I have a news flash for everyone: I’m not perfect. I make mistakes, bad choices, and wrong decisions. Sometimes they occur because I wasn’t thinking, other times to avoid pain. In the end, it doesn’t matter why, it just matters how you deal with them. And when you did something wrong, but feel you had good motivation, it is really hard to say those two important words: “I’m sorry.”
This story is about the hardest “I’m sorry” that I’ve ever had to make in my life.
A couple months ago, I was pursuing a woman—a smart, beautiful, talented actress that took my breath away from the moment I met her. Communicating with her came so easily, we had so much in common on multiple levels, and she had just the personality that I was looking for. But there was more. There was a spark.
You know what I’m talking about. “The” spark. The fabled sensation that everyone talks about looking for and never seems to discover. The one talked about on eHarmony commercials or bandied about at a wedding reception about the happy couple. I’d seen it in the eyes of other people, so I knew it was real, but I had never experienced it for myself. With all of my dates and crushes and romantic pursuits, that was the piece that was missing. And I finally found it.
So, I asked her out.
I’m not going to get into all of the details, but I can say that she had another suitor that she’d been seeing for a couple of weeks. She gave me a chance to prove myself and I set to task of showing her that I was the better man. I took her places that I knew she would appreciate, bought her flowers, wrote her poetry, talked to her for hours on the phone, etc.
I tried my best to hold myself back emotionally, since I knew my penchant for falling in love easily, but it was no use. When you exert that much energy in such a short period of time, you fall and you fall hard. I was in love deeper than ever before. And it didn’t help that she not only reciprocated interest, but that my friends around us were picking up on the same vibes. My heart was gone—hook, line, and sinker.
A big networking event was coming up and I was feeling pretty good that I was winning out in this war of roses. I’d be able to flex my industry prowess and she’d be impressed and she’s be mine. And that’s exactly what happened, except that she called me four days later to say that she had chosen the other guy.
I was crushed. I’d been here before and lost then, too. The problem with the other times is that I didn’t feel like I was the better man because I wasn’t as handsome or musically inclined (yes, I lost out to a musician). This time, the rejection came out of left field. I knew from the moment I asked her out that this could have been a possibility, but I honestly thought the odds were in my favor.
At first, I didn’t want to do anything rash. She desperately didn’t want to lose my friendship and I was hoping that I’d still be able to steal her away over time. But that didn’t happen. Two days later, the stress tipped me over the edge and I pushed her completely away. She offered space, but I wanted separation. And that’s exactly what I got, because she didn’t contact me again.
This wasn’t my first push-away either. I’d gone through about three or four in the past. Except, in every single one of those cases, the girl pushed me away because of some supposed character defect. In each case, they all came back and apologized months, sometimes years later. So, in the back of my mind, I expected the same to happen here. What I didn’t realize was that this was different because I was the one pushing.
I was thankful for a big project that took place immediately afterward, because it kept my mind focused and I wasn’t able to dwell on her. Facebook kept showing me her photos and statuses to torture me, but I was able to brush off most of the negative feelings for a while. After things settled, I began to think about it again and I found that I couldn’t get over her. She was in my head and under my skin and wasn’t leaving. In my mind, no other girl I’d dated or wanted to date came close to her and I’d leave nearly anyone to take her back.
For weeks, I’d been thinking about contacting her. Do I send her an anonymous bouquet of flowers? Do I send her a letter? Part of me hoped that she would watch my project and comment on that, opening the door for more conversation, but that never happened. Like I said, I got what I asked for and she left me alone.
And then I logged into Facebook again. It was within fifteen minutes of her changing her status to single and commenting that she’d thought he was different and wasn’t. I was floored. I didn’t expect her romance to end after only a few weeks. But what could I do? What could I say? If I suddenly swooped in and commented, that would have looked opportunistic and my credibility would be shattered. So I prayed for wisdom and I consulted with friends. I talked to women that could relate to how she might be feeling because they’d gone through similar situations. And I sang a lot of Sinatra. Yeah, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was stuck in my head.
The urgency to say something was mounting on my shoulders. Thoughts of what I could say or do consumed my thoughts. And then the most important thing began to happen: regret. For the first time, I began to fully regret having pushed her away. I had questioned it multiple times already, but now I realized that I had really made a mistake. And it was time to say something.
I sat down at the computer to compose an email. Nothing came out. This had to be real and authentic. It was still important to me that she didn’t think I just wanted to make an opportunity to get back together with her. And part of me still thought that I was justified because she was the one who picked the other guy. So, I sat there and stared at the screen until the right words could formulate.
I’m not sure how, but Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” popped into my head. I went onto YouTube and started playing the cheesy 80′s music video.
Turns out that this cheesy 80′s music video was exactly what I needed. It put me in the proper frame of mind to realize that I just needed to apologize and exactly what for. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it real. Within minutes, I had written the following few sentences:
I’ve been battling with myself the past few weeks, wondering if I handled the situation properly. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but what I felt I had to do to protect my own sanity. And I got what I asked for: you left me alone. Yet, I’ve regretted every day away from you. I am genuinely sorry for pushing you away. I was selfish and thought only of myself.
I know that you guys broke up recently, but this email was honestly a long time coming. I just didn’t man up enough to send it to you until now. I wish I could be there for you to make sure you are okay. You will continue to be mentioned in my prayers. Again, I’m sorry.
[Note: I find it ironic that I've written such a long blog post to discuss such a short email.]
Before I could talk myself out of it, I typed her name in the header field and hit send. No turning back now. I sighed, then began to cry a little. There was so much angst built up over the past six weeks and all of it was released in that very moment. I felt free.
You see, I needed to apologize as much for myself as for her. That’s why making amends is an important step of addiction recovery. Now that I’ve said my peace, I have the ability to move on and not be chained to the notion of “what if I never pushed her away?”
As of writing this post, I haven’t heard back from her yet. I hope I do. And I hope she forgives me. And yes, I hope that this may lead to us eventually getting back together, but I’m placing that part in God’s hands.
[Edit: I have now heard back from her and I've been forgiven. The rest? Well... time will tell.]
I’ve referenced apologizing like a man a few times here. I guess that I should bookend with that. While I am in no way an expert, I do believe that there are a few examples here that you can follow. First, while a face-to-face or telephone conversation would have been preferred, it wasn’t appropriate for this situation. Second, I admitted my wrong and kept to that without deflecting blame. A real man owns up to his mistakes and is sincere with every word he says. Third, I did not use this message as an opportunity. If she wants to begin communicating with me and letting me back into her life, she will do so with a reply. Like I said before: keep it short, keep it simple, keep it real. Do that and you, too, can be apologizing like a man in no time.