a breakup can be overwhelming. It’s understandable that you want answers, some recognition for the effort you put in.

Maybe you’ve had people who love you take you aside and tell you to “let it go”. Maybe you bristled at the advice. Are they saying you should forget your heartbreak? How could you forget your pain? Your arm has been cut off and it’s gushing blood everywhere. You’re wounded. How do you forget that? It’s not that easy, right?

And wouldn’t “letting it go” mean letting the other person off the hook? Doesn’t it mean that it’s basically saying that what she did was okay? Where’s the justice in that?

Maybe you don’t want to forget your pain. Maybe you want fairness. You crave closure and the acknowledgement that she fucked everything up. Letting it go is some Kumbaya zen shit, a philosophy that doesn’t jibe with you. You’re a person of principles. Perhaps you value clarity, even if it means you hold a grudge. Even if in the process of seeking justice, you let the bitterness take over.

Listen, I have a few heartbreaks under my belt. I used to scoff at the suggestion to let it go, figuring it would be a betrayal to all the values I hold dear. It was a weak place to operate from. Instead of solving my issue of feeling like I was wronged, it felt like people were asking me to ignore it, as if that would solve anything.

But now I know when people say, “let it go,” they mean to make peace with the possibility of not knowing. “Let it go” doesn’t mean that you let Elsa off the hook. It means that you forgive yourself for the part you played in a bad outcome. It means you forgive her for not being the girlfriend you hoped she’d be.

“Let it go” means that redirecting your energy from overanalyzing the wreckage to actively choosing to indulge in self-care. It’s a loving gesture for yourself.

Sure you want closure. Of course you want to know why. But honey, the “why” doesn’t matter very much. It doesn’t change the outcome. Why did Elsa treat you badly? Why doesn’t she recognize her part in your failed relationship and apologize for it?

Well, you’re asking for a few things:

  1. Expecting Elsa to do the necessary introspection and understand why she behaved the way she did;
  2. Hoping she swallows her pride and has the desire to apologize to you;
  3. Hoping she articulates her remorse to you in an appropriate timeline.

By carrying the expectation that those things happen in that sequence, you’re still stuck in her head. You’re still hoping she’ll behave in a way you need, in a timeframe you want. But she can’t. She may never behave in a way you’d like. It might take her years or decades to fully understand the part she played and why she played it.

What letting it go does is absolve you from controlling the situation. It’s a gift to yourself.

Your paths diverged. Yes, it’s sad, but only by letting go and prioritizing your peace of mind over seeking closure, will you truly heal. Your arm isn’t actually cut off. It’s still there. You’re already whole, you just need to believe it.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.