Q. Dear Meredith,
I’ve let a traumatic experience with an intruder haunt me for many years. I’ve allowed myself to live in utter chaos; my apartment is a mess, I have entirely way too many possessions, and I don’t have people over. I’ve denied it for years, and it has raised questions from friends and ruined relationships.
But four months ago I met someone. He is the first man to truly encourage me to confront my past and get the help I desperately need. I have begun the process, have a psychologist, and am working to get my life in order. I even allowed this man to assist in the process.
Then, the other night, he tells me he ran into his ex. She cried and told him how much she missed him. He cried, as well . . . and then he went home with her. He was honest with me and admitted that they had had sex. I’m beyond devastated. Feelings of betrayal and despair are warranted, but I don’t want this to hinder my progress. Should I forgive my boyfriend? Not because he deserves it, but because I deserve to continue my path to letting go of my past?
— Making progress
A. “I don’t want this to hinder my progress.”
Read that line again, because it’s important. You don’t say that this man is a necessary part of your healing process. You don’t say he’s the only reason you’d continue your self-improvement. This person was a catalyst for change, but you’re on the road to a better life, no matter what. There’s no need to forgive him to maintain the status quo.
Letting go of your past means doing what’s best for yourself right now. If what he’s offering in the moment is drama and questions, it’s OK to walk away. Forcing forgiveness doesn’t sound healthy — or helpful.
You’ll want to talk to your psychologist about this — please continue to get that help — but it seems that there are other people in your life who might want to support you during this process. Maybe it’s time to let some people back in and to turn some past relationships into a positive part of your present.
If you have had a traumatizing experience that has become the identifying issue of your life, then that is all the more reason not to allow yourself to become entrapped in yet another dysfunctional situation.
This man started you on a good path. He doesn’t have to be with you for the entire journey. It sounds like in sleeping with his ex he has gone as far as he should. I’d let him go so you can continue to heal.
Nowhere in your letter does it say he’s asking to be forgiven. Also, don’t give him too much credit for getting yourself on the right path. YOU’RE the one doing the work. Keep at it, keep moving forward!
I wish she’d said more about whether they agreed to be a couple and exclusive. Some people feel they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, when the other person feels they have “a friend.”