Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Tell My Ex From Over 30 Years Ago About My Abortion?”

I was engaged to a guy 34 years ago. I ended our engagement because I realized that I was too young at age 18 to get married, and another guy came into my life who promised me the world and made me feel like a princess. Shortly after, I found out that I was pregnant with the ex-fiancé’s baby, but I told the new guy that it was his. He talked me into having an abortion even though I was totally against abortion; I always wanted to be a mother and already loved this baby (and even had a name picked out).

Fast forward 34 years and I have been married to a wonderful man for 33 years and he knows of my secret and the guilt that I still carry with me. I have always wanted to tell the guy that I was engaged to about the child that I aborted and set things straight with the second guy. Thanks to Facebook, I have become friends with guy #1 and will be seeing him at our class reunion. Should I find a way to tell him or just let things be? My husband says that he is ok with whatever I decide to do. Is it selfish to think that Guy #1 would want or even care to know after all these years just so I can perhaps finally have some closure over killing my baby? — Regretting My Abortion

Yes, it would be selfish. You would literally ONLY be sharing this news to satisfy your own needs (to shed some of your guilt, share your burden, get closure — it’s all about YOU, which, by definition, is selfish). The abortion was over 33 years ago. What on earth do you think telling your ex-fiancé about this would serve to accomplish in his life? What do you expect his reaction to be? Whatever you think the point of dragging the boyfriend into your emotional turmoil is, it’s not worth it. Not after 33+ years.

And after 33 years, this is something you clearly need to move past, but you need to do so without the “help” or whatever of involving an ex from decades ago. See a therapist. Talk to a clergy person if you’re religious. Forgive yourself. You were 18 years old. You weren’t ready for marriage and you weren’t ready for motherhood. You actually did the kinder thing sparing a child of being raised by a woman who was not prepared to raise it.

I wonder: Did you ever become a mother like you wanted to be? If not, maybe beyond the guilt of “killing your baby,” you feel guilty that you robbed yourself of what you imagine was your only opportunity to be become a mom. And while that’s understandable, you couldn’t possibly know at 18 how the rest of your life would unfold, nor could you have known whether the pregnancy you terminated would even have resulted in a healthy, living baby. If you did eventually have kids, maybe you feel extra guilty that you didn’t provide an equal opportunity for life to all your babies. But who’s to say the spirit of that aborted fetus — if you believe it even possessed a spirit so early in utero — didn’t find life elsewhere?

There’s so much we don’t really know about life. And I don’t mean life in the sense of physical fetal and human development. I mean LIFE-LIFE. The stuff that isn’t necessarily physical — the stuff we can’t see, but can maybe feel. Obviously, you have to decide for yourself what you believe. But I believe that all the spirits we’ve ever loved reside in our hearts, and, whether they breathe the same air we do or see the same sunsets or smell the same salty sea air, they live within us, they become part of us, and, even when we let go of guilt over how we think we failed them, they cannot detach from us. Because, love.

You’re not going to find what you’re looking for outside yourself. Not in a boyfriend from 33 years ago or your husband now or anyone else. What you’re looking for is inside yourself. It’s always been there. It always will be. It’s love. And it’s the life force that can never be terminated.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

42 comments… add one
  • avatar

    csp June 11, 2015, 8:05 am

    Wendy – great answer! honestly, LW, do not tell him. It will be weird and awkward. Everyone wants to have a good time at Reunions. Don’t ruin it for him.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite June 11, 2015, 8:06 am

    WWS, it’s time to forgive yourself.

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  • avatar

    Jane63 June 11, 2015, 8:27 am

    Beautiful response, Wendy!

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  • Stonegypsy

    Stonegypsy June 11, 2015, 8:27 am

    WWS.

    Also: “There’s so much we don’t really know about life. And I don’t mean life in the sense of physical fetal and human development. I mean LIFE-LIFE. The stuff that isn’t necessarily physical — the stuff we can’t see, but can maybe feel. Obviously, you have to decide for yourself what you believe. But I believe that all the spirits we’ve ever loved reside in our hearts, and, whether they breathe the same air we do or see the same sunsets or smell the same salty sea air, they live within us, they become part of us, and, even when we let go of guilt over how we think we failed them, they cannot detach from us. Because, love.”

