Can You Fix A Broken Relationship, Many Years After The Fact?

burn-bridges.jpgIs it a good idea to apologize to someone for some betrayal or hurt inflicted that you inflicted, many years prior?

If someone had really done me wrong, I would appreciate an apology, ten, twenty, thirty or more after the fact, provided it was clean. Clean, meaning that the person wants to express their regret without expectation. This is rarely the case.

Occasionally someone writes for advice about contacting a lover they dumped years ago. Invariably they’re alone and getting older. They claim to just want to apologize but it’s clear that conscious or otherwise the person would really like the dumped party to come back and love them again.

This is almost always a bad idea. The contact is rarely welcome and it seems unfair. It’s simple. If you like your bridges, then don’t burn them. If you do burn them, then deal with it.

When you deal someone a death blow and they manage to survive it; they may forgive you but most are not going to want to go another round, years later.  They’ve healed and they want to stay that way.

I think it’s telling, people may want to go back and apologize, but they almost never offer to make some type of reparation, even if they are in a position to do so.

Would you appreciate an apology ten or twenty years after the fact or would you prefer to let sleeping dogs lie? Can you see your preference in your chart?



Can You Fix A Broken Relationship, Many Years After The Fact? — 67 Comments

  1. I think the exact same thing. “Clean” is a good word for it.

    There’s nothing I appreciate more, or feel more open to, than a clean apology. But the moment anything creeps into it, like, “I’m sorry you’re hurt (implied: because you’re oversensitive or maybe even crazy),” or, “I’m