I’ve written this letter several times, and I’m still struggling to get it right. I apologize. I apologize for hurting you, for destroying your world, stabbing you in the back, pulling the rug out from under you, making a fool of you, and failing to appreciate you. I don’t say “I’m sorry.” I am sorry. But, I don’t say that. I want you to know I’m not sorry I got caught. Instead, I apologize for what I did to you, and for what I failed to do for you. I apologize for breaking my marriage vows to you. I apologize for being a terrible friend, especially when you have always been the best friend and lover a man could want. I beg your forgiveness. I don’t expect it. The things I did are really unforgivable. Nonetheless, I beg your forgiveness.
I apologize for my selfishness, self-centeredness, and wallowing in self-pity, at your expense. I apologize for our original wedding night, when I selfishly decided to be alone and pout rather than help you care for your beloved dog. I made the story all about me. It should have been a wonderful entry in the story about us. Did you feel lonely, unsupported, unloved, and abandoned that night? I feel the tears welling up as I write this. I apologize for hurting you.
I apologize for my demanding impatience. I apologize for the time I yelled at you and embarrassed you in front of a friend, over a lost checkbook. I must have made you feel humiliated and afraid.
I apologize for bringing a demon into our bedroom. The demon was my sick obsessions, my insecurities, my insistence on comparing myself to you, to others, and to some sick, unrealistic ideal of masculinity I imagined. I went out without you, looking for ways to cheat. I demanded sex from you, in a senseless, selfish, unloving way. I cheated on you with porn, cybersex, meeting people online and then hooking up with them for real, having affairs, and seeing prostitutes. I made you feel nothing you did was good enough for me, in the bedroom, and in many other ways. I took the joy out of sex for you. I made it a scary chore, making you fear my insecurities and demands. I took a fun and beautiful thing that you deserved, and I ruined it for you. I apologize.
I apologize for making you fear sex with me, fear sharing fantasies, and feel ashamed or unwanted. You are the most beautiful woman in the world to me, and always have been. I denied you that free and joyful affirmation for so many years. I robbed you of the fun, free, and beautiful sexual and romantic life we could have shared. I made others feel they had that with me. It should have been a holy thing, meant only for the two of us to share. I desecrated it. I apologize.
I apologize for calling you hurtful names and addressing you from my drunken, angry, self-pitying pit of evil. I know that night, the one we both remember so well, made you feel hopeless. You were alone, ashamed of our marriage falling apart, and heartbroken. You deserved such better treatment, such greater respect from me. I apologize.
I apologize for making you afraid to be yourself. With my insecurities, I showed jealousy instead of pride when you showed your natural mechanical abilities, strength, creativity, and skill at games. I behaved like a selfish child, not a supportive friend and lover. I made you feel afraid and unappreciated. I made you fear being you. I apologize.
I apologize for not appreciating you, thanking you, and praising you. Time and time again, you sacrificed for us. You thought we were in the struggle together, trying to improve our lot, as a team. I took for granted all the instinctive, heartfelt, thoughtful, and loving support you gave me, from working at a place you hated to put me through graduate school to moving to disease-ridden, underdeveloped places in hopes that it would help my career. You set aside your own career and independent hopes and dreams in favor of hopes and dreams for us. Meanwhile, I let you down, thinking only about me; not counting my blessings, including the wonderful, caring sacrifices you made; and taking unfathomable, thoughtless risks that undermined the very goals for which you sacrificed. In my blind self-centeredness, I missed a thousand opportunities to lovingly praise you, publicly or privately, even in small ways, or even to thank you for all your work, courage, and selflessness. I apologize.
I apologize for failing to protect you, to proudly, confidently, and instinctively stand up for you in the face of my mother’s criticism and manipulation. I cowardly avoided conflict, protecting myself instead of quickly, firmly, even calmly putting my mother in her place. Did you feel abandoned, in addition to feeling unfairly judged and attacked? I apologize.