    Absolutely beautiful.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes June 11, 2015, 8:35 am

    I agree with everyone else- absolutely beautiful response, Wendy. I think that this aspect often gets lost in the “abortion debate” conversation along with the anguish that often follows.
    *
    LW, for the love of all that is holy, do not tell your ex from 34 years ago, but please do get thee to therapy. That will help you heal this wound you keep picking at and torturing yourself over. No revelation to the ignorant party will help with that closure.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph June 11, 2015, 9:02 am

    Beautiful response Wendy! LW- even from the title of this post I could tell that the answer was a thousand No’s!
    There is literally no way he could respond that would be helpful for you. Either he gets mad at you, he doesn’t care at all, or he just slinks off awkwardly (because a reunion is a cocktail party, not an occasion for baring your soul) and you never know what he thinks of it. What do you expect? He will take you in his arms and tell you that you did the right thing and it’s ok and you can cry together and make it all better? Would that actually help the guilt you’re feeling?
    You need forgiveness only from yourself. Even if he did that (which would be crazy and way out of line since you’re married to someone else) it wouldn’t be the absolution you’re looking for.

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  • avatar

    wcgreen June 11, 2015, 9:24 am

    I’m an infertile woman who adopted five special needs children. Please, never write or say this again: “You actually did the kinder thing sparing a child of being raised by a woman who was not prepared to raise it.”

    There are plenty of women and men who are prepared to raise a child. That the LW wasn’t does not negate that fact. To an infertile person, abortion is not the “kinder thing.”

    (those of you about to post that it’s wrong to “force a woman to carry an unwanted child”–those are your words, not mine.)

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 11, 2015, 9:53 am

      The LW did not mention giving up her baby for adoption as something she ever considered. She said she wanted to raise the baby. And was not prepared to do so. So, yes, I stand by my sentiment that sparing a child of being raised by someone who is not prepared to raise it is a kinder thing to do. And, absolutely, it’s wrong to “force a woman to carry an unwanted child.” I can’t even believe that’s up for debate.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 11, 2015, 10:37 am

        I agree. It is extremely wrong to force a woman to carry an unwanted child. And I’m speaking as someone who struggled with infertility. One thing the therapist at the fertility clinic said is this: My infertility is not the cause of or the fault of anyone else’s decision (this was after I mentioned that sometimes I get upset because people who shouldn’t have children do and I struggled to have one). Just because someone else chooses abortion (which I wholeheartedly support as a right that women should have), it does not affect my fertility. Just like if they weren’t allowed to have one, it still wouldn’t affect my fertility. And this woman wanted to raise the baby, not place it for adoption. She wasn’t ready for that.

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    • kmtthat

      kmentothat June 11, 2015, 10:40 am

      “There are plenty of women and men who are prepared to raise a child. That the LW wasn’t does not negate that fact”

      That there are plenty of people prepared to raise a child does not negate the fact that many children are never adopted and end up in our broken foster care system. I think the fallacy of “there is a parent for every child out there” is unfair to women. And yes, in an over populated world, I wouldn’t say its the kinder thing but its a thing, a choice that is valid.

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    • avatar

      Sojianna June 11, 2015, 10:51 am

      wcgreen, someone else’s pregnancy isn’t about you. It’s about a woman and her baby. So “to an infertile” person isn’t the point. No woman on earth should be required to consider a complete stranger’s feelings when making decisions about her body and her potential children.

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    • avatar

      Ele4phant June 11, 2015, 10:55 am

      You may not have said it explicitly, but that’s what your implying, yes? That if women aren’t up to raising a child, there are people out there who would love to raise them instead, and adoption should be the number one choice?

      Adoption can be wonderful, but it can also be psychologically very difficult on women. It’s very hard to go through the physical and emotional hurdles of pregnancy. Even when women don’t want a child or know they aren’t ready for one, it can be difficult not to form an attachment after nine months. It can be very hard knowing your biological child is out there. Adoption is a good option for some women, but it’s certainly not a catch all solution for all unplanned pregnancies.

      To say nothing of the fact that pregnancy itself can be an arduous process, and given they circumstances in some womens lives, prohibitively difficult. What about the single mom working a minimum wage job that keeps her on her feet all day that is required to go on bed rest a few months before her due date? How is she supposed to keep providing for herself and existing children if her pregnancy keeps her from working? What about a woman in a toxic relationship who will face abuse from her partner or family if they carry the pregnancy to term (maybe like this LW faced?).

