There I was, in a sometimes difficult but serviceable relationship of almost two years, with a terrific boy whom I loved (and still love) a lot. Then I went on a psychedelic desert trip and met another -- who inspired the kind of deep and abiding sentiment that, I thought romantically, I had been waiting for my whole life. I did not cheat on my sweet boyfriend. I was perfectly scrupulous.
I came home and, after three weeks or so of agony, realized that I had to cut Boyfriend loose, that I was harming both of us by maintaining what was fast becoming a charade. I ended it. I did not tell Boyfriend about the other man, rather invoked the problems we'd already had -- we didn't know how to give each other what we needed, that we spent a lot of time making each other crazy, that we were almost always really pissed at each other, and so on.
I tried to maintain a friendship with the ex -- a friendship that went south as soon as he found out about my new lover's existence. In the meantime, I moved to a new city and in with New Man, and the world shone on.
Some months later, New Man and I are to be married. It's not a matter of public record yet. I am thrilled. I told one friend back home, who, unfortunately, went and told everybody else. The ex found out and sent me an e-mail that might as well have contained virtual anthrax.
I hurt my poor ex so much, and although we didn't have the best relationship he did nothing to deserve it. I value him tremendously. News of my engagement must be making him feel just horrible. I care for him and want to make this right. I know I'm where I need to be, lovewise; my fiancé is the proverbial It. I also don't want Ex to hate me, nor do I want him to show up with a machete. What to do?
It Never Rains but It Pours
Dear Never Rains,
You can't control the feelings of your ex. Once you break up, your responsibility in that area ends. That's the great thing about breaking up. You don't have to care anymore. That's not to say you can be deliberately cruel. And that's not to say that you won't have spontaneous feelings of empathy, because it's human to have empathy. But going about your life, seeking happiness, that's not deliberately cruel. You're just going about your life. So do whatever you have to do, and just hope that your ex will get over it.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.