Life

Ask Fiona: Should I apologise to my ex for past behaviour?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice to a man feeling guilty about a past relationship and a young woman who is unhappy living in her grandmother's old house...

You might re-open old wounds for your ex-girlfriend
By Fiona Caine, PA

I WENT to a university reunion last month and met up with some people I hadn't seen for 30 years. My ex-girlfriend wasn't there, which may have been a good thing. We were together for two years and, at the time, were very much in love. It was our first real love and we made all sorts of plans together.

The problem is, I treated her really badly. I was very jealous whenever she was around other boys, yet didn't think twice about how she might feel when I was out partying with other girls. It was stupid, juvenile behaviour and I am embarrassed when I think about it. When we broke up, it was very painful for both of us, and I behaved immaturely by simply walking out and leaving her.

We haven't seen or spoken to each other since, but I realized a few years after university that I still loved her. I had been a complete idiot and thrown away a chance of a life with probably the kindest, most loving and fun person I have ever met. I haven't been alone though. The hurt did eventually fade and I did get married. I have a wonderful wife and two children that I love to bits.

Anyway, after the university event, the organiser posted a group chat to thank everyone and suggest another get-together. In amongst all the contact details was my ex-girlfriend's phone number. She's clearly married now but I know nothing more than that. Should I make contact and apologise for my behaviour all those years ago? I have no intention of trying to start a relationship again, I am very happy in my life.

I still feel guilty though about what I did, and part of me knows I should say I sorry. However, I don't want to create any problems for my ex-girlfriend. I am also a little afraid of the sort of response I might get if I do make contact. I just don't know what to do for the best, especially as there is a possibility that we might meet up at a future event.

JL

FIONA SAYS: It's not clear from your letter what you mean by ‘partying with girls'. If drinking and dancing were all that happened, then I'd say that 30 years is a long time to be carrying guilt about this. Yes, it was probably thoughtless and a bit hurtful, however, you were probably no worse than many other 19-year-olds. At that stage in life, and suddenly finding themselves with a much greater degree of personal freedom than they've been used to, all kinds of silly things happen.

So, before you do anything else, please try to forgive yourself.

Yes, you were an idiot, but so are a great many other young people, and I imagine your ex-girlfriend recovered in time and probably hasn't given you too much further thought. You say you ‘know' you should say sorry, but you should have done that 30 years ago; now it's only a case of ‘thinking' you should. So, what would an apology really achieve now, other than easing your own conscience?

You might re-open old wounds for her, which would be hurtful. You might embarrass her if she's now happily married. Worse, if she's unhappily married, you might raise false hopes and ideas – as you say you now love your wife, your life, and your family and have no intention of leaving them.

If you feel you must do something, then perhaps send a brief, light-hearted text message rather than calling and putting her on the spot. She may still react badly to your approach, though it's hard to see why she would having allowed her contact details to be included in circulars. Either way, you will at least have cleared the air, making any future reunions that much easier – for you, at any rate.

INHERITING A HOUSE CAUSING SO MUCH STRESS

LAST summer, my grandma died and left a property. As I was unable to get a mortgage on the house (bad credit history), my Mum did instead, so technically it belongs to her. She agreed I could move into the house, on the understanding that I pay the mortgage instalments to her. But I'm not sure things are going to work out.

The house is still full of my grandma's belongings and there is no room for my stuff. My mum is also incredibly fussy – she cleans the house constantly (she visits once a week) and rearranges what stuff I do have. At times, she treats me like I am a child, so I feel insecure and on edge during the day. I am also worried that we are heading for a big argument, and I will then have to move out, perhaps leaving me homeless.

I feel I should move out asap and get back to my flat (which was rented). But this will mean my mum will be left with the mortgage to pay (it's over 10 years).

It will also destroy my relationship with my mother – in some ways I feel that she will never forgive me if I move out. Should I just give it more time? The only way I feel I could live in the house is if my Mum backs down somewhat.

AB

FIONA SAYS: I am sorry for the loss of your grandma, and for the fact that you are so upset about living in what was once her home. Hard as it may seem, you really need to share these concerns with your mother – and soon. The more you bottle-up these feelings, the more likely this is to bring about the big argument you fear.

Try not to be confrontational, but instead explain calmly that you are struggling to be happy in the house because there is no room for your belongings. Don't make too much of the cleaning issue, she may simply think she is helping you.

Instead, suggest that maybe it's time for some of your grandma's things to be removed, so that you can have some space that feels like your own.

Even though it's been a year since your grandma's death, be aware that your mother may still be grieving. And parting with her things may be difficult for her, so stress that you loved and miss your grandma too. Show her that you can have a ‘grown up' conversation about these issues, and I am sure a compromise can be reached that makes the situation more tolerable for both of you.

Finally, I can't advise on legal issues, but I think you do need to clarify the exact ownership of the house. It's not clear from your letter whether it was left to you both or just to you, so I suggest you contact Citizens' Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) as this has repercussions on the mortgage liability. They will probably need to see a copy of the will, if one was made, as well as the mortgage agreement. Readers in Scotland can contact cas.org.uk or call 0800 028 1456.

I WANT A BABY BUT DON'T WANT A PARTNER

I AM 33 next year and really want a baby. I am not in a relationship, and can't see one on the horizon, as I value my personal time and space. In fact, the only way I can see myself doing this is to find a man and get pregnant without telling him.

Money isn't a problem for me, and I own my own house and have a good job.

I have much to be thankful for in my life. I'm financially secure and in good health, but I know I can't be happy until I have my own child. I've read about women who have done this and I'm sure I can too. All I really need to know is how to find a man.

LR

FIONA SAYS: I would not give you guidance on how to use a man this way, as it's fundamentally unfair and risky. I am also concerned that you seem to be investing all your personal fulfilment in a baby, placing a burden on that child before it's even born.

Furthermore, I receive many letters from single mums about how hard it is to raise a child alone, and it's not just a financial issue, although money obviously helps. There are huge emotional and physical responsibilities as well. Also, the need to be constantly aware of the needs of someone else will almost certainly impact the personal freedom you value so highly.

If you are determined to go ahead though, please consider sperm donation through a reputable donor agency. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website (hfea.gov.uk) can help you through this process. It also has a useful information section for single women.

You could also consider fostering or adoption; there are many children in desperate need of a stable placement. You could potentially start with a short-term placement, which would help you to decide whether parenting is really for you. Your local Social Services would be able to advise you.

SHOULD I GO ON A HOLIDAY I CAN'T REALLY AFFORD?

I HAVE very little money to spare, but some friends have asked me to join them on a last-minute holiday abroad. I would really like to go but it would take up all my savings. I just can't decide if I need to keep my money, or spend it on enjoying something I haven't had a chance to do for a long time.

Some of my friends say I should go for it, and others say I ought to keep my money for an emergency. Can you help me decide?

AT

FIONA SAYS: I can't decide for you, and neither can anyone else, including your friends. So take a step back and listen to yourself. You are obviously a cautious person, otherwise you wouldn't be so undecided. This indicates that perhaps you're more comfortable keeping a financial security cushion in place. However, only you can know how big you need that cushion to be right now.

That doesn't necessarily mean you can't have a holiday at all. You could talk to your bank about your needs and perhaps set up a savings scheme – it's a compromise that may suit you. You could consider taking out a loan for this holiday, with the knowledge that you'll plan to pay it back within a fixed period (but think very careful before borrowing money). With financial plans in place, you might feel more confident about spending a little every now and then, knowing you have a plan in place to replace the money in due course and keep growing your savings.

If this isn't an extravagant holiday, it could be a good thing to have a break to recharge your batteries, which could give you renewed energy to find ways of boosting your savings. Your accounts aren't the only thing you need to keep in balance remember, your physical and mental health are important too. But if it is really unaffordable and spending the money will make you anxious, please don't feel bad about being honest with your friends. Perhaps you could suggest a cheaper get-away together? The bottom line is, only you can decide.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Life