      Tldr – adoption is a great option for some but certainly not all women facing unwanted pregnancies, and we shouldn’t hold it up like it is. Adult women have the right to control their fertility and make whatever choice they feel is right for them – and of that choice is abortion we shouldn’t go around chastising them that there are people out there who would love to raise there child instead. You don’t know what they would have to endure to bring a pregnancy to term, and it’s not of your business what decision they make.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 11:04 am

        Not to mention that the adoption rates for minority and special needs children are absolutely abysmal. I commend wcgreen for adopting 5 special needs children but that isn’t the case for every couple looking to adopt or every child in the system.

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      • avatar

        Anonymous June 11, 2015, 11:12 am

        Seriously – the thinking that there are so many infertile would be parents out there who would love to adopt a child, but there just aren’t enough children to adopt. A cursory glance at our foster system disproves that. There are millions of children living in foster care, but they aren’t what prospective parents want – they are older, they have special needs or behavioral issues, many aren’t white.

        To be fair, it seems like the OP seems to walk the talk and has adopted multiple special needs children. But she more than anyone should understand that not everyone is capable of taking that on.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 2:07 pm

        I used to work with a woman that struggled with infertility. Her and her husband had spent thousands of dollars getting treatments & flying across the country to fertility clinics-all to no avail.
        .
        I once asked her why they didn’t adopt and she said (and I quote), ‘We can’t get a new white baby because they are so scarce in the adoption system’. I think my head just about exploded when she said that.
        .
        Then she went on to tell me how her & her husband wanted a child that looked like them and shared their culture. Also, they didn’t want any kids with physical disabilities because they didn’t want people looking at them all funny & they didn’t want any older kids because those kids would know they weren’t their biological parents. I just walked away and let her figure out why the stork hadn’t delivered a perfect white baby to them.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 11, 2015, 8:08 pm

        My jaw just dropped. What. Ugh, I can’t believe people are like that. That’s so sad.

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite June 12, 2015, 9:14 am

        They were hoping to pass as the bio parents? Ugh.

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      • avatar

        simonthegrey June 18, 2015, 2:31 pm

        I will say this though: adoption is not a substitution and an adopted child should be the end goal of itself, not a replacement for a pregnancy one can’t have. I say this as a woman who is dealing with fertility problems. My husband and I have talked about it openly, but we would need to mourn the lack of fertility and move on before we talked about adoption because adoption is NOT a consolation prize for a childless couple. So just asking an infertile person why they “don’t just adopt” can be very hurtful. I believe strongly in adoption, but it has to be done for its own sake, not as a fungible commodity of children.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 18, 2015, 2:37 pm

        I have a friend who has struggled with fertility for years and she HATES when people say, “Why don’t you just adopt?” She turns the question on them: “Why don’t YOU?” Adoption has to be something you really want to pursue for its own sake not just because you want a baby and can’t have one biologically.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray June 11, 2015, 9:27 am

    WWS. Therapy will help you with those unresolved feelings, but I also think finding a group of women who have similar feelings of guilt after an abortion could also help you find that closure within yourself.

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  • avatar

    Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 9:34 am

    WWS.
    .
    Honestly, I think so much of her guilt of having an abortion came from being forced to have an abortion by the fiance. IME, people who carry around that kind of guilt about abortion are people who feel that they didn’t have a ‘choice’, that the abortion was forced upon them by parents or an SO. I’ve never encountered a person who carried that kind of guilt when they made the decision to have an abortion based on what they wanted for their life.
    .
    I suspect that some of the guilt may be coupled with anger at the fiance for forcing the abortion & embarrassment for lying to the fiance about the pregnancy. I feel that when she lied to the fiance, he was supposed to ‘want’ the child but he didn’t so that left LW in a weird place emotionally and mentally. A place she hasn’t been able to escape from after all of these years.
    .
    To me, her purpose in telling the ex would be to in some way honor the life of the child that she ‘lost’. To commiserate with the only other person on this earth about the child they created together. I see the need but I don’t think she should indulge it.
    .
    LW, it’s a bad idea to drag that guy into this after 30+ years so please don’t tell him. What you can do though is give yourself the opportunity to grieve about the baby & acknowledge that you made a choice that did not truly align with who you are at your core. It’s OK to feel angry at betraying yourself, we’ve all been there. It’s not OK to drag someone else into it hoping they can help or save you- you have to do that.

