The other night I ran into an ex of mine from twelve or thirteen years ago. I didn’t recognize him at all; his entire image and bearing have changed drastically. He talked to me later in the evening, when he caught me alone. Said he treated me very poorly, and that I didn’t deserve it.
I agreed with him.
That threw him off. He repeated it, basically saying he “done me wrong”, and again I agreed with him. He didn’t seem to know what to think. I elaborated that he badly messed me up psychologically, and that because of him I’m still paranoid about surprise flowers. (I love flowers and love getting flowers, but the only person who’s spontaneously brought me some more than once was doing it to mask cheating on me. He used to bring me bouquets of roses at work, just stopping by randomly to surprise me, and I loved it. I didn’t find out until later.)
Thing is, I don’t know what he was looking for. Did he want me to say it was all right? That it was okay?
It wasn’t. Not at the time, and not now. Because of him I’ve spent the last thirteen years doubting my reads on people, something I used to be near-telepathic at; it’s taken two therapists and a psychiatrist careful work to convince me to try trusting my gut again. Because of him I still, to this day, am worried that I’m bad at something that I used to be rightfully smug about. I shut down certain parts of my Self and went into a shell, and because of him I was set up nicely to put up with my daughter’s father. I thought I couldn’t do better and was just grateful that someone wanted me. I can’t trust because of him; the normal jealous streak that I had got exponentially worse because of him, because of the betrayal. I’m learning to trust again, slowly and consciously and very gingerly, but I’m still jumpy.
I don’t think I’ve cried for the loss of a relationship since him. Cried for my own sins, cried for loneliness, cried for despair, but not cried over the end of a relationship since. My trust, my ability to bond to that level, was damaged that badly.
Seeing him again was not something that I particularly wanted to do. It’s stirred up a lot of old things, and I find that I’m somewhat angry that my agreement that he hurt and betrayed me very badly was so disconcerting to him. But there is a lesson in this that I’m understanding, and that others should as well.
It’s okay not to give someone who hurt you absolution. It’s okay not to tell them “it’s all right”, thereby discounting your pain and damage, the scars and struggles they caused you. It’s okay not to forget what they did, not to let them think that their actions had no meaning. It’s okay to acknowledge what they did to others, to you, and not soften the blow of realization.
People wander through life seeming unaware that they affect others around them. Sometimes they do a great deal of damage. They might care, if they were aware, but if everyone they affect negatively tells them “it’s okay” they will never know how damaged the trail they’ve walked is, or whether it’s richer or poorer for their passing through. And if they look back and say with surprise “I trod too heavily there,” it’s okay to tell them that yes, they did, and caused harm in doing so.
People like that are why I strive to do the opposite. I am aware of the path I tread, or try to be. I try to leave people better than I found them. For the most part, I think that I have succeeded; time will tell, but very few seem to curse me. (That I know of.) I hope that people feel richer for having known me, or are better off for my having passed through their lives, however briefly or intensely.