Should an Ex-husband Apologize for the Divorce … 30 Years Later?

By Amy Dickinson | May 31st, 2022

See what Ask Amy has to say

concerned man. photo by Piksel Dreamstime. For article, 30 years later, should this ex-husband apologize for the divorce, even though it is water under the bridge? See what “Ask Amy” has to say.

More than 30 years later, a man recognizes his responsibility for ending a marriage. Should this ex-husband apologize for the divorce, even though it is water under the bridge? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this installment of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My first wife, “Stacey,” and I married young. She loved me. We had three children together.

I was immature and had little concept of what was required for a successful marriage, although my parents had an almost idyllic one.

After 13 years together, I left the marriage.

The divorce I initiated was difficult for us all.

There were several reconciliations and I spent about a year in analysis. Ultimately, I left and married my second wife. She and I have been very happily married for over 30 years.

There are children (now grown) from both marriages, and they all get along incredibly well.

Stacey remarried (happily) and after many years in the wilderness we are able to attend family activities and engage in cordial conversation.

I have a desire to apologize to her for all the pain I caused, but I am not sure whether I am just trying to make myself feel better. I wonder if doing this might just cause her further pain or anger.

Our adult children are aware of my feelings and have advised me to let things be.

Based on this brief synopsis, can you give any advice?

– Regretful but Happy

Dear Regretful:

You say that you and your ex now have a cordial relationship, and so a note from you wouldn’t necessarily create a problem for her.

Your impulse to apologize, make amends, or work on paying down your Karmic debt is laudable. Despite the fact that your children are advising you to “let things be,” I hope you choose to do this.

Sample thoughts you might use: “Over time I’ve come to understand how immature and selfish I was.” “You absolutely deserved better, and I appreciate that you seem to have found a far better partner than I was to you.” “Thank you for raising our children so well.” “I am so sorry for the pain I caused you and the kids.”

You might want to end your note with this thought: “I don’t need any acknowledgment from you, but I hope you receive this in the spirit I intend it – as a sincere apology.”

It is important that you detach completely from any expectations regarding the outcome. If your apology angers her and she responds harshly, then – maybe she needed to do that, and you needed to hear it.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from should an ex-husband apologize for the divorce to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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