Dear Carolyn: I was married 27 years and am now 25 years into the second marriage. My first wife remarried before I did. While I was a steady provider and protector during my first marriage, nevertheless there must have been (were) incidents that were hurtful to and otherwise inflicted pain on her. Extramarital affairs were never an issue.
I wanted to write her and in a way "apologize" for any pain I might have caused, but this might be self-serving and really do nothing for the other party other than potentially inflict even more pain. Nevertheless I want to get closure for me and potentially for her even though I am not sure if she needs or wants it. What is the best approach and what are the best words for doing that?
A: If someone were to "in a way" quote-unquote apologize, then the passive voice would be the way to go. "There must have been incidents" incidents "that were hurtful" incidents that "inflicted pain." (Bad incidents! Bad!)
But if you want to take full responsibility and apologize for the pain you inflicted on your ex-wife, then arrange your words in the active voice: "I am sorry I hurt you. I know it might be self-serving of me to send this to you now, after so many years, and I don't want to inflict even more pain by getting in touch with you now. However, I wanted to apologize for what I did."
Don't contact your ex unless your decision is the result of careful consultation with your current wife. Any closure you get from one marriage won't be worth much if it comes at the cost of keeping secrets in another.
Fight the power issue
Dear Carolyn: I read that all relationships are about power and now I see it everywhere and in everything -- in my day-to-day dealings with my friends and my spouse. How can I become LESS conscious of this and get back closer to "live and let live" -- where I'm much happier?
A: Relationships are all about power when there's a power imbalance, when there's a controlling half, a timid half or both. See above, coincidentally.
When it's in balance, a relationship is free to be about the people in it. That's when each of you behaves roughly as you would alone -- not the activities, but in your tastes, mannerisms, hygiene/eating habits, moods, and attitudes toward responsibility. It's when you accept each other in that natural form. (And that, in turn, is when you know you've found someone good for you.)
If your marriage isn't already there, you can nudge it in that direction by making the conscious choice to be more accepting of your spouse/friends, and yourself, as-is, and watch the dynamic change.