DEAR HARRIETTE: I was married to my ex-husband for 16 years. I divorced him after years of being taken for granted. We remained friends for the last three years. Recently, my boyfriend broke up with me and kicked me out of his house. My ex-husband was there to help me find an apartment and get back on my feet. He has been there for me ever since.
He tells me he still loves me and wants to work on a relationship. I know he has not dated anyone since our divorce. He tells me that he could never get past me.
I have tried to date him, but I don't know if I can ever get back those feelings for him. I enjoy being his friend and doing things together like we used to. I will always love him, but I don't know if I could ever fall back in love with him. I don't know what to do. -- Confused, West Virginia
DEAR CONFUSED: I wonder if you and your ex-husband can find satisfaction in simply being good friends?
Rather than succumbing to any real or imagined pressure from him about re-establishing an intimate bond, tell him that you appreciate his friendship tremendously. Thank him for rescuing you after your breakup. Tell him that you realize the two of you are truly friends and that you would like to remain friends with him.
Before you finish this important conversation, tell him directly that you are not interested in becoming intimate again. Ask if he thinks he can honor this request. Both of you have to agree to this for it to work. I recommend revisiting your feelings over time.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Please emphasize (to the reader who can't stop holding a grudge) that forgiveness is not yielding, nor is it condoning or permitting abuse to recur.
Yes, there is every benefit to shedding the anguish of innocent damage. Planning punishment and revenge, and suffering lost sleep over the agony of frustration and hurt, seems the perfect plan for developing a peptic ulcer. -- Doc, Chicago
DEAR DOC: You are making such an important point. Under no circumstances is it healthy to hold a grudge. As tough as forgiveness can be, it is liberating.
A coach I respect tremendously, Pat Ward (www.patwardconsulting.com), speaks a lot about creating space in your life to be able to think clearly and make healthy choices. She is a big fan of practicing forgiveness, in large part because it allows you to take actions in your life free of the stress that can easily lead you to make limited decisions for yourself.
I am a big fan of letting go of anything that will cause you to lose sleep and fret over things that you cannot control. Actively practicing forgiveness can make it possible for you to become unbound by feelings that previously crippled you. It's definitely worth the effort.