Carolyn Hax: Old flame has jilted lover on a slow burn

Carolyn Hax
Columnist February 13, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Six years ago, I got involved with a guy. It was brief, intense and ended terribly, with me devastated and hurt. I never received any acknowledgement that he’d been so callous.

Anyway, I wouldn’t get involved with him again if he wanted to — not out of spite, just lack of interest — but I find myself resentful of his apparent happiness. He was recently married, and I keep thinking, “Why does he get to have that happiness and I don’t?”

This, coming from an existentialist, who doesn’t believe in things like karma.


Nevertheless, I am plagued by what feels like unfairness. He was cruel and now he seems to have one of the things I’ve wanted my entire conscious life. I suppose it seems strange that a brief interlude would affect me so profoundly, but I was honest and vulnerable with him — the first time in a long time — and given how quickly and absolutely I became an afterthought, I may as well have been Longfellow’s crushed wild flower to him. It was terrible.

Moving On (or Not)

I don’t think cruel people hit the lottery — or, at least, my definition of it, which is a life of emotional intimacy.

Alternately, someone who received a comeuppance or two for bad deeds done, and grew from the experience, is capable of intimacy, but then it wouldn’t be a lottery hit, it would be as deserved as anyone’s happiness is.

There’s a shorter answer, of course — the course of his life has no relation to or bearing on you. That’s a connection your hurt feelings (and soft spot for romantic narratives?) are nagging you to make.

Re: Moving On:

Both the question and response seemed very petty to me. She’s not happy because someone whom she feels wronged her in the past has a happy life and she doesn’t. You try to comfort her by saying an anvil may drop on his head.

A breakup is rarely one-sided. Perhaps she should reflect on why her happiness seems to be contingent on the relative happiness of others. Maybe this guy’s happy because he moved on. Perhaps she should do the same to find her own happiness.

Anonymous

Er. Okay, can’t argue with any of the moving on stuff, but you misrepresent what I said. I said it’s possible he doesn’t have what she wants, or has it and deserved it.

And that neither has anything to do with her, ultimately.

Carolyn:

If he did have some sort of reckoning, then his absent apology suggests that he thinks I’m so irrelevant it’s not necessary. It’s difficult for me not to get tied up in how those I value(d) treat(ed) me and transmute that into an valuation of my worth. But I’m working on it. After struggling with depression from my early teens for 13 years, it’s taking a while to change the depressive thought process.

Moving On, again

If it helps, some people choose not to go back and apologize because it feels presumptuous to assume you even care so many years later. This space has seen countless such instances, described from both sides.

Again: His carrying on with his life has no bearing on your making the best of your own.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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