I apologize for my lies, to hide my corrupt thoughts and behaviors. Moreover, I apologize for not being honest, trusting, and emotionally intimate; for not confiding in you. How much of my downward spiral could I have prevented had I simply told you, right away, of my struggles with porn and masturbation? Even later, when I feared to confide in you about my struggles with tobacco, I denied you the intimate honesty you needed to feel safe and that I needed in order to be a safe partner. I apologize for that emotional cowardice.
I apologize for my intellectual arrogance, combined with intellectual and emotional laziness, that made me a poor listener and made me unproductive in my quest for mental health. I should have worked longer and harder in counseling 18 or 19 years ago when I first tried it. I should have worked sooner on it in recent years. I should continue to think twice, and then again, when I hear you, to be sure I have effectively listened to you. I apologize for not “doing the work” long, long ago.
I apologize for being a coward and a child in our bed, a coward for not taking the emotional risk of initiating physical intimacy between us, and a child for pouting, with the hopes of manipulating you into feeling sorry for me, foolishly believing that would persuade you to think more about “my needs.” I viewed our relationship as a means for meeting my needs. That got in the way of me actually loving you, regardless of needs. I apologize for not properly and truly loving you. Don’t get me wrong. I have always wanted you, admired you, and been infatuated with you. But, it wasn’t until after D-day that I learned to love anyone. I love you, and only you. I apologize for not doing so from day one. I apologize for making everything focus on my needs.
I apologize for humiliating you. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances possibly knew or suspected I was betraying you. Affair partners kept the dirty truth, right under your eyes. You even feel shocked and humiliated by yourself, for not calling me out on possible signs of infidelity. As much as my low self-esteem laid the foundation for my corrupt behavior, I have destroyed your self-esteem through humiliation. I robbed you of your dignity in that manner. How can we restore it? Can we make affair partners, witnesses, or others view you without the lens of humiliation and stolen dignity? Can they un-know what they know? Can they not believe what they instinctively believe? I don’t know. I apologize for humiliating you, robbing you of your dignity, and de-humanizing you. Just for being a human being, you deserved far better. Being my sworn mate, friend, and lover, I should have protected your honor, dignity, and humanity like priceless treasures. That’s what they are. I owe it to you to restore them. I pray that I can.
I also destroyed your sense of safety, your self-confidence, and even your trust in your own instincts. Always hyper-vigilant and never relaxed, you now question everything, not just my words and actions, but even your own. You wonder why you tolerate our continued relationship, when even you would describe my crimes against you as a deal-breaker. This makes you look poorly on yourself. I apologize for the self-doubt I created in you, the peace of mind I destroyed, and stealing the calm joy and optimism with which you once approached life.
I apologize for the stolen memories, the damaged memories, and the tainted history of our story. I took priceless heirlooms — your memories — and I spat on them, broke them, misplaced them, soiled them, and damaged them irreparably. Where you once remembered shared experiences, adventures, trips, special occasions, quiet moments, and intimate discussions, you now wonder whether any of it was real. You fear I was mentally with affair partners while physically with you. You feel like you were with a stranger, an imposter, when you thought you had been with your friend. You feel like you have no real past. Your fear makes you feel there is no future. That feels lonely, detached, and hopeless. I apologize for robbing you of what should have been so many beautiful memories.
I apologize for bringing strangers into our home, and into our bed. I stole your sanctuary and violated your home. I desecrated a safe and holy place. Safety is a most basic need. I apologize for tearing it away from you.
I apologize for squandering time, energy, and money that was ours, not mine, to save, use, or manage. Instead of spending time studying or working to better our condition — while you slaved away at hard jobs and then the thankless job of motherhood — I selfishly wasted the time on porn, prostitutes, and trysts. Instead of protecting our money with integrity, I wasted thousands on prostitutes and affair partners. I should have saved my energy for doing things with you and with our family. I should have spent my time arriving home earlier to see you. Instead, I exhausted myself and flushed that time down the toilet, out with prostitutes or affair partners or up in the middle of the night with porn.
Even now, it makes you feel cheated, like you wasted your time waiting for me. It makes you feel worthless, that I did not value and appreciate my time with you. I apologize for giving so much time, money, and energy to others, and to myself, when it was rightfully yours.
