I got divorced 10 years ago and remarried 8 years ago. I find myself still grieving about my first marriage and it interferes with my current marriage emotionally.
Should I write a letter of apology to my ex-wife? I find myself living with a lot of regret to the point that I want to leave my current marriage, not to remarry my ex but I feel remorseful about my lack of love for her when we were married.
We are not prophets, but that doesn’t mean that in certain scenarios we don’t see the future very clearly. Here is our prediction about exactly what will happen if you continue living by doing what your heart is tugging you towards (which we sincerely hope you do not do). Our prediction is that you will end up writing a similar letter to your second wife and being filled with similar recriminations about ruining your second marriage after it, too, ends in divorce.
Since you took the trouble to write to us, we’re assuming you want the terrible truth rather than a warm butter massage. We will pay you the respect of telling you this truth.
What can you do to change the disastrous direction of your life? There is no alternative.You must perform a major reset. We’re sorry to speak harshly, but you are not behaving like a man. You have been allowing your emotions to run your life. Your heart has been in charge instead of your head. You have been treating your feelings as if they are the captain of the ship of your life. With considerable confidence, we’d guess that your feelings-driven life path contributed to the demise of your first marriage.
It’s reset time. From now onwards, your head is in charge and if your thoughtful purposeful constructive decisions clash with your feelings (as they will for the first few months of the new you) just banish your feelings. That’s right. Get rid of them. We’re not interested in your feelings. It is true that for in the normal course of things, feelings should play a role. However, you have been so far over to the feeling end of the spectrum that you need a few months of head-only training to resume normality.
Start doing whatever is necessary to invest fully in your current marriage. The feelings driving you to write a letter to your ex-wife is only about making you feel better. You’re not even asking yourself what might be the insalubrious effect of such a letter on her. Again, this is all about your feelings. Please stop it!
You need to focus less on what you feel and more on how you speak and act. You must consistently and constantly show your current wife that you treasure her and love her – even if your emotions are not yet fully on board. Make opportunities to express to your wife your unwavering commitment to her. It is important that your ears hear your mouth making these declarations.
Emotions will follow actions; life turns calamitous when we allow our actions to follow our emotions.
What do you think happens in the military when a recruit decides he doesn’t feel like getting up in the morning or making his bed or going for a run? Too bad. He has to do it anyway. You signed up for a marriage and you had better start fulfilling the terms of the covenant to which you agreed.
There is a bonus to behaving properly. As we have explained, your feelings will begin to conform to your actions. At the same time, make yourself shut down all thoughts of your past marriage. We can’t always control what pops into our heads, but we don’t have to let those thoughts remain in residence. Exerting control over yourself is the best way for dealing with destructive instincts. Some pessimistically always expect the worst, others gravitate to pornography, while yet others have a short fuse and regularly lose their tempers. No matter. We are not animals who must follow instinct. We are human beings who can exert control. And must do so.
Steve, this is not an instant process nor an easy one but you must start on this immediately if not sooner! From our careful reading of your letter, we have faith that you can master this.
Good times in your marriage forever.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin