Have you lived, loved and learned, and reached the step where you want your ex, or maybe your ex's new partner, to know about it? Would you like complete strangers to know about it, too? Then the only next step is to publish an open letter to them on the Internet for millions to read detailing your humility. Here's how to go about this great idea: Don't.
But people are doing it anyway, and I'm not sure exactly what tipped the scales toward this trend of open letter writing to old loves. They could just… write the letter to the actual person and accomplish the same thing? I understand the impulse to clear things up or resolve wrongs or apologize after the fact, but publishing these direct, heartfelt, nutso-generous narratives for public consumption is a thing now—HuffPo even recently solicited these letters with the question, "What's the one thing you wish you could tell your ex?" Lately it seems I can't get through a day on the internet without another broken heart picking itself up, dusting itself off, and letting everyone with wifi know what they've been through via a letter addressed to a real person.
On the surface, these letters seem like courageous acts of humble pie, admitting wrongdoing, wishing the ex well, or even welcoming the new partner into the fold, particularly when there were children involved. In the age of talking it out, telling the story, spreading the word, maybe it seems like a really cathartic and healthy thing to do. As long as divorce and breakups exist, there will be millions of stories of love that didn't work out, and feasibly all voices in the matter can impart something of use.
And yet, closer reads of these letters reveal all sorts of little hidden agendas, most annoying of all is the tendency of the letter writer to lionize him or herself to the point of sainthood. The saccharine language, the over-the-top acceptance, the ridiculous well-wishing—are these people or saints? Can they mean what they're writing? And why do they always leave out the reason for the split, ostensibly the one detail that might best help the average reader understand the relationship's trajectory for context? This is about giving us all something to learn from, isn't it?
I can't decide which version of these things is more annoying: The open letters to ex-wives that seem so gracious, so humble, and so magnanimous that they actually read weirdly narcissistic, condescending, and self-obsessed, or the ones from ex-wives to the ex husband's new girlfriend, which sound so gracious, so humble, and so magnanimous as to not even seem REAL. Or there's the more honest approach, which I weirdly appreciate more for its can't-look-away thrill: Some ex-wives ask outright if the new woman is any good in bed.
People love 'em though, make no mistake, even the ones that come with backlash and accusations of selfishness, as Anthony D'Ambrosio learned after publishing an open letter to his ex in which he compared the relationship to Disney World, outlined the entire history, and said he wished he'd held his ex tighter.
People call these letters "emotionally honest," but are they? It's one account, and so throw-yourself-on-your-sword noble that it's hard to detect an actual human behind them. Hindsight's 20/20, and apparently so is sainthood.
I have questions:
Is this sort of thing modeling a healthier way to talk about splitting up?
Can spilling the details of your emotional pain online ever truly be considered taking the high road (asking for a friend)?
Or is this just a roundabout way to indulge in pathetic narcissism? You decide!
But more importantly, I have a guide. If you've got a letter to an ex to write, follow these steps:
That's what 39-year-old Tina Plantamura of Ocean Grove did when addressing the new woman in her ex-husband's life. Plantamura wrote:
You must be cringing as you read this. You must be thinking I'm going to school you on how to treat your new boyfriend. You must be thinking I'm going to lay down some laws about how to treat my children.
That is not at all what this letter is about.
I would like to welcome you.
Use a tone of aw-shucks, folksy self-deprecation.
Michael Cheshire did just that when he posted a letter to his ex of 20 years, writing:
You deserve an award for making it 20 years with a man like me. We both know I'm not easy to love. I'm beyond driven, don't sleep much, make jokes in every situation, and you could always count on me to misbehave.
Be super humble.
Candice Curry has us all beat on the humility game with her off-the-charts gratitude and goodwill toward her children's new stepmom.
I never wanted you here. You simply were never part of the plan. Growing up and dreaming of my family I never included you. I didn't want help from another woman to raise my child. The plan was for my family to include me, daddy and our children, not you. I doubt you ever wanted me in your life. I doubt you planned to mother a child that you didn't give birth to. I can bet that your plan for your family included you, daddy and your children together, not me or my daughter. I can almost bet that when you dreamed of becoming a mother it would be the day you gave birth and not the day you married your husband. I'm pretty sure you never planned on me being here.
And finally, publish.
Sit back and let the accolades flow. You may not have been the best partner, but you're the best letter-writing ex you could be. That's gotta count for something—right?