I apologize for making you feel I hoarded my sense of fun and spontaneity, giving it to others instead of giving it to you. You told yourself I was just a creature of routines, that I meant well but did not have spontaneity in me. Your heart sank when you learned that I did do things that appeared fun and spontaneous with others, before I ever did them with you. Trips, flowers, hotels, spas, and dinners appeared to effortlessly spring forth from my mind with affair partners, and never with you. As much as I try to explain that I did all those things with affair partners to manipulate them into giving me sex and validation, to you the effect was the same: they got a fun lover and you got nothing, you who deserved everything. Even now, years after D-day and my new path of loving you, still I fail to do things with you that I had not already done with others. Still I struggle to be spontaneous with you. Even if you could accept that those spontaneous moments are real though rare in our new relationship, it hurts that you got too little, too late. It feels like that injustice can never be righted. I know. I apologize for not reserving my plans and trips and activities for you and only you. I apologize for helping others steal what belonged to you. I love you so dearly. I apologize for creating a situation where you can never fully believe that.
I apologize for the risks I imposed on you. I exposed you and our children to the most dreadful diseases. I risked getting caught by others, thereby humiliating your even deeper than I did. In fact, I risked death, not only for you and me, but even for our children. I apologize for putting you through those risks, especially without your knowledge and consent. I had no right. A good man doesn’t even put himself through those risks. Only God can do that. But, to subject an innocent spouse and kids, even as they loved me so innocently, was an unmatched act of selfishness, self-centeredness, and indifference, again and again. I know you are shocked. You can’t get over the fear — the horror — that I could do that, that you did not know about it, and that you fear it could happen again. I apologize for risking your mind, body, and soul. They are yours, not mine. I honor them now, as I should have from day one.
I apologize for giving you herpes. Like so many of my risks, this one did result in consequences, for you, not just for me. It makes you angry, that even without me you would be left with this unhappy physical reminder of my hurtful behavior. It leaves you with a never ending reminder of my disregard for you. It leaves you with your own shame, though my doing, a shame that will last even beyond our time together. It is an unforgivable injury to you. I apologize for hurting you, disregarding you, and failing to protect you.
I apologize for gradually drifting away from you, mentally and emotionally. I became so oblivious to your feelings, your life, even your presence, that I stood by, numb and unaffected, as the maid, the one who was an affair partner, grew lazy, disobedient, and insolent, putting herself before you and our children. I drifted along, clueless as I disappointed you on your birthday and countless other special occasions. How easy it would have been for me to adjust my priorities, my focus, my love and attention, and be a bit later for work, come home a bit earlier, take time to meet you for lunch, or find any one of a thousand little ways to put you first, to be flexible, and to get the value equation right. And, how important it was. Toward the end, before D-day, I became so bad that we were just cohabitating, not living together as loving friends, intimately involved in each other’s lives. You felt lonely, and gradually that grew into resentment, hopelessness, and despair. I apologize for emotionally abandoning you.
I apologize for leaving you out of my intimate circle, building walls between us. The walls hid affair partners and lies. The secret life behind those walls should have been for you, not for others to see. You felt left out, lonely, and shut out. I apologize for living apart from you, emotionally, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with you and acting as a team.
I apologize for each lie, each cowardly failure to confide in you, each craven failure to defend and protect you, each betrayal, each stolen memory and squandered moment, each instance of working against us instead of for us, each precious right or privilege a wife deserves that I gave to others, each tear, each tremble of fear and despair, and each time your heart breaks.
TL, I am the most fortunate man in the world, to have such a wife as you. I strive to be a worthy husband. I apologize for doing that so little and so late. You are the aspect of life I most appreciate. Without you, nothing else would matter to me.
I apologize. I beg your forgiveness. If you can’t forgive me, I thank you for each moment, in the past, present, and hopefully the future. I will never forget to appreciate you. I love you. Thank you for waiting for me to learn how to love.
TL, I love you.