Savage Love Letter of the Day: Arms and the Man (Who Treated You Like Shit)

Comments

1
Letting sleeping dogs lie is the advice I've followed to an uneasy peace that beats the awkwardness I care not to engage nor even contemplate. I'd put that one in the rearview mirror bro . . . and then rip that f*cker off. Drive on.
2
Let a few years - like 20 - pass before considering rekindling the friendship portion of your relationship, if there is really any such thing between you.
3
Not a AM question, good.
Agree with Dan, write to the woman, and apologize for your behaviour. If you really grew to dislike her, not sure going on FB etc is necessary, your choice.
Just clear the bad behaviour, so you can move into your new life, free of that burden.
4
Maybe you can pick up the friendship at a later time, but leave her alone for the next few years while you get your things in order. You fucked up, don't possibly fuck up again.
5
I've never agreed with Dan's insistence that being friends with your exes is some kind of test you have to pass to be good relationship material.
It's a big world filled with new people to meet. I say learn what lessons you can, move on, and leave the past in the past.
6
"Others say that just because you don't love each other romantically anymore, it would be unforunate to throw away somebody you cared about and loved a lot. Importantly, our relationship did not end well. It ended horribly actually. And it was horrible for the last nine months of it. The longer we dated the more we grew apart and the less I liked her as a person. "

That you suddenly want to be bffs with her should be a warning sign that you haven't learned a goddamned thing here. Your friends are either not aware of how bad it got, not honest with you here, or legitimately bad judges of character. Stay the fuck away.
7
I can no more continue to defend Mr. Savage's callous mishandling of passive and active voice than I could go on defending his unconscionable cheerleading of keeping bi people in a freezer in your basement. Both are wrong and it's time Dan Savage retracted his troglodyte views on these subjects.

"That made things toxic" is active voice. The subject is "that" and it is what made things. When the sentence's subject is what is acting the verb, then it's active voice. It makes no difference if you replace "That" with "You" or "I" or "My double dong". Any noun or pronoun will do, it's still active voice. "Things were made toxic" is passive voice, because there is no noun in the sentence which did the making. Something made things toxic, but the sentence doesn't name that something in any way, and is hence passive. Passive voice is sometimes good writing, by the way.

The reason it's better to say "I made things toxic" is because "that made things toxic" is agency avoidance. Often -- but not always -- passive voice is the vehicle for agency avoidance: "Mistakes were made." Other times it just flows naturally: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." You can write a snappy active voice sentence that your sophomore English teacher will approve of, but still buries your own agency. Agency avoidance is a cousin to passive voice, but you have to mix metaphors to make the relation.

And, it goes without saying, I denounce the blatant bi erasure of Dan Savages reply to this fucking Army idiot.
8
Here's another vote for the 'learn your lesson; grow up and move on'. Do not contact her in any way. You guys split under bad conditions and you share nothing now - not friends, not a zip code, not even the same state from what you say. All you've got together is bad memories. Let it go. Move on.
9
If you're not likely to ever see an ex again, then just let it go. Going on and on about it is a bit too much like control freakery, to me. Clean break, never see each other, never interact on social media. Dan's proposed letter sounds like something you'd send to someone you can't quite let go, and that's manipulative. I hate crap like that. I want my exes to leave me the hell alone.
10
"...it was horrible for the last nine months of it. The longer we dated the more we grew apart and the less I liked her as a person."

YES! I can see why you are so eager to rekindle this relationship! Good God, man, stay the hell away for the next 10 years. Accept your part in this mess and resolve to do better next time. Accept that NOT ALL PEOPLE ARE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. To be trite, let it fly free - if it comes back to you, it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was.

You are suffering from an acute case of rose-colored glasses, and I prescribe a healthy dose of time, time, time. And most of all, get a new, healthy relationship to remind you of what you SHOULD be striving for. Don't wallow in the crappy past.
11
@7 good point re bi erasure.
12
@7 wait, should that be bi or lesbian erasure?
13
Jesus H. Christ people. What's wrong with attempting to be friends with someone? Especially someone you once loved?

