Q: Dear Meredith,
While my current relationship is storybook, it is this past one that almost three years later sometimes keeps me up at night.
My ex, "Sam," was my high-school sweetheart. We dated for five years without many of the hiccups that are usually associated with young love. We did not attend the same college but both made an equal effort to see each other every weekend. Sam and I enjoyed sharing our time with our families and many mutual friends. We survived the stresses of college and entered our professional lives together.
And just like that, the relationship abruptly ended ... in a text message. The reason? Undisclosed. I begged for an explanation (quite pathetically, in fact), but all Sam could gather was that he had a feeling that he needed to be alone. At my request we met up one week later for the sorriest excuse for a discussion that I have ever been privy to. Sam was cold -- clearly uncomfortable, effectively mute -- and yet somehow trying to convince me that I would always be part of his life. He still offered no explanation for his decision but repeatedly told me that we would "talk soon." That was the last time we spoke.
Sam immediately took affirmative steps to erase me from his life, ranging from disengaging with our mutual friends to cleansing his Facebook account of any connections to me, however distant. People I believed were my friends did the same. My heart broke in more ways than one. I cannot put to words exactly how I felt, but a near lethal combination of devastated and disrespected conveys the start of it. If you guessed that this situation reeks of another woman, you'd be right. As time always tells, the reason turned out to be someone new. Sam and this new crush of his launched straight into a relationship. To quote my mother, that is neither here nor there and frankly, I felt relieved to finally have a reason.
I suffered through the heartbreak and then the anger, re-established my sense of self, and moved on. Moved on with baggage that is. I still want the discussion that I still feel that I deserve. Sam never apologized for his actions beyond the "sry" that I received in the initial break-up text. Since Sam's great disappearing act, he slowly began to reappear through mutual friends -- inquiring about me whenever the situation presented itself (to, as I'm told, the new girl’s visible dismay), stating that he thinks about me often, and even claiming that it is "shame" that we cannot be friends. As we have gotten older and friends have moved, these situations are few and far between. Beyond a lousy Facebook friend request that I promptly rejected, Sam has never reached out to me directly -- but infrequently posts on my friends' Facebook profiles just to wish them well or comment on something seemingly random. I have never reached out to him or any of our ex-mutual friends. Once Sam made it clear that he intended to erase me from his life, I promised myself that I would do just that. I just can’t shake the fact that I want to speak with Sam, at least one last time. I don't want an enduring friendship, but I want to be civil. I don't want to feel like Sam is taboo. Do I break my long-kept promise? Do I continue to wait? I often believe that I have accepted the fact that we will never speak again but ever so suddenly, my desire to contact him rouses. Help!
– Once and for All, Hartford
A: One way to end this is to forgive him, OAFA. He was young. He met someone else. It happens.
Forgive him (in your head) because it was his first big breakup and he didn't know what he was doing. Forgive him because he misses you. Forgive him because he and his friends weren't trying to delete you as a person when they de-friended you on Facebook (and in real life). In reality, they were trying to protect you from seeing information about your ex and his new girlfriend. They were attempting to establish boundaries on your behalf, as was your ex, who didn't understand that telling you about the new girl would have given you a better sense of closure than simply running away without explanation.
Forgive him for being an idiot and not knowing how to do this right. And forgive yourself for wanting to call. We all want to call our exes sometimes. There's nothing wrong with you for longing to reach out. Longing is a part of being human.
If you see him commenting on Facebook know that it's just because he misses you and your community. He's not trying to torment you. And know that if you see him online -- or in real life -- you can nod and maybe even smile. Because you're going through a shared experience. You're screaming on the inside, wondering what happened and why it didn't work. He's screaming on the inside, ashamed that he couldn't sustain the relationship and that he sent a text that said "sry." (Trust me, that haunts him.)
Assume that every time he reaches out, he's striving for normalcy -- and to make everything less taboo. Control you urge to reach out because this is about showing, not telling. You can show each other that you're OK, that you'll always care, and that you're looking for peace. I think that's what he’s trying to do.
Readers? How can she deal with this? Should she reach out? What is he trying to do? How can she forgive? Help.
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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.