Q. Twenty years ago, I had an affair that ended my eight-year marriage (after 15 years together).
I am extremely remorseful and even though I have apologized to my ex (and he has forgiven me), I can’t seem to forgive myself. The phrase “once a cheater always a cheater” just plays on an endless loop in my head.
I hate myself for betraying a man who was nothing but kind toward me.
I honestly feel like if I forgive myself, it’s like saying that what I did was OK.
I also feel like a huge hypocrite when conversations with friends turn to infidelity. My closest friends know what I did, but not everyone, so I feel like if I chime in on that topic about how wrong I think it is (because now I know better!) I am just lying to everyone.
I feel obligated to disclose what a horrible person I was and not play some charade as if I would never do something like that.
If I somehow do manage to forgive myself isn’t this just me saying to everyone that what I did was OK, when it’s not?
Will I ever get past this?
CAN’T FORGIVE OR FORGET
A. I think you should ask yourself how walking around wounded, ruminating, and hating yourself on an endless loop serves you or the world at large.
Here you are, soaking up two decades of compassion you might have been able to offer to others, if only you had accepted it toward yourself.
Being on the hook keeps you right where you are, while even the man you cheated on has been able to forgive you and move forward.
Forgiving yourself isn’t saying that what you did was OK. Forgiving yourself is saying the opposite: that it was NOT OK, that you did a bad thing which hurt someone, and that this is a mistake you acknowledge and will never make again.
Have you cheated again in 20 years? I doubt it. So the phrase “once a cheater, always a cheater” doesn’t apply to you.
Q. “Mary” and I have been very close friends for 50 years. We are both conflict-averse, so have had very few “bumps” along the way, but when they happened we were able to move on.
Last year, we both dealt with emotionally difficult situations in our respective lives. We let each other down. Words were exchanged and as a result, Mary ended our friendship.
I was devastated. Shortly afterward, she had a significant medical issue and I immediately reached out to offer my support. She responded with appreciation. I reached out a few more times, but no response.
Several months later, a beloved family member of hers passed. Again I reached out and she was gracious in her reply.
But now we are in a dynamic in which if I reach out, she might (or might not) reply, but she never initiates contact.
At this point I believe that she is indifferent to me and it’s very sad and difficult for me to understand.
CONFUSED AND SAD
A. “Mary” has chosen to end the friendship. You have been extremely gracious and compassionate responding to her personal calamities, but your friendship is still over.
This marks the passing of a long season of friendship, and you should understand that mourning and grief are the appropriate and difficult feelings to have.
Losing a long friendship really is like experiencing a death, because much of your personal history is entwined with the other person.
I hope you can reclaim your history and good memories of this friendship, while accepting the passing of its season in the sun.
If you feel better occasionally reaching out, you should — but you must also release and free yourself from any expectation.
Q. As an adopted person, I have found genealogy an extremely interesting way of learning about my families.
DNA directs to family histories on maternal and paternal sides. By adoption I am connected to many different branches on many trees.
I recently connected to my grandfather, who came from Denmark at age 17. I now am learning so much more about the beauty of his home country and the family he left behind.
Other histories take me all over the world to places and people I would not have known about.
My own outlook on my life has changed beyond measure. The resources are almost unlimited.
CHOOSING MY WHOLENESS
A. Your perspective is beautiful. I’m happy for you.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.