When the apology matters: Too late to say sorry?

A couple months ago, I got a text from my first-ever boyfriend that read, “I know we haven’t talked in a while but I feel like I owe you an apology.” It went on to say he knew it was too late for forgiveness, but he wanted me to know he didn’t feel right about the way we left things. I suppose it was fair given the fact that we officially, completely ended our year-and-a-half-long relationship when he texted me saying he didn’t love me anymore.

To be fair, this was several months after I had in fact broken up with him. It was what I needed, that concrete severance because I had been keeping obnoxiously in contact, spewing my continued love for him between vague allusions to my post-breakup rebounds. I was the one who was awful, though I didn’t fully understand how awful until someone who broke up with me tried to stay intimate afterward. He called me on my birthday, sent me eloquent emails, wanted to get lunch when he was in town. I agreed to go with that “I don’t love you anymore” text in mind, preferring to tell him to stop in person rather than over the phone. When he picked me up, he told me I looked beautiful and stared at me longingly like we were together. I was disgusted. Why would he end a relationship only to act exactly, maddeningly the same afterward?

It’s cruel, manipulative and utterly unattractive. I’m almost glad he was so irritating about it, if only to make it that much easier to get over him. But of course, I had done the same thing with the first boyfriend. At the time, I was working through my discomfort with having ended my first relationship, but in retrospect, it was completely irresponsible and selfish. I needed that love, and I forced it out of him, whether we were together or not.

It came as a surprise when he was the one to apologize. After all, we broke up almost three years ago. Though we talk intermittently and I keep in casual contact with his sister and mom, our communication has been pretty minimal. I was kind of worried to hear from him out of the blue like this — like he was in Alcoholics Anonymous or deeply depressed or something. A text was a tactless way to end things, but three years is a little long to still be regretting it. And besides, I needed it. He ripped off a band-aid I had been painfully peeling off millimeter by millimeter. I had come to terms with our ending, so why hadn’t he?

We had lunch over the break, the first boyfriend and I. Somehow, I think we had more fun then than we ever did when we were together. We’ve both grown so much, become more comfortable with ourselves and with other people. He was a much better conversationalist than I remember, I was less judgemental, and I can’t help but wonder if we could be better if we tried again.

Everyone I’ve asked has said absolutely not. My mom was irked I even went to lunch with him. My roommate told me I disappear before, after and during my relationships, that if it took me a year to get over him the first time, the second time around would be even worse. Hell, a random woman I met in a bar (a delightful Egyptian consultant) told me she wished she had someone telling her “no” before she made decisions like that.

And then there’s me, with everyone telling me he’s bad news, knowing

he’s bad news, and somehow I’m still attracted to the thought of him. There’s something so familiar about it, so comfortable. Even if it turns out as badly as it possibly could, it would be something I anticipated, something I might even be prepared for in advance.

I think that’s why it was so easy to get over the lingering one who broke up with me. I could see the end of our relationship coming a mile away. It was pretty much the same with the last guy I dated too — I could see the things that would separate us almost immediately. Yet I stay for a while, knowing the bad will only get worse but somehow comforted by knowing what the ending will be like. It’s the effortless pairings that seem precarious, when the partner is so great that the weakest link must be you.

Hell, no wonder I feel better single.

Rica Maestas is a senior majoring in cognitive science and narrative studies. Her column, “Cuffing Season,” runs on Wednesdays.