Q: I am engaged to a wonderful man who is most certainly the love of my life. My problem is not my current relationship; it is anger about my past relationship.
My high school boyfriend was my first love. We broke up but continued to date after we went to college, finally ending our relationship and cutting off all contact during my sophomore year. I dated someone else semi-seriously, but when that ended I found myself thinking about my ex more and more. Even though we hadn't spoken in more than a year, I was convinced that I was still in love with him. I made it my mission to get him back after I graduated. We ran into each other "accidentally" (on purpose on my part) and made plans to see each other. After some liquid courage that evening, I confessed to him that I was in love with him and we slept together. He was leaving on a trip the next day but told me that he would be back soon and that we would see each other again. After not hearing from him for several weeks, I called, only to have a casual conversation in which he did not mention our night together, or anything about us seeing each other again. I was devastated.
About a month later, my fiance finally asked me out on a first date. I said yes, if only because I knew that I needed to move on, and because there had always been an attraction (I knew my fiance through friends). I fell head over heels in love with him, and years later, we are engaged to be married next year.
I've only see my ex three times since my current relationship began. They were all awkward run-ins that included a meal that he initiated when he was near my workplace. During that lunch, he told me that he still knew who I was -- because people don't change. The rage that I had worked hard to suppress came bubbling up again when I realized he had never mentioned that one night or apologized for how he acted.
I don't think that I have a working phone number for him now, and beyond an email address and a Facebook friendship I don't have any way of contacting him, but I am still royally ticked off. I feel like I was taken advantage of. I feel used. I feel like he did a bad thing and has never had the guts to apologize for it.
This is not a fear of missing out letter; I am certain that I am engaged to the right man for me. I just don't want to bring these negative feelings into my marriage. I want to find a way to get over them so that I never have to think about my ex again. Sometimes when I'm at the gym, I find myself imagining what I would say to him to get through an extra mile on the treadmill and I leave enraged and wishing for resolution. I don't want to be angry anymore. Should I contact him and tell him how wrong I think his actions were? Is there anything that I can do to get over my anger?
– Sick of Being Angry, New York
A: SOBA, I'm going to validate you and then scold you, so prepare yourself.
These angry feelings are normal, especially the gym/revenge stuff. We all have tell-off fantasies about exes, especially when we're working out. And many of us have recurring dreams about victory over an ex. Sometimes those dreams are silly and immature, but they're therapeutic.
Your ex sounds pretty awful. I have no idea why he'd call you for lunch and then sit there, smug. If he cared about you as a friend, he'd send his best wishes from afar. And you're right -- he should have apologized.
But he didn't. And thank goodness he didn't. Had he been a prince, you might not have gone out on that date with your fiance. Only good things have come from your heartbreak. Be thankful.
You're allowed to dislike your ex, but you're not allowed to contact him. He can't give you closure. You have to get it on your own by breaking up with him in your head. Instead of thinking of him as the guy who wronged you, label him as the guy you'd never date again. Allow this to be your choice, because it is.
And now for the scolding …
That one night of passion? You're accountable for it, too. Yes, he took advantage, but you orchestrated the whole night. You made sure that you guys ran into each other. You consumed "liquid courage" and then allowed yourself to have high expectations for no good reason. He shouldn't have slept with you and then disappeared, but you should have been clear about what you wanted. You didn't call him up, ask him out, and calmly tell him that you'd like to start dating again. You dived in with no plan. You have to let that night go.
Forgive yourself. And know that anger (within reason) is OK. Sometimes that leftover sadness and rage fuels and informs our best decisions. It certainly did in your case.
Readers? How can she let this go? Do we ever stop being angry at our exes? Should she call him to get closure? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.