Send the note and if she responds, great, if not, then ok move on, but go on and send it. Friends are good to have, even if there was bad blood in the past... Maybe she'd like to hear an apology. Making amends is a good thing. Asking forgiveness is a good thing. Running away and hoping everyone will just forget about it and move on is not the noble thing to do.
14
@7 FTW. Or should I say this thread was won by 7?
15
Please don't move to Oregon.
16
@7.... "I was an absolute prick to her" sounds like it was written by a man. I can't say it's common to hear a woman call herself a prick...nor a bi man call his boyfriend a "her". Read the letter very carefully before you blow up about bi-erasure.
17
@13, thank you! seriously, for fuck's sake, people, what is wrong with you? I was about to write just what Urgutha wrote and was baffled at all the other responses. LW, yes, it is okay for you to be a decent person and reach out to your ex with an apology. If you want people to never talk to again, start with the dimwit haters who regularly comment on post-2014 Slog.
18
@13 What is the friendship based on? They don't like each other. They have nothing in common. Things ended badly and the LW admits to being a toxic jerk. Why on Earth should these people be friends?

I agree #5 I dislike this belief that you're fundamentally broken if you're not BFF's with everyone you've ever dated. Yes you can be friends with an ex, and not all exes should be shunned like vampires, but as Captain Awkward says friendship needs to start organically. Because you like the same things and run in the same circles. It shouldn't happen because you want to prove you're not a jerk, or are trying to impress other people.

And #7 what the fuck do Bi people have to do with this letter? Being bi does not make you the center of the universe and you're not being 'erased' because people aren't constantly talking about you.
19
A rare instance where I disagree with Dan.

I have a former lover whom I'm still good friends with more than 20 years after we broke up. I know people who have had long and wonderful friendships with exes. I've generally been of the opinion that there's no reason to be an ass when you break up with someone. Just because you don't want to be in a romantic relationship doesn't mean you can't be friends.

That being said, this sounds beyond repair. I'm not quite sure why you want to be friends with her now. You say it ended very badly. You say you treated her badly. You say you won't even be in the same state as each other. It doesn't sound like there's much to build on there. Is it just guilt that is making you want to reform a friendship? Given the distance and the bad blood, I vote to just let this one go. Write a letter of apology if it will help you assuage some guilt, but I can't see why this would be worth the longshot trying to salvage a friendship out of. Make new friends when you get to Oregon. Start over. Do better next time.
20
I don't get why so many people are against being friends with exes. Most people pick partners based on more than simply romantic attraction; after the attraction is gone, those other appealing qualities likely remain. Even if the relationship ended poorly, these people had things they liked about each other. Sometimes all it takes to regain a degree of appreciation and respect for a person is being out of whatever bad circumstances you were in. And regardless of how prickish the LW was, it does take two people to maintain a toxic relationship for 9 months. One party may be more at fault for the toxicity, but both allowed it to continue. So long as they are both able to move past that, I don't see why they shouldn't remain friends.
22
The "let's be friends" crowd are wearing the same rose-colored glasses as the LW. No common friends and a toxic stew of a relationship just ended 6 months ago does not equal the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Say you're sorry, but let this one go.
23
@13: Way to encourage an abusive ex to seek out his target after she cut off all contact.
24
@9: "Going on and on about it is a bit too much like control freakery, to me."

I abused her, she dumped me, hates me, but someone somewhere said that it'd be a shame to lose all that time together. Just how quickly should I start contacting her again?!
25
I was in a similar relationship last year. I was involved with someone who treated me very badly toward the end of dating and things ended horribly. What helped me to move on was the fact that there was no contact between the two of us, especially contact as you're suggesting. An open letter like this can make the other feel upset and bring up emotions they've worked hard to move on from.

I don't feel you two need to be friends, even after the apology. This is for you also. Go enjoy your life because when you do so you will be a happy person and will find someone you are compatible with.
26
I've got exes I can be friends with, and exes who are toxic jerks that I want nothing more to do with ever again. That's the difference in this case. ARMS is not someone his ex wants to be friends with, and sending the letter is a continuation of the toxic jerk behavior that made her want to be his ex. Not his friend. His *ex*.
27
You don't have to worry about this question now. It sounds like you haven't fully processed what happened and how you feel about your ex. If you ultimately feel that she's a good person, despite the path of the relationship, and that she is someone you really want to be friends with, then it's worth it. If not, it isn't.

