Hands to yourself

Joey Garcia

After six months, the guy I’d been dating dropped the breakup bomb in the middle of our dinner date at a restaurant. I was blindsided and upset that he didn’t deliver the news in a more thoughtful, intimate and sensitive manner. All he said was: “I think it’s best we both move on.” He was so cold and businesslike, it felt like an exit interview at a job. My emotions got the best of me—I slapped his face (hard enough to be widely noticed) and walked out. While I’m still resentful about how he handled it, a part of me feels like I should do the mature and responsible thing and apologize for the slap. I don’t really feel like calling him, so would an apology note via email or regular mail be appropriate?

Yes, send him an apology by email. Before you do, let’s deconstruct what happened inside you that propelled you to hit him. Lots of relationship experts, psychologists and life coaches recommend public breakups if the person wanting to end the relationship believes the other person might become hysterical or explode angrily or initiate sex to keep the connection. The theory is that a social setting will inspire civility. Our human fear of humiliation is presumed strong enough to keep our behavior in check. But for you, the breakup was the humiliation. The announcement of the end and the tone in which it was delivered felt like a slap to your ego. So you retaliated.

What if your ex-boyfriend’s cold, distant tone was the result of his fear of telling you he wanted out? That’s not intended as an excuse for him. It’s just an opportunity to consider another perspective. You will need that kind of openness and mental flexibility to pen an honest apology. The best apologies are short, take responsibility and do not blame the other person. Like this: “I’m sorry that I slapped you at dinner. I was angry and acted out, but should not have done so. I hope that you can forgive me for hurting you.”

Don’t say you slapped him because you were blindsided, don’t ask him to give you a better reason for the breakup and don’t say that you hope his life goes well or that he finds love. Don’t use this apology as an opportunity to thank him for the relationship or to ask for items of yours that he may have in his possession. Keep your apology simple and to the point. Remember, too, that, like the breakup, whatever you write could become public once it’s out of your hands. That’s nothing to worry about, but it is worth being aware of. So is this: We apologize to free ourselves from the past and to humble our egos so we can create a more beautiful and peaceful future.

My mother and I haven’t spoken for 30 years. I recently learned she is dying. She doesn’t want to see me. What should I do?

Respect her wishes. She has made peace with the estrangement. She is dying, and so she doesn’t need the stress of being forced to face something she has already put to rest.

Meditation of the week
I read this anonymous quote on a whiteboard in the studio of artist Thomas Raney: “Turn your limitations into liberations.” Ready now to stop holding yourself back?

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