Vail Relationships column: Letting go of a relationship that has ended
Dear Neil: My 25-year marriage ended more than three years ago. One night, my ex-husband forgot to log out of an email account, and I discovered he had an affair with someone he met on Craig’s List, had profiles on several adultery dating sites (married man looking for casual sex) and had created his own porn blog and was posting his sexual fantasies there.
He has basically abandoned a long-term marriage and severely damaged his relationship with his children. Although I am over the worst of the rage, I am still angry with him numerous times a day. I feel like I have not been able to leave this behind. Is there something else I should do?
Needing Closure in Fort Collins
Dear Closure: Try answering the following questions, adapted from Daphne Rose Kingma’s book “Coming Apart.” This is a list you may wish to refer back to, so I recommend you write your answers down with the most comprehensive answers you can come up with.
• How did your relationship begin? Where did you meet, and what attracted you to him?
• What was the first clue that the relationship might fail?
• What was going on in your life when you entered into this relationship? What were you seeking to solve, resolve, understand or to gain at that time that this relationship offered?
• What did your ex need to add in his life that you offered?
• What did he gain by being with you?
• How did the clue of failure emerge in the relationship? (Question No. 2)
• The Poison Pen Letter. Write a letter to your ex in which you express the full intensity of your hurt, anger, rage and sense of betrayal. Let out every self-indulgent complaint you have about him with no censorship. This letter is not meant to be sent. It’s for you only.
• The Letter of Confession. What were your failures in the relationship? When did you act inappropriate, make mistakes or respond poorly when another response would have been wiser? Write a letter of apology to your ex, honestly acknowledging what your role was in contributing to the problems in the relationship — or in causing the relationship to fail.
• The Letter of Thanksgiving. How have you come out of this marriage better, more enriched, expanded or deeper? Write a letter of appreciation and thanksgiving to your ex about the gifts you have taken from the relationship.
• The Letter of Self-Forgiveness. Concerning this relationship, what are you willing to forgive yourself for?
• If the story of your marriage were to be written as a title for a book or a movie, then what would it be called?
• What did you discover about yourself and your relationship by doing this exercise?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 24th year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website at http://www.heartrelationships.com. The second edition of his book, “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship,” recently hit the No. 1 best-seller list on Amazon.