CONTRITION

Our love so often lays bare our imperfections. We all fail in relationships. To recognise this, to acknowledge it, is to honour the space between our ideals and our humanity. Letters of honest apology can therefore be some of the most touching and heartfelt. In that spirit, we have collected ten of our favourite missives of contrition from the Free Love Letters archive.

Love letter # 2

I saw you today – and I know you saw me. Your eyes gave you away.

I saw your shoulders turn to rock. I felt the blade of your contempt. I did not hide from it.

If you want your measure of blood, let me tell you – this floor is scarlet. I am not too proud – and I know what a broken heart is. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – and you were never just anyone.

I know you won’t believe it – but I wish you would. I wasn’t cruel I was just stupid. Hurt maybe – scars leftover. Sorry that I passed them onto you.

But please don’t re-write history. It was real. I loved you. I wanted you. It was wonderful. I wasn’t lying when I said you were my angel.

I remember the tenderness in your eyes – the softness in you. I pray it’s still there. Walk away with the beautiful bits – leave the shit behind.

Love letter # 204

Because I was hurt, I tried to hurt you. Because my pride was punctured, I tried to shoot holes in yours. I sought respite from my pain in anger and an answer to all my tormenting questions in the vicious conspiracy of hindsight. Yet in the end, all these things simply added up to the fact that I loved you. At least in my own childish way.

So sorry for venting my inadequacies at you – for digging beneath your skin for what could only be found in my bloodstream. Sorry too that I prised apart your defences in order to bolster my own. I was a coward in the face of my own feelings and I sought to have you pay the price.

I do not say these things in order to appropriate your forgiveness – for perhaps I am undeserving of such grace – but I say them in order that you know. It may be of little consequence to you but if you will permit me one last act of vanity I will take back the sins that are mine and return to you the beauty and the kindness that are yours.

Love letter # 290

I saw you this morning – but I’m fairly sure you didn’t see me. What struck me was how light you seemed. Your complexion. The way your hair fell. The jaunty rhythm of your walk. I was reminded of the sirens in your eyes and of all the madness they used to induce in me.

In some ways I was glad – relieved that we were no more. For now I am free of the blinding, humbling, crazy-making feelings that the merest touch of your hand once set off in me. Not just fireworks. Fire storms. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say I lost myself in those great waves.

And yet, when you turned the corner – out of sight once more – I understood with a cold shudder what I had lost. A kind of hope. A life outside of my own self-serving thoughts.

Thus I am writing to you this evening to say without reservation that it was my neediness, not your cruelty. My weakness, not your arrogance. Sure, you contributed your fair share of poor behaviour to the silliness but it is clear to me now that the war between us started in my suspicions and spread from there.

For this I apologise – not simply because I ruined my own love but because I trampled on yours too. I can only hope that you have by now sweated out the poison I poured into you and that the beauty which first drew me to you is shining brighter and stronger than ever. From my brief glimpse of you earlier today, it certainly looked that way.

Love letter # 348

I’m sorry – but I’m calling it now rather than later. I can no longer pretend. I have played my cards. Declared my love and had it turned down. There is nowhere else for me to go. But away.

I understand that it is my weakness, not a fault in you. I am solely the author of these mad cravings and you, in a way, are their victim.

Yet still I cannot bear it. I know that when I’m with you I will want you all the more – and that is an untenable situation. What am I to be? The pathetic little muppet that begs for your affection? Or worse, the guy who can’t keep his hands to himself? OMG – when will he get over it?

Well I don’t want it to get to that – so I’m jumping ship now. Because you cannot pursue someone who will not be caught. And pushing and probing is useless. They either like you or they don’t.

And you don’t. And you won’t. Ever.

Perhaps if I did not love you so it would not matter. But I do – and it does. Far too much for ordinary comfort. For pretending. Fake smiles.

I accept that this will inconvenience you, perhaps even upset you a little – and I am sorry for that – but I know deep in the pit of my stomach that this is the only way. Since you will not be my love, I cannot pretend. I did try – but in the end your beauty did undo me.

I thank you for your playful mind and tuned in soul, for your kindness and your time. I thank you for reminding me that love exists because of imperfection, not in spite of it.

You are a wonderful woman. It has been my honour to know you. No wonder I want you. But I will not chase a lost cause. Been there, done that. Pointless. Not to mention degrading. It is not a spectacle I would wish to put you through. Far better that I have my ridiculous drama in private, where no one else can get hurt.

I did not get to hold you in my arms and say I love you – or have you say it back – but I can imagine it now and the thought of it makes me smile from ear to ear. This remains my dream. Yet I know it will not happen. And knowing that, it would be foolish and downright disrespectful to hang on in the shadows of stubborn hope, only to feed on morsels.

Once again – humble apologies … but it needs to be this way. I hope you can at least understand this – or if not, forgive a silly man his passionate distemper.

Love letter # 399

However poorly things turned out – however awkward this is for us now – please remember that whatever else is true, I only ever tried to love you. Perhaps I did some things in pursuit of this which were not 100% honest but I was fighting for your hand – staying in the game – turning over every goddam stone I could. I would have trashed the temple for your kiss – and more besides. If I have been a fool for you, it was for the dream of you at my side; which I would have pursued to the edge of forever had there still been a chance.

