I’ve started and stopped this letter more times than I can count. And now that I’m here I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just jump in.
It’s been 5 years now since I left you. So much has changed since then. I have changed so much since then. And I’m sure you have too. You may never forgive me for what I put you through, but I’m going to say these things anyway so that I may finally forgive myself.
First, I must admit that much of what we had was good. You were a bright force in my life for many years. You brought me joy and laughter and companionship. You pushed me out of my comfort zone on many occasions. You introduced me to an entire world of people and experiences that I would have completely missed without you. I learned so much from you. And I did love you. Though I know now that it wasn’t the kind of love meant to build a family or a life upon, I did love you. I loved your energy, your charisma, your generosity, your wit and your humor. You were and are a force to be reckoned with, and I loved that about you.
But the truth is that I knew from day one that you were not right for me. There was a quiet voice deep inside me – one that I had not yet learned to listen to – gently whispering “no” for the entirety of our relationship. And while I offer no excuse for how unfair this was to both of us, for me to be so wholly dishonest for so long, I do offer this explanation: I was young and naive.
With the clarity of hindsight and newfound maturity, I can honestly say that I was ill-equipped to handle your love. And I do believe you loved me. I believe with genuine certainty that you cared for me the best way you knew how, despite the fact that it was often not the way I needed you to. I cannot fault you for this – I was never honest about what I needed from you. I lacked both the knowledge of self to even understand what my own needs were and the confidence required to ask for them. This is a battle I still fight. But the ultimate truth is that I could not have known that I wasn’t ready. In all honesty, I now wonder if any 22-year old is ever truly ready. But I had been pulled into the strength of your orbit, and I wanted so badly to be what you wanted me to be. I just didn’t know then how unsustainable that would be.
Looking back now I see that it couldn’t have ended any other way. I needed an Earth-shattering event to shake me awake, to show me how untrue I had been to myself and to offer a path to something more real. But I didn’t go looking for that event – it simply happened. You may never believe that. But after all this time I would admit to seeking refuge if it were true. The truth is that I thought I was happy enough when it happened. I see now that it was probably that contentment that helped me feel confident enough to even start a friendship with Robbie. And I know it may make no sense to you, but I truly believe that what happened next was inevitable. This life that I have now feels so completely right and true to me that I have to believe it is where I am meant to be. I did not seek love outside our marriage. But it found me. And when it did, it was so powerful and all-consuming and so unlike anything I had felt with you that I knew nothing would ever be the same. I knew that even if I didn’t leave you for him, there was no way I could stay. I had seen my true self, and I could never go back to pretending I didn’t know she was there.
So I did the only thing that seemed fair – I left, with haste. I can hear you now: “Fair?! Really? Sure, maybe for you.” But truly, I felt that it was unfair of me to waste any more of your time, to waste even one more day letting you believe that we could be together forever or that I could ever truly reciprocate your love. You deserved so much better than that. You deserved the chance to find someone else to build a life with, who would love you fully and honestly and would give you all the things you wanted without growing resentment.
And I want you to know that what I left you for was absolutely worth it. The love I share with Robbie remains as strong and powerful and all-consuming as it was 5 years ago. Our life and our family are beautiful and challenging and exciting and wonderful. And I say this not to torture you, but rather to let you know with absolute certainty that your sacrifice, though unwelcomed, was not in vain. I did not hurt you for nothing.
So, what I’m really here to say is… I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that I was never honest with you in our relationship.
I’m sorry that I wasted so much of your time.
I’m sorry that I could not love you the way you loved me.
I’m sorry that I married you despite my doubts.
I’m sorry that I ultimately betrayed you.
I’m sorry that my betrayal cost you not only your wife, but also one of your closest friends.
I’m sorry for the shame you must have borne with our divorce, which occurred so suddenly and so soon after our marriage.
I’m sorry that I hurt you so deeply.
I’m sorry for the pain I must have caused your family.
I’m sorry that they must have felt taken advantage of by me.
I’m sorry for the financial and logistical hardship my exit must have created.
I’m sorry for the myriad of ways you must have felt that your life had been turned upside down.
It wasn’t easy for me to leave you – I want you to know that. And I have borne years of shame and regret about our story, afraid until now to really tell it for fear of judgment or invalidation of my current marriage. But now, today, I’m letting it go. And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to let it go, too.
In parting, I want to tell you that I wish good things for you. I see that you’re completing graduate school, and I am so proud of you. I know you will do great things with your degree. I am truly happy for you. I wish you love and happiness and success. I hope that one day you may even marry again, if that is what you want.
Go with peace.