A Letter To Your Ex
I didn’t really know what to write when I first set out to talk to you. It seems dramatic and self-indulgent to want to say things so long after the fact — I should have just been an adult and gotten over it, right? I mean, isn’t that what marks the transition from petulant child to wise, well-balanced adult: the ability to recognize when something is over and accept that you can’t change it? As with many things in my life, I guess I sometimes walk around with the frayed strings of what we broke off — words I didn’t say, ways in which I hurt you, things that I’ve changed that I wish you could see.
I wish you could see me now. I know it sounds silly, but I wish you could look at the progress I’ve made in my life and the adult that I’m becoming. I feel like I was so much younger when we broke up, even though it wasn’t that long ago. When I look back at the words I allowed myself to say to you, and the mistakes that I thought were more than okay to be making, I feel overwhelmed with embarrassment and regret. How could I have let you — someone who knew me well enough to love me, to rub my scalp when I was sick and kiss me while walking home from the subway — see me in such an immature, hurtful state? I just want to go back and wipe those ugly moments from your memory. I want you to see me only as I should have been treating you, with compassion and respect. Though I know I am not that person anymore, that the anger and frustration and desire to lash out have drained from my body like some kind of open wound, you aren’t aware. You must still be walking around thinking you broke up with a crazy person, someone unable to show any emotion when cornered other than spite. I want to say I’m sorry.
“Sorry” is a hard word to say, though, and not really because you don’t want to admit you’re wrong. It just often feels… insufficient. It feels like I’m trying to make excuses for something, or that I’m being trite and trying to scoot everything under the rug with an overused word — I’m not. I am sorry. I am sorry that I allowed myself to drag the end of our relationship out so much farther than it should have gone. There are only so many fights, so many words we don’t really mean hurled at each other from across a bedroom or the dashboard of a car before we both have to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, this isn’t working.” I should have done that much sooner than I did, and maybe you should have, too, but I’m not here to blame you.
And I know that’s hard to believe, because I spent so much time blaming you for things. You weren’t strong enough, or funny enough, or smart enough. You didn’t do things the way I thought you should do them, and therefore you deserved to hear about it. Since then, though, I’ve figured out that running around in circles trying to change people isn’t going to help anyone, and that the only person I can actually change is myself. I want you to understand that I don’t hate you, I hated the person that you were with me. But I also hated the person I was with you. We were like this awful poison coursing through each other’s veins; I was addicted to the feeling of being mad at someone, of fighting and makeup sex, of being righteously indignant and having a bone to pick. I was sick.
When I say that I want you to be happy, I mean it. We’re used to thinking that no one can just move on from a lost love and genuinely want the other person to find happiness somewhere else in life, but I do. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally realized that we were simply not right for each other — and that no amount of fighting and then tearfully telling each other how much we loved each other was going to erase those fundamental differences. You deserve to be with someone who makes you feel good about who you are, with whom you can be utterly yourself and not worry that your mere existence is going to step on their toes. When it’s right, it’s right, and after spending so long trying to fit a jagged piece into the puzzle with me, you should be able to just feel the ease of a good match.
I do think about you sometimes, though. I think about what you’re doing, who you’ve become without me, what parts of your personality have risen to the top or almost faded away now that I am no longer a daily influence on your life. I guess it’s kind of selfish to center so many of my questions about you around our relationship, but you have to understand that I only knew you in one context — and I want to know you outside of it. I want to see you as a happy, untethered adult who has gotten out of the toxic partnership we had together and learned how to be happy and full. I am no longer tricking myself into thinking that we should have made it work (or that it was even a possibility), and the mourning period of your loss has passed. It’s more now a quiet sadness about the love that has disappeared from my life. We knew each other so well, and meant so much to each other, and now we don’t speak at all. It’s as though all of those moments we lived together have just evaporated behind us, and that seems such a shame. I don’t want you back, but I want to be able to talk to you — does that make me weird?
Maybe if you’re free one day, we could get a cup of coffee. We could sit and talk about all of the funny things that happened with your old roommate and our long trips in that old car, and the things we used to talk about doing but never ended up getting to. It would be nice to feel that all of that love wasn’t meant to just be destroyed by the window of ugliness we experienced towards the end. There were still good things to take out of our love, so much that I learned. I hope you learned, too. I hope that you can look back and see things about us that make you smile, that remind you how much fun it could be, even if we weren’t soulmates. I hope you understand that I will always care for you, in the way one might a distant friend you’ve lost touch with but still long to laugh with every so often. And I hope you’re well. I hope you’re living life the way you wanted to, and have gained enough perspective to know, as I know, that something doesn’t have to last forever to have value.
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