CAROLYN HAX

By Carolyn Hax
Monday, June 23, 2008

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Dear Carolyn:

I've done it, I've blown it. Carolyn, I just let the most wonderful woman ever leave. She is everything a guy could ever want; smart, successful, funny, beautiful (and I really mean that) and genuine. I let her go because she wanted a commitment and I'm at the end stages of a divorce and do not feel ready to give her one. Maybe I have trust issues, maybe I'm not ready. There you have it. Am I having second thoughts, yes -- how do I know she'll be around when I'm ready? What if she isn't? She just walked away -- no look back. Good for her, bad for me.

D.C.

Not really. It was good for you, too.

Ms. Smart Successful Funny Beautiful Genuine just passed up a guy who told her the truth instead of telling her what she wanted to hear.

The only right thing to do to keep someone is to behave with integrity. If that didn't work, then she wasn't it.

Dear Carolyn:

Two years ago, my 23-year-old daughter ended contact with me because she disagreed with my decision to divorce her father. A couple months after, I sent her a note saying I missed her. She told me to leave her alone, so I have. I guess I always hoped she'd change her mind. So now I realize she's not going to. Most of the time, I am fine and life goes on as usual, but every now and then, I still cry over her. Are there some hurts that never really heal?

Minnesota

Of course. I hope this won't turn out to be one of them, but, yes, there are wounds that don't heal.

I hope for your sake, but in fact mostly for your daughter's, that she grows up and realizes her punishment far exceeds your crime, even if you treated her father abominably. Family estrangement is a last resort for chronic abuse, not a first resort for a statement of principle. There's just too much nuance to families -- too much good commingled with bad -- for it all to be flushed for one thing.

She will have to come to this on her own, however.

One way to hasten that would be for her father to step in, to point out the same thing I did. Another way would take longer: for her father not to step in because he also wants to punish you. That, I hope, would eventually tap her on the shoulder to say, hey, maybe the divorce was less black-and-white than she had originally thought.

Either way, it will take soul-searching on her part, and not a lot of people are naturally drawn to search their souls. It's dark and spidery in there. Usually they need to get to the point where the alternative is so much worse that they're finally willing to go in. Till then, you grieve, and do your best to get on with your life. I'm sorry.

There is one thing you can do (and that ex-lovers can't, in case any lovesick exes out there extrapolate this as permission): You can keep letting your daughter know, in an infrequent and non-intrusive way -- a note to mark special days, perhaps -- that you miss her and love her still.

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