Love letter # 444

I am writing to you now, from the distance of forever, because from this far off vantage I can see at last. Like so many others I too was the fool of abstraction. I abandoned you for an idea. The myth of our selfish age. For the absurd and dehumanising notion that I could only ‘improve’ myself if I cut myself off from the very facts of my being – if I pursued the so called personal empowerment so beloved of TEDtalkers and self-help charlatans.

And having ascended their peak of spiritual awareness what did I find? Excuses for coldness, for thinly veiled cruelty. I gave up the love of a real person for the delusion of self.

How was it that I so readily fell for this naked ideological consumerism – for this capitalism of the soul? What sleight of hand made your love – my love – seem expendable and unevolved?

Fear.

Like almost everyone I knew, I too lived in the terror of the obvious and the vaulting denial it inspired. I was so desperately afraid of my own vulnerability, my very mortality and the basic fragility of my animal being, that I tried on any reasonable sounding sophistry that would hide me from my skin.

It was a lie for which I paid dearly. It has cost me the only truly sacred things available to earthly creatures like you and I. Love, tenderness, the knowing that comes from the knowing of others. These mirrors by which we see who we are. What we are. And how utterly beautiful that is.

This then is my long overdue acknowledgement. My acceptance of your humble wisdom. You offered me the flawed and wonderful treasures of intimacy and I spurned them for a kind of philosophical masturbation. I sought the impossible and punishing perfect and lost the warm and bloody reality of your lovely arms about me.

Knowing you, you will smile and thank me – remind me that my departure made room for another. Even so, I give you my apology and, at long last, an honest farewell – as opposed to a fearful retreat.

Love letter # 472

Did I try to change you? I should not have. They were my bruises.

Love letter # 549

When did we stop listening? At what point did boundless love morph into a tiring habit? How long since we beheld one another with joy or desire?

These, I suppose, are the standard issue dilemmas of the long term relationship. Perhaps they are just the inevitable victory of reality over idealism; the crush of pragmatism over the vaulting fancy of passion. It makes you wonder why we ever bothered, doesn’t it?

Even so – if I concentrate – my body recalls the electricity your touch used to generate. My heart remembers the way the light poured in. And the hope. The beautiful belief. The way I sank to my knees in thanks for the incredible wonder of you.

But of course it’s not like that now – and for this I apologise. Not for the grind of time or the ebbing tide of hormonal hunger but for the way I forgot to try. Or blamed you. Maybe I made you the avatar of my disappointment – as I had previously enthroned you as the star of my dreams. I am not proud of these extremes, for they set you up to fail. Primed me for a shattering loss of faith. Exploded the myth of us.

In conclusion, I guess what I’m really asking is this…is it too late?

Love letter # 592

At the time I was blind. Just acting. Reacting. Blundering hurt and foolish. Doing things I never should. Saying stuff I didn’t really mean. Or now wish that I hadn’t.

Because I felt out of control I tried to impose a form of control on you. All the usuals: blackmail, pity seeking, stubborn refusals and vulgar displays of faux generosity. I was like a child; and although I knew it, I could not seem to find the lever or the gumption to stop. No wonder you burnt me off. If I first thought you cruel for doing so, now I see how patient you were. How you kept your powder dry.

Perhaps, for a while, I wallowed in the drama of self-loathing – drunk on the lurid spectacle of hating myself – but I have recently emerged from this pantomime of righteousness. Indeed, my sending you this missive of acceptance and apology is really me forgiving myself. Seeking the absolution of mirrors.

I think it’s fair to say that I loved you, but now maybe I love you more. Because now, finally, I am able. Therefore, I can honestly say sorry that my folly came at such a cost for you. In my self-obsession I stroked the ego of my suffering; yet all the while it was you who wore the bruises. You who quit the scene with the weight of further disappointments. Though I cannot undo these things, I can at least now shoulder my fair share of the outcome.

You may say that even this is little more than the self-serving theatrics of sentiment; and you may well be right. Who knows, next year I might look back at this and cringe. But today, as I write, it truly does feel as though I mean it. In the end, that’s all I can hope to offer you.

The Letter I Cannot Send You

Knowing I was right all along is very little consolation. I remember how my instincts were screaming at me despite your denials, how I remained unconvinced even when you seemed to return to something like normal.

And today, confirmation is cutting me in half. Yet, the injustice cannot be undone, the water will never return to its place beneath the bridge. Even this awful impotence I feel is useless.

I’m not angry at you. I know you could never tell me. I know why you had to cut me off. Even back then I understood.

You had all the signs: the abrupt coldness, the shame, the physical withdrawal, the unexplained and lengthy disappearances, and the extraordinary bitterness. That night when you tore strips off me, when I was the stand-in for every damned man, when you spat bile and then cried in my arms…

I see the wounded girl in you; right there beside the fire brand woman. I sense the tenderness in you, sitting behind its now necessary mask. I almost believed I was imagining it – until last night.

This is no victory for me – even if that shamelessly vain part of me is satisfying himself with the idea that it wasn’t me you were rejecting.

Today my tears are made of blood but I will not make you see them. Nor will I play the role of valiant male protector, wrapping my wounds in self-righteous fury. I should have been your champion two years ago. But instead I was your needy lover, wondering why his girl had gone cold. Knowing why – but too afraid to give it breath.

I was useless to you then – but I will not be now. There will be no scenes. I will not ask. I will not even hint that I know. Instead, I will wring these words out and throw them into space. Maybe someone else will read them and maybe they will have more courage.

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