My ex-girlfriend came over to my house to have breakfast with my roommate, who is friends with us both. The visit was totally unexpected, and she brought her new boyfriend along. This is not what I expect at 9 a.m. when I am getting ready for work. I tried to be cordial (introduced myself, told them to enjoy their breakfast, etc.) but I felt that it was inappropriate for my ex-girlfriend to bring her new boyfriend over. I feel as if it may have been an intentional attempt to rub salt in my old breakup wounds. We agreed months ago that we were not going to see each other again, so her visit feels like an invasion. I feel hurt that she would be so nonchalant. I am torn between addressing my feelings with her (and telling her to leave me alone) or dropping it. I really don’t want her to feel like she can just drop in and out of my personal life with her new boyfriend, just because she is friends with my roommate. What do you think?
I’m impressed by the way good manners took over to carry you through an awkward situation. By choosing to be polite, you handled the challenge like an adult. It’s understandable that an unannounced visit might feel like an invasion, but no one really invaded your privacy or your turf. On a higher level, the invasion was on your belief that you had completed your emotional work on your relationship with your former girlfriend. After all, your ex-girlfriend simply responded to an invitation from a friend. That situation invites you to heal.
This is work that you must do on your own or with the support of a friend whose love you trust. You must discover how much of the relationship residue is related to the woman you once dated and how much is buried deeper in your past. For example, you are deeply affected by your ex-girlfriend’s seemingly nonchalant attitude. Rather than obsess about it, consider whether her behavior reminds you of one of your parents (or a sibling or a teacher). It’s likely that the feeling has a long history and that the suffering it causes keeps you from success in many areas of your life. It’s clear, then, that talking to your ex-girlfriend about her visit and your feelings is unnecessary. At the conclusion of your healing work, you can talk to your roommate about how to respect their friendship while respecting your need to be relaxed at home.
My domestic partner abused me. I’m in therapy and doing well. However, I know I need to grow spiritually, rather than going to immigration officials and reporting him (he has multiple visas). Do you teach classes on forgiveness?
You don’t need a class. You simply need to practice the disciplines offered by any one of the world’s great religions. A spiritual director (www.sdiworld.org) can support you in this process. You also can do the process known as The Work (www.thework.org) to discover the subtle and overt ways that you abused yourself through the relationship. Understanding our contribution to our own suffering helps us have compassion for people who have harmed us.
Because failure to report your former partner means that you are an accomplice in his crime, you may wish to rethink your choice. The only time to refuse to obey a law is when that law takes away the humanity of your brothers and sisters on the planet. Consider Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as role models in this regard.