What to do when you’ve hurt an ex’s feelings

Enah asks: I broke up with a boyfriend last year, but he keeps coming back for some reason. The last time he came back I finally told him that it wasn’t okay for him to keep coming back like this, and he didn’t take it well, so we ended up fighting like we always had. Now I feel bad for saying the stuff I said to him and I’m worried that I might have hurt his feelings.  I don’t want to be that person, even though he said stuff to me, and l’m starting to feel like he might come back again and I don’t want to argue with him again! Would it be okay if I reached out to him and talked to him, just to straighten things out (maybe to apologize), so that this cycle ends for good?

Hi Enah –

         This is always a tough question.  You’ve come from a good place – you didn’t want to be with him anymore, but you wished the best for him, and have tried to do what you could to give him that.  Meanwhile, he hasn’t moved on, has kept attached to you (or gotten more so), and has come back to be with you.  So what do you do?  Kindly remind him of where your heart has moved, or snap at him to get him to go away?

         This reminds me of a really painful experience I had as a growing puppy.  I have very strong legs, and had worked and worked to jump high enough to pull myself over the fence of my back yard.  I didn’t want to run away, I just wanted to know I could do it.  And once I could, I wanted to show it off to all the people passing by.  Oh, it was great – they’d yell in surprise, amazed I could do this feat!  One day, Handsome heard the commotion, and walked out of his house, and his neighbors told him what they’d seen.  So he got some wire fencing, and started to nail it onto the gate.  I saw him there and joyously ran up and jumped high, getting my paws onto the gate to pull myself over, knowing he’d be thrilled and proud of me.  But instead, he yelled a stern “NO!” and pushed me back onto the ground.

         Oh Enah, it hurt so much!  Not the fall, but the rejection!  He wasn’t proud of me, he was angry, and wanted none of it!  I was so sad, I never tried to jump that fence again.

         And of course, that’s exactly what he wanted.

         He hated hurting my feelings, and – I later learned – bragged to everyone he knew about my strength and agility.  But he loved (and loves) me more than his own life, and was terrified of what might happen if I was running around the street.  So he was…  do you know that old song “Cruel to be Kind?”  That was him!  He acted cruelly, to be kind to me.  And his doing that likely has saved my life.

         So I don’t know your ex-boyfriend, and can’t tell you exactly what the right way to deal with him is.  Maybe calling him to apologize would be wonderful and give him what they call “closure” on your relationship – or maybe he’d see it as a sign he should try again.  Maybe being harsher with him would give him the wake-up he needs to move on with his life – or maybe it would just hurt him and make him need to contact you again, either to beg you to be nicer, or to lash out and tell you how awful a person you are! 

         I don’t know.  All I know is that this is tough, and, if he is perceptive at all, eventually he’ll realize you were right and had tried your best.

         But for right now, I’d just say to trust your own gut, and watch to see how he reacts.

         No one likes being rejected, but he’s a lucky guy to have someone who cares this much, even if she’s pushing him away.

         Best of Luck!


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