i don’t wish you ill, exactly…

I recently read an article in which the writer, very thoughtfully and beautifully, wished 10 good things for her exes. Love, laughter, happiness, success… It was lovely. I can completely relate to these feelings, because I want only the best for my ex-husband, who I still sometimes miss and always wish well.

My ex-boyfriend, however… that’s another story. While I certainly don’t wish anything bad to happen to him, and while I do in a neutral way wish him well, I honestly don’t feel the same uplifting desire for blessings to fall upon his head. My divorce was longer ago, but not all that much longer ago. The difference isn’t in that I’ve had more time to heal, it’s in the relationships themselves, and the men themselves.

My ex-husband is a good person. He made some poor choices, but so did I. We failed each other, we fell apart, but were never anything but kind through it all. He never meant to hurt me, nor I him. Our breakup happened as a result of much bigger things, with only goodwill on either side.

That was not the case with the man I dated next. I’ll call him Shnook. He did NOT mean well. He was NOT kind or loving, not even when we were together. And the hurts he perpetrated on me weren’t a result of much bigger things, but were all part of a deliberate and ruthless agenda of manipulation, conditioning and abuse. If this sounds extreme, it is. Those who have had a sociopath as a partner and come out of it by the skin of their teeth will know that this isn’t an exaggeration. He was not good to me. I chose him, and I chose to stay with him, a truth almost harder to face after our relationship ended than his multitude of betrayals. I was ashamed and heartbroken and had to work very hard to forgive myself, while I also worked to forgive him, taking full accountability for my choices. At the same time, I was relieved beyond expression—am still relieved to this day—that I’m free of the toxic nightmare that was Shnook.

Now that I’ve forgiven Shnook and my life has moved on, immeasurably better than it was with him in it, I still can’t pretend to wish him “all good things.” I do, however, have a few wishes for him.

1) I hope that someday, in some way, you understand the sickening pain and heartbreak you put me and other women through. This doesn’t mean I hope he’s mistreated or taken advantage of, because I truly don’t. I just hope he can understand it, comprehending and feeling empathy for the kind of pain he inflicted. According to the sources I’ve read, sociopaths simply don’t feel empathy, that shared human compassion for others. If I could I’d give him this gift, Shnook might understand the boundaries he crossed and hurts he inflicted in a deeply personal and transformational way, and be a better person for it.

2) I hope you develop a conscience, and feel true regret for what you’ve done. People with covert manipulative personalities, narcissism, psychopathy or a variety of personality disorders don’t have consciences. They know right from wrong, they just don’t care. The rules don’t apply. So if Shnook felt true regret, and started experiencing the sting of a conscience the way the rest of us do, it would have undoubtedly painful but ultimately extremely positive consequences for his character—and be a reprieve for the people he might hurt in the future.

3) I hope that your actions have appropriate consequences. This isn’t about karma, though I do believe in it as it relates to universal balance. Less in the abstract, I would like Shnook’s actions to have real, tangible consequences that he can’t wriggle away from. I want him to be accountable. You steal, you get caught and prosecuted, or you make reparations. You betray, you have to own the betrayal and not make a single excuse for it. You abuse, the person you abuse presses charges or immediately drops you. I’d like him to stop getting away with everything—the opposite of the way I let him get away with so much when we were together.

4) I hope you get your act together for your kids’ sake. I’m not sure how he’d do this, because I never saw any indication of progress in this area, but if Shnook could possibly pull it together long enough to take responsibility for his actions and his life, then his daughters—by other women, not me—might have a dad they could be proud of. (Fortunately both of them have really great stepfathers, as this doesn’t seem likely.)

5) I hope that I never, ever, ever have to deal with you ever again. I know he’ll keep falling flat on his face and keep managing to somehow get back on his feet. Shnook is a survivor, an intelligent, perceptive one who can be charming and witty and even sweet. He’s going to manipulate more women after me, just as he manipulated many women before me. Since we have acquaintances and friends in common in a relatively small community, I’ll probably run across him at some point. I won’t panic and hide if that happens, I just have zero desire to connect with him in any way. I’m in no danger of getting caught up for one second in his drama and lies, but I’d rather not even have a conversation. It would actually give me a heady and twisted rush of pleasure to SHUT HIM DOWN if he tried to sell me a sob story, much less use me again, so this could be my most generous wish yet.

There is a middle ground in looking back at our exes, the ones who didn’t treat us as well as they could. We don’t have to hate them and dream of revenge—which is giving them way more power than they deserve, anyway. But even if we’ve forgiven them their trespasses and moved on, even if we’re good people with compassionate hearts, we don’t need to send a single gleam of light and love their way, either. Because I damn sure won’t be doing so anytime soon.

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