My own story: My late high school and early college girlfriend and I split up during my second year. Our relationship had not been good for the last year or so, after it became long distance, although it had been great when we'd lived across the street from each other in high school. Complicating matters, she'd already started seeing the guy who she ended up marrying.

I looked her up 13 years later, when I took a trip to the west coast. It felt like picking up from a stage where things had still been good, the only difference being that there was no longer romance. After that, I'd see her whenever I was in the Bay Area, and eventually, I met her husband, and now, three decades since we resumed our friendship, I've stayed twice with them when I've been in the Bay Area. they are truly wonderful friends.
28
I'm friends with most of my exes not only because we shared common interests beyond sex and romance but also precisely because we share a history sex and romance. We therefore saw each other at our most intimate, sometimes most scared, and were meeting each other's families and getting into more realms of each other's lives than most non-romantic friends ever do. So I find a friendship (sometimes after a cooling-off period) with an ex to be valuable to both of us - we are more knowledgable and insightful about each other and residual fondness and attraction are also positives. That said, I don't have a sense of such a mature friendship developing for this fairly shallow LW who had a train wreck of a relationship with this woman. I get more of a sense of (1) not wanting to be at fault and thinking a friendship cancels guilt for former dickwad-ness, and/or (2) wanting to get back into her pants.

And bi-erasure?!? LW sounds like a guy, writes like a guy, acts like a guy, and uses expressions about himself like a guy. For all we know, Dan saw an email address like "JohnWithTheBigDick@gmail.com" as, you know, kind of a clue. There are letters that are genderless (in the original or after Dan has stripped the identifying info). This isn't one of those.
29
@28: Women rarely refer to themseves as an "absolute prick".
30
Another vote to stay away. There's nothing in your letter that sounds like it makes any sense at all for you to be acquainted in any way. You have treated her poorly and the best gift you can give her is to leave her alone forever.
31
@20: @27: All these posts describe whether or not the abused ex can provide value to the abuser.

This childish compulsion to befriend the ex no matter what happened is bizarre, if it ended VERY badly, a few months is a horrible time period to force your presence on someone who asked you to leave her life and leave her alone.
32
nothing wrong with sending the note - apologizing, taking responsibility, and wishing her the best. Worst case is she doesn't respond, but at least you know you did what you could.
33
Writing a letter to apologize, is a way to move on. Especially if the LW hasn't acknowledged to the ex, that he realizes he was a jerk.
It would help her let go of left over anger at him.. No death stares thru the airways. It would help him grow up.
34
She broke up with YOU lw. It is not your place to offer your friendship. If you have to ask an advice columnist for permission.... you probably already know the answer..... let it go. These choices aren't permanent anyway. Give it time...and if you cross paths... you can see what it means at that point.

as far as sending a letter of apology... go for it. Just don't add that you'd like to be friends, etc. Make it an actual apology. No strings attached.
35
LW doesn't say, but I wonder whether this was his first long-term romantic and sexual relationship. That seems like the most likely reason he would want to continue a friendship with someone who: (1) lives far away, (2) he shares no common friends, (3) he is unlikely to see in the future, (4) he stopped liking as a person, (5) he treated badly, and (6) had a bad breakup.

Sometimes we have intimate relationships with people, and in the process we discover the relationship isn't right for us, or they discover that the relationship isn't right for them. Understandably, there can be some psychic dissonance when you exit a relationship in which you engaged intimately with someone. Love and sex are heady things, and being nothing to that person thereafter can seem empty; but being friends isn't necessarily the right outcome at the end of every relationship, and this sounds like such a case.

LW mourn the end of your relationship. When you get out of the army, move to where ever you'll be happy, start dating someone new, and try using what you learned from this experience in your next relationship.
36
Please, people. The letter is selfish and 100% for the LW, it will not help the ex who has asked him to leave her life. If he wants to write it to make him feel like less of a cad, he can do so and throw it directly into the garbage.
37
@7 Eternal gratitude exists for your explanation of active and passive voice. But is it really so wrong to keep bi people in the freezer in your basement?
38
@21 I think what people are deliberately misunderstanding is not a condemnation of friendship between ex's but that this particular LW can't be friends with the particular ex, for reasons ranging from his horrible behavior, to them just not having anything in common.

This doesn't mean that all friendship between ex's should be banned only in this case he should listen to the song and Let It Go.
39
@38: I think he needs to listen to the Kimbra lyrics from Somebody that I used to know, and less of Gotye's.
40
Let's not get on Dan for bi-erasure. He has information from the letter writers that don't make it into the column, such as the person's name, email, and location. Women tend not to refer to themselves as pricks. If it were an military woman, she'd have said she acted like a bitch or maybe like an asshole (which is gender neutral). Assuming the LW is a man isn't bi-erasure but reading between the lines.

As for you, ARMS, if you grew to dislike this woman as a person, why the fuck do you want to be friends with her? If you feel she made you be someone you weren't, why do you want contact with her? That said, provided she didn't tell you never to contact her again, I don't suppose there's any great harm in writing a letter of apology that you treated her so terribly as long as you take the blame for what you did. But if the breakup was that bad, don't be surprised or upset if she never wants to talk to you again.
41
Just FYI for all the people who are sure that the LW is a dude because of the prick thing: I have several butch lesbian friends and exes, as well as my current partner, who frequently refer to themselves as dicks when discussing some mild or serious thing they've done wrong.
42
I assumed LW was a dude because Dan called this "ARMS and the *MAN* (who treated you like shit)".
43
@41 - dick and prick are too words. Once upon a time, 'asshole' was almost always a dude too... and i agree that "dick" has become unisex.... even though "pussy" is more often used on a guy. Our language gets confusing...doesn't it? haha. shoot.
44
hmmm... edit 43 - two "different" words.
45
@42: Dan is also privy to private information we're not.
46
LW, this relationship is over. You should not try to turn it into a friendship. You can remember the good times, but you screwed up big time and you need to let go - for her sake even more than for yours.

There is only one reason to write a formal letter of apology, and that is to make her feel better. If the conditions in Dan's exceptions paragraph do NOT apply, you can make a formal apology. By formal, I mean do not use phrases like "I was a prick" or "I treated you like shit". Keep it simple and to the point - say, for example, "I am very sorry for all the pain I caused you with all the cruel things I said and did." Do not mention specific incidents, as that is likely to open old wounds that are beginning to heal. Do not ask for, or even hint at, forgiveness. Let her know that you will not contact her again, and because of all the pain you caused her, you will not look for a reply. That's it.

Do not invite her to follow you on any social media. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

If any of the conditions in Dan's exceptions paragraph DO apply, write the letter and then burn it and let it go.
47
Yeah.... I would wait at least another year. Maybe more like five years. Or more. I'm not exaggerating. I was in a long-distance relationship from age 15-21 that was toxic in a lot of ways, and ended badly. It's been almost 8 years since I left and we *still* can barely talk without fighting. Every time I talk to him it's like a swirling maelstrom of horribleness. You don't want to get sucked back in.
49
I wonder how long the relationship was, as that might have bearing on the advice. The 'last 9 months' of an 18-month-long relationship is very different from the 'last 9 months' of a six-year-long relationship.

For the reasons David in Kenai lays out in the first paragraph at 28, the longer the successful part of the relationship was, the more value a future friendship *might* have. But if there was abuse involved, then no - apologize without expectations of forgiveness or contact, and leave your ex alone.
50
I have received "apology" letters from past partners that were abusive to me. It has always given me the creeps and made me feel like their underlying message has been that they can still insert themselves in my life and don't respect that I broke up with them.

On the other hand, I have an almost 30 year old friendship with an ex who was not abusive. In fact I was his "Best Person" at his wedding.

LW, please don't move to Oregon.
51
I just wanted to chime in with (1) appreciation for @7's cogent explanation of the difference between active and passive voice, and simultaneously, (2) utter bafflement at 7's unhinged ravings about bi-erasure.

How many times has Dan posted letters while redacting pertinent details (such as the sender's name)? He knows more about the identities of these letter-writers than we do. You're making an enormous logical leap--and then, mid-leap, using your assumptions as a platform from which to launch nasty (and in the world of this metaphor, literally groundless) accusations. If you're intent on attacking Dan, maybe wait until you can attack him for something other than a scenario you've concocted out of whole cloth.
52
@51: I thought the "keeping in the freezer" was a joke. If they weren't kidding, yeah. That is a bit unhinged.
53
The bigger question isn't is the LW really a man, it's was Dan making a joke about the play by Shaw, or the poem by Virgil? Enquiring minds want to know!