    And therapy may be the only way that you come to terms with that.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo June 11, 2015, 10:12 am

      Actually, CJ, many years ago, a couple years before I met my wife, i dated a woman who at the time had an 18 month son. Some years before, as a teen, she had had an abortion. This woman was a radical feminist. The extremity of her views soured me on feminism as an ism for a long time, even though I have always believed in equality and fairness. She believed that women should not tell men who their children were, that men should be cut out of raising children entirely (because we are inherently evil and violent), that all bloodlines should be female/matriarchal, and that women should run the world. She was a fierce advocate for the right to choose, and for health system reform to improve access to abortion (keep in mind this was about 30 years ago). She was also troubled frequently by dreams of her lost baby, where she would be walking in a park with her 18 mo son and the 7 year old son she imagined would have been. My point is: 1) I don’t think abortion is ever an easy choice, and 2) I don’t think it should be. I’m definitely pro-choice, but I don’t think ending a pregnancy should ever be a glib decision.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 10:26 am

        I don’t think it should be a glib decision at all. Honestly, I don’t think that most people have an abortion because it’s trendy.
        .
        However, the power to choose if you have an abortion as opposed to having the choice forced on you is the difference between coming to terms with your choice or feeling helpless and guilty.
        .
        This LW has a LOT of unresolved guilt that I think stems from the abortion not actually being her decision.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 11, 2015, 10:44 am

        I wasn’t saying you think it is a glib decision. That’s me editorializing with a generalization on my worldview. My point was that the woman i knew made her own choice, and was intellectually very pro-choice, but was still very conflicted years afterward. Just because you make your own decision AND come to terms with it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and filled with conflict. I had a very emotional moment this morning about my decision over a year ago to put down my old cat Rocket (who used to be my avatar). He was 17 and riddled with cancer and i know the decision was right, but i killed my buddy and it hurts me to have done that. And this is just a cat, not my baby. But no accusation was aimed at your views, not at all.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 11:28 am

        I get what you are saying but I would argue that maybe she didn’t really make her own choice to have an abortion.

        She was a teen so that decision could have been forced upon her by her parents, pressure from a boyfriend, or even pressure from religion.
        .
        I’m not sure about Canada but in the U.S., 30 years ago a teen wouldn’t have been allowed to get an abortion without parental consent and there was a whole LOT of stigma attached to getting an abortion. I could see her family forcing abortion upon her and telling her it’s for her own good thus taking away her choice.
        .

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  • avatar

    _s_ June 11, 2015, 10:09 am

    I don’t mean to be indelicate, but if you had sex with both these men, how can you be 100% sure the baby’s father was the ex-fiance and not the new guy? All the more reason not to bring it up with the ex-fiance (in addition to all the great reasons already discussed). Leave the ex-fiance out of it and work on forgiving yourself – a trained therapist and support group are good places to start.

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  • avatar

    tzee June 11, 2015, 10:31 am

    If she is 100% the baby was his. I do think he had/has a right to know. Although, i think waiting until she sees him at the reunion is just dramatic and sounds like she is trying to toy with him and his emotions.

    I would like to hear a males point of view on this. Because coming from women, its a whole different thing, we know when we are pregnant. Guys can go their whole life and never find out they had a child.

    Any male subscribers? Would you want to know after all these years?

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    • avatar

      Unwanted_Truth June 11, 2015, 10:35 am

      Not me, no. Since i’m nearing my mid 30’s this is something that actually has been on my mind from time to time. Not the abortion part, but finding out years down the road that I have another child other than the one I have now. I was a bit careless as a teenager. But no, if it’s been over 30 years and the child was never even born, I would not like to know.

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      • avatar

        Unwanted_Truth June 11, 2015, 10:36 am

        Especially at a reunion.

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    • Portia

      Portia June 11, 2015, 8:19 pm

      Occasionally me and Bassanio will talk about that, what if all of a sudden an old girlfriend showed up with a kid and it was theirs. He’s said that if there was a kid involved he’d want to know. But not if she’d had an abortion because it doesn’t really concern him (“her body her choice”).

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  • avatar

    girltuesday June 11, 2015, 10:36 am

    WWS.

    If this happened a few months ago, maybe. It’s been 30 years. Move on, LW. He’s probably moved on in so many ways in life (and so have you!)

    I would suggest seeing a counselor about this. I don’t know if you’re religious at all, but even talking to a priest. (Note: I say this because my mom and myself are Catholic. My mom had an abortion at 18 y/o and felt tremendous guilt about it. She confessed her sin to the priest and he absolved her and instructed her on how to heal. She was able to get some closure.) Whether you see a professional or a priest, I think it’s best that you come up with strategies on how to forgive yourself and move on.

    Good luck.

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  • juliecatharine

    juliecatharine June 11, 2015, 11:32 am

    WWS, her response was compassionate and beautiful. I’m going to be a little less kind. LW, it would be beyond selfish and into the realm of plain cruelty to tell your former fiancé. The fact that you were only 18 when you made all of these choices (and yes–they were your choices, stop blaming guy #2) is a hugely mitigating factor and you should absolutely follow Wendy’s advice and forgive yourself. However, you need to recognize that from what you wrote, you dumped your fiancé when another guy came along. That must have been pretty tough on him. Telling him you had an abortion 30+ years after the fact would do nothing but bring emotional turmoil to someone for no reason. Keep your mouth shut and if you can’t trust yourself to do that stay away from that reunion and unfriend your ex on Facebook. Good luck with healing, there truly is no reason to torture yourself over a decision that you made long ago and far away.

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  • avatar

    PippaTee June 11, 2015, 11:40 am

    What a kind and thoughtful response to the LW! I understand the guilt over a long-ago abortion because it happened to me too and, in retrospect, for such selfish reasons. But that was then and it is past. Remember too that it is likely you had access to the procedure because a forward-thinking government understood that women should have control over their bodies and be allowed to choose. I think that when the LW exercised that control, she also acknowledged to herself that the choice belonged to her and nobody else needed to know. Telling now would be handing back the control. Good luck to you LW. It sounds like you have a very caring partner too.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark June 11, 2015, 12:53 pm

    Wow. I had no idea most “Princesses” were routinely pressured into having abortions. So that’s what being a “Princess” feels like… Who knew?

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 11, 2015, 12:59 pm

    Wow. And all this time, here I had no idea what so ever that “princesses” were routinely pressured into having abortions. So THAT’s what being a “princess” feels like… Who knew?

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    • Cassie

      Cassie June 11, 2015, 1:45 pm

      Disney deleted those scenes to save on run time.

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite June 12, 2015, 9:17 am

        Yes!

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    • avatar

      Cleopatra Jones June 11, 2015, 1:52 pm

      Ha ha, whenever I see the line, ‘He treats me like a princess…’, I know that either abuse or cheating is sure to follow in the next sentence.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark June 11, 2015, 2:07 pm

        Sad. Yet hilariously TRUE!

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      • Raccoon eyes

        Raccoon eyes June 11, 2015, 2:08 pm

        OMG yes!!! Wow, so freaking true. The “treats me like a princess/queen” thing has always inherently bothered me, as it implies a weird servant-y relationship. Which is nothing but creepy.
        *
        Great tie in- I watched the How I Met Your Mother episode recently where they discuss how the creepiness of men enjoying being called “Daddy” sexually and how it totally doesnt work the other way. For the record, the “Daddy” thing is also creepy as sh*t. 😉

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 11, 2015, 4:58 pm

    I’m sympathetic to what folks go through, whether it’s a breakup or a falling out or an abortion, etc. But you are the one who determines what you need for closure. There isn’t some universal formula for closure, but people tend to think there is. They generally seem to believe that sharing a secret or an apology is the key, period. But the only reason you need to tell this guy is because YOU decided that’s what closure would mean. You could also decide that the fact that over 30 years has past is what’s needed for closure, or writing a letter that you burn. It’s all up to you. Wendy is right that it would not provide anything positive for this guy. It would probably solely give him negative feelings and drama. Instead of feeling like some outside force is the gatekeeper of your closure, decide to be done.

    I would also sit and really think about whether the guilt you’re feeling is warranted. It sounds like you probably made the best choice for you and you have a good life with your current partner. I would assume that the ex had a good life too. Neither of you had to raise a child with someone you didn’t want to be with when you weren’t ready to be parents. It sounds like a good outcome. Don’t give in to society’s myth that it’s wrong to make a decision about your body without input.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 June 11, 2015, 7:56 pm

    LW, would you go to an abortion clinic, point to a pregnant 18-year-old, and call her a baby-killer? If you wouldn’t judge someone else then don’t judge yourself either.

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