We all have an ex we wish we could just give a piece of our minds to. But should we? As we are about to see, it's not always a good idea.
I (33M) Confronted an ex (31F) during a high school reunion and don't feel good about it
I recently attended my 15-year high school reunion in my home town. I don't make back home very often, even though it is only an hour or so away from where I currently live. I still have good friends that live there so I was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and reminiscing over a few drinks. My wife and I booked a hotel so that we could enjoy an evening away without worrying about driving anywhere.
The actual reunion festivities were OK, yearbooks, games, and cocktails and snacks, etc. I saw some old friends, laughed, saw people I hadn't seen in years...all the things a reunion is for. After a couple hours the party moved to the local bars where my night took a turn. At the first bar we arrived at I noticed that my ex-gf from high school was there. Here's a little background on my relationship with her.
We started dating my senior year, she was a junior. It was my first real relationship, definitely not so for her. We broke up numerous times during a 8-month period. She would break up with me and then have sex with one of her exes within a couple days, then come crying back to me saying she made a mistake. I was so naive I took her back. I later found out she did this so she could claim she never technically cheated on me. She would throw parties at her parents place and not invite me but invite her exes. Then she would gaslight me and tell me she never had a party and her exes weren't even there. I was so young and stupid and new at relationships I didn't know any better. She would lie to me about where she was and who she was with all the time, and when I confronted her she would tell me I was crazy. Shortly before I graduated, one of her friends pulled me aside at a party, saying she had to tell me something. She confessed that my EX had been purposely playing games with me for the entire relationship.
My EX knew I had never had a GF before and she thought it would be fun to see how much she could get away with in a relationship, true sociopath shit. I broke up with her the next day and pretty much cut contact completely. She tried to contact me when I was in college and I was at least civil with her, but never confronted her about everything I knew she had done during our relationship. Anyway, this whole ordeal gave me severe trust issues that took me years to overcome and cost me a lot of friendships and relationships along the way as I dealt with the issues my relationship with my ex caused. Eventually, I met my wonderful wife and I am the happiest I have ever been.
Back to the reunion. I hadn't seen my ex in at least 5-years, we'd both since married. I made no effort to approach her and sat at a table with my wife and some friends. When my ex noticed me, she approached our table and started talking with us, she had clearly been drinking more than we had. After a few minutes she asked me for a hug, which I declined. I told her it was good to see her, but that I simply wanted to enjoy an evening with old friends. She got pissed, called me a few names, and said she's more than an old friend, we were more than friends. All those years of pent-up feelings finally came flowing out of my mouth. I calmly told her that no, we are not old friends, and we are not current friends. I then went through everything she had done to me. The lying, the cheating, the gaslighting, the manipulation. I told her that I knew she played games with me on purpose, that she pushed me to see what she could get away with. I didn't raise my voice, I didn't insult my ex, or call her names.
Everything I said was very matter-of-fact and straightforward. The jaws of everyone at the table were on the floor. No one except my wife had heard me talk about these things before. My friends were shocked, my ex was on the verge of tears, and my wife held my hand tight under the table. I ended by telling my EX that again, it was good to see her, but we are enjoying a private conversation over a few drinks and she left our table. We finished our drinks and decided to go to a different bar.
Shortly after we arrived at the new bar, a man I didn't know angrily approached me and demanded that I apologize for insulting his wife. He was my exes husband, who I had never met before. Apparently my ex went back to him in tears, crying that I had called her a crude name for a female dog and a synonym for a woman of ill-repute. I explained to him what happened, backed up by the rest of the people at the table. I told him I was sorry his wife was upset, but that I had never called her any names or insulted her in any way and that I simply wanted to enjoy the rest of my night. He eventually left when it was clear I was not going to apologize. Shortly after, a group of my exes friends came into the same bar as us, and they too confronted me about being an *ss-hole. I decided I had enough of this small-town, high school drama bullsh*t and my wife and I left and went to our hotel.
On our way home, my wife told me she was proud of me for confronting my ex like that and that she hoped it was a cathartic experience. I don't really feel like that. I'm not proud, I'm not glad I got this stuff off my chest, I'm not happy I had a chance to confront my ex. Yes, her actions had a negative impact on my life for a long time, but everything she did to me led me to become the man I am and have the life I live.
Was it wrong of me to unload 15-years worth of pent-up emotional damage on an unsuspecting ex? Should I have just given her the hug she asked for and went our separate ways? I can't help but feel guilty for some reason, like I caused unnecessary hurt on a person who just wanted a hug. Should I have kept my mouth shut?
TL:DR: Confronted an EX during a high school reunion with my long list of grievances when all she wanted was a hug and I don't really feel good about it at all.
Here was some of the advice he got.
She didn't just want a hug - she wanted validation for treating you like shit when you were younger. You are oversimplifying her motives and trying to ascribe innocent-ish motives to someone who just didn't have them. Hell, given her track record, it's not impossible that she was having issues with her husband and wanted to use you to get back at him.
You didn't approach her and you gave your ex ample opportunity to leave the situation. She cornered you and you reacted accordingly.
I'm glad your wife is so supportive of you. Sounds like high school reunions should be a skip for you from now on.
There are good reasons why I don't go to my hs reunions. Not worth stirring up old, kiddo-times drama that has no real bearing on everyone's actual lives anymore.
No it was not wrong for you to say something. She's the one who approached you and tried to rewrite her own history and you just corrected her.
No you shouldn't have just hugged her. You didn't want to and that is completely normal and okay. Of course you wouldn't want to hug some nut case who had been so cruel to you.
I support what you did. You stood up for yourself when confronted. I think it's a good thing.
Dude, you did exactly what everyone that's ever been wronged by a partner has wanted to legally do. You don't have to be proud of it, but I honestly think that, in the end, this experience will have a positive effect on your life and maybe the lives of others.
You were amazing. Your wife is amazing.
You feel badly about it BECAUSE YOU'RE SUCH A GOOD PERSON, and you had to deal with no-good people. But the truth needed to be out there for all to see. You shined the light where it was dark. It leaves a weird taste in your mouth because it is unpleasant dealing with bad people, not because you did the wrong thing.
You should not have hugged her because you did not want to hug her. You politely declined the hug and she then essential asked you to justify why you were not willing to hug her.
Could you have been nicer? Probably. Could you have left some things out and simply say, "I don't see it that way, I am not interested in reliving the past with you and am only interested in spending time with the people at my table"? Yeah, but you still would have been a jerk in her mind for not hugging her.
But what you did is not terrible and you are not a monster who inflicted mental anguish on someone. Most likely she is drunk and cried to her husband and anyone who listened and they confirmed that you are an jerk (even though from your side you are not) and she feels vindicated.
I would spend zero time worrying about this she is fine, your wife is amazing and you sound like you are a compassionate and loving husband.
You tried to politely let her know you weren't interested in interacting with her and she got childish about it. Confronting implies you started it, you didn't. And I know it's childish to point out who started it, but I think it's significant here. You were polite, she started name-calling you and saying you're her friend because she wanted validation from you, like it's still your responsibility to handle her mood swings.
It's not, so you told her exactly why you weren't. It was a power play, and going crying to her husband was also a power play, it wasn't about how much you did or didn't hurt her. It's okay that maybe you don't feel proud that you reacted so strongly, but please don't feel ashamed. Personally, I would have done the same if one of my high school/childhood bullies or abusive ex-friends tried to hug me and then got abusive over me asking them politely to leave.
Nope you were not wrong. It is good it didn't feel good to you. You didn't do it to feel good. You did it to finally let her know she did not get away with something. I actually see this as a valuable learning tool for her. Who knows who she is still manipulating. Yet somehow, the universe lined out a way for her to get some sweet karma. You did it not only for yourself, but for anyone else she was using.
You weren't wrong. She was disrespecting your wife when she wanted that hug and when she hinted at how more then friends you were. She hoping to create drama and jealousy. She has not changed.
The good news is that you never have to deal with her again. The even better news is that you know your wife is a quality woman who has your back.
But to be on the safe side I would set all of your social media accounts to private. Highschool Ex sounds like the type to do a little internet stalking.
Don't feel bad, you did no wrong. She pushed, you just gave her the facts. If she was upset about hearing the actions she took brought out into the cold light of day, then something tells me she either knows what she did was wrong and refuses to own it, was simply upset that everybody knows now, or was just upset that you didn't let her off the hook like she wanted you to. What goes around comes around and I think in this case you were what's coming around. You were far kinder than I think I would have been.
Either way, her behaviour makes her sound like a literal psychopath. Being charming, manipulating, pathologically lying, constantly needing for stimulation from other men, lack of empathy for you - all hallmarks of psychopathy or at the very least, a fairly damaged personality. For real.
I know it's the war cry of this sub but I'd seriously consider talking to a professional of some sort.
People often have this thought that if they could just face down the person who wronged them, damaged them, lied to them, or hurt them, and if they could just let go with both barrels and really let 'em have it, that somehow it would make everything all better. That they're only holding onto their pain because they haven't had the opportunity to give it back to the person who strapped it to them in the first place.
Now I won't say that this kind of thing can't be cathartic, far from it. But I've found that more often than not, all this sort of 'catharsis' does is take your righteous head of steam away and it leaves you feeling unhappy, sort of empty. It's like holding something bitter in your mouth - even once you spit it out, that taste likes to linger.
I think on some level that you forgot you were holding something bitter in your mouth and it wasn't until your ex pushed you that you realized how awful it tasted. I think talking to someone might help you work through that.
Best of luck. You seem like a standup dude and your wife sounds like a gem. You'll be alright.