“I’m married. I have a daughter. I still think about you.”
These words. After years of not speaking. After years of trying to heal from what happened with us. He was in another life now, and yet he was calling me to tell me he was sorry.
It was shocking to hear that he’d had a daughter. It was shocking to hear that he was still married to the woman who has my name.
“Does your wife know that you’re talking to me?”
He said no. She wasn’t home. “They” were at the beach. I’m assuming he meant his wife and daughter. He said his wife knew of me. I asked him what he’d told her about me.
It was a conversation that would have never happened in another universe. It was a conversation that I was prepared for, but couldn’t comprehend.
His apology. Unanticipated, unasked, over five years later.
My ex had these things to say to me after our relationship had ended over five years earlier.
I’m Sorry for What Happened
His email said that he’d had some things on his mind. He asked me if I would give him the opportunity to say them to me. I told him we could talk over the phone.
When we spoke—it was a Thursday evening—I had just been for a run and he’d just gotten home from work. He later said that he’d thought of so many things to say to me on his lunch break, but then when he heard my voice, they all went out the window.
He was clear with his apology though. “I’m sorry.” He said it over and over again.
“What exactly are you sorry for?” I asked. In my mind, memories bubble to the surface, each flashback as biting and painful as the last.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you,” he said. “If I caused you any embarrassment. I’m sorry for the way I treated you, for the way things ended, for saying mean things to you.”
We talked about specific events that happened. And despite the bitterness of these memories, I heard regret in his voice and understood that he was truly sorry.
I Think Things Could Have Been Awesome with Us
I was not expecting him to say that he thought things might have actually worked out with us if he wasn’t an asshole. If he hadn’t taken things out on me.
“I hope you don’t think that we might have been together,” I told him. “In no world would that have happened.” To myself, I think, in no world would I still let anyone treat me like that.
He’d been married for over three years at that point, to a woman who had my same name. It was hard for me to think that he could see himself with me. With her long dark hair and eyeliner, her little dog, the ring on her finger, their baby.
I couldn’t imagine still being with him. For all he was, he’d broken me and—it felt like at the time—ruined my life. I would have never worn a ring. I would never look like her. In no world would I have ever been his wife, his other Jenn.
Do You Forgive Me?
After nearly two hours of apologies, reliving painful memories, and catching up on our current lives, he asked me this question at the end of the call.
“Do you forgive me?”
I can still hear his voice. I remember the way his teeth looked when he talked. I imagined him now, standing by the window looking out at his garden, asking me for forgiveness.
“Of course I do. I love you, and I forgive you.”
I didn’t forgive him because he’d done all those terrible things. I forgave him because I’d had to forgive myself for letting those things happen.
He was always going to hurt me. I was always going to leave him. He was always going to call me now, telling me he was sorry, asking me for this simple thing.
This is what I know.
His apology made me feel so grateful despite everything that had happened. It felt like he looked at me and saw me, not as a woman, not as his ex-girlfriend, not as an object, and recognized my suffering.
I’d never gotten a call like that from any of my other exes. Granted, this relationship was more toxic than my others, but his apology touched me.
I was conscious of the universe when we hung up that day, agreeing not to speak again. I felt like his recognition of my suffering, his apology, was an unexpected grace that brought me to a place of healing I wasn’t sure existed for me after that time.
My ex showed me that forgiveness isn’t just for people who come back and apologize. It’s for us, right here, right now, in the universe. My feelings weren’t validated by an abusive ex. They were validated the second I stepped away from him and saw myself for what I was—a person, gorgeous inside and out, not worthy of abuse, of intolerance, of words that cut.
I felt that same validation and forgiveness when I hung up the phone that day and went inside the house to my fiancé, to Thai food, to another life. And I hope my ex felt the same when he turned away from the window and felt my forgiveness in his soul and bones.
I am thankful. I am grateful to have an ex who owned up to his mistakes and reached out to apologize. I was appreciative to feel what I felt that day—forgiveness and retribution in all its forms.