Can You Fix A Broken Relationship, Many Years After The Fact?

burn-bridges.jpgIs it a good idea to apologize to someone for some betrayal or hurt inflicted that you inflicted, many years prior?

If someone had really done me wrong, I would appreciate an apology, ten, twenty, thirty or more after the fact, provided it was clean. Clean, meaning that the person wants to express their regret without expectation. This is rarely the case.

Occasionally someone writes for advice about contacting a lover they dumped years ago. Invariably they’re alone and getting older. They claim to just want to apologize but it’s clear that conscious or otherwise the person would really like the dumped party to come back and love them again.

This is almost always a bad idea. The contact is rarely welcome and it seems unfair. It’s simple. If you like your bridges, then don’t burn them. If you do burn them, then deal with it.

When you deal someone a death blow and they manage to survive it; they may forgive you but most are not going to want to go another round, years later.  They’ve healed and they want to stay that way.

I think it’s telling, people may want to go back and apologize, but they almost never offer to make some type of reparation, even if they are in a position to do so.

Would you appreciate an apology ten or twenty years after the fact or would you prefer to let sleeping dogs lie? Can you see your preference in your chart?

67 thoughts on “Can You Fix A Broken Relationship, Many Years After The Fact?”

  1. I would appreciate an apology. But my intuition comes first, if I get a ‘huh, you’re just doing this to save your reputation’ then I will just decline their apology.

    I do realize some things are genuine misunderstandings and will forgive if I realize that I had misunderstood something you did, or there was misunderstandings on both ends.

    There are extreme situations where there’s nothing a person can do to repair the damage between me and them. And if 90% of the issues were with them? Do you think I truly want to rekindle a relationship with someone with so many issues? I might not even accept an apology from them, because accepting an apology from them will be almost like giving them too much rope!

  2. I agree with Satori and Choufleur. If I waited for an apology for that many years, I consider it unhealthy to my psychology and have already worked it out for myself to forgive (not necessariy forget). If they felt compelled to apologize, I would accept it with grace. It can be healing for both parties sometimes, but in general, I’d say it’s for the one who did the harm. Someone once told me, in AA for instance they have you apologize and make amends for harm you did, make amends, pay back any dues. It’s so you can start with a clean slate and face your false pride and bad behavior if you want to stop drinking. I’m sure some folks have things they want to apologize for that happened years ago and it might be startling to be on the other end suddenly!

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