I’m going to see my ex at a friend’s wedding. Should I try to make peace?

19/feb/2016 07.39.26 stylecaster Contatta l'autore

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The question

I left my partner of eight years for another man. Our breakup was amicable at first but last year he sent me a scathing e-mail; he was still angry and hurt, he thought I was a terrible person and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with me ever again. I didn’t reply and respected his wish for zero communication between us. I’m going to be best man at my best friend’s wedding in April. My ex is also going to be there and the wedding is going to be intimate and small. I don’t want to ask my friend to broker a truce – it’s not his problem. I’m also anxious and don’t want there to be a scene. Do I break my ex’s need for silence and try to make peace with him before the wedding? Ignore him altogether? Looking for protocol on all this.

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The answer

I’m going to play a card I find I often have to in this column: Do as I say, not as I do.

Last time I was at the same wedding as an angry ex, I would have to describe my own behaviour as … less than ideal.

The ex I’d lived with for years in New York, someone I’d thought I might marry, was flying to Canada for a mutual friend’s wedding.

Our breakup was fairly fresh, and we were both, I think, still perplexed by it. And she had her “we need to talk” face on, a face I knew well.

And during the course of the weekend-long festivities, I meant to find a quiet corner, take her aside, rehash all the things that went wrong and apologize profusely. I really did. But …

One of the other guests, a friend of the bride, was very attractive – she was, among other things, a lingerie/swimsuit model – and I was tractor-beamed by her beauty-rays right from the start. She Kryptonized me. She hypnotized me. It was one of those cases in which the pheromones were so thick you could cut them with a knife (like a wedding cake), and everyone in the vicinity knew where the two of us would end up after the reception.

To make a long story short, my ex was so disgusted by the ensuing display, and the ill-disguised postcoital glow this woman and I exuded at brunch the next day, she never spoke to me again.

So, don’t be like that. Obviously. Here’s what I think you should do:

Reach out to him between now and the wedding. See if he’s willing to get together. Have a drink. Smoke a peace pipe. You don’t mention whether you have kids, but if you do it would be an excellent reason to bury the hatchet right there.

But also it’s no good for anyone to carry around the psychic burden of hating and/or being hated. You could use the upcoming wedding as an excuse to get things back on track again.

If he attempts to zing you during this encounter, don’t take the bait. Remember it was you who left, and for someone else: That’s bound to hurt, and be embarrassing and/or emasculating as well. Be the better person: Rise above whatever thunderbolts he might hurl your way.

If, however, a) you do meet and it doesn’t end well, or b) he harshly rebuffs your invitation (sounds like the most likely scenario) to get together, here are a few tips for comporting yourself at the wedding proper.

1. Don’t get too inebriated. Pouring alcohol down your throat is like pouring gasoline – or, frankly, alcohol – on a potentially incendiary situation.

2. Avoid him as much as possible. You asked about “protocol.” All protocol for wedding guests revolves around a single guiding principle: It’s not about you, this day belongs to the couple getting married, therefore the less drama, baggage and problems you bring, the better.

Don’t be conspicuous about it, that’s also potentially inflammatory – be kind and polite, but in the words of Swizz Beatz, “Don’t start nothing, it won’t be nothing.”

And, for God’s sake:

3. No canoodling a.k.a. snogging a.k.a. kissy-face with your new beau. That’s just unnecessarily sticking the shiv in your ex. Save it for when you get home.

They say manners are rooted in “attempting to imagine the feelings of others,” i.e. a codification of human empathy. Try to imagine how your ex feels, how the couple getting married might feel if you and your ex cause a scene, and conduct yourself accordingly, and everything should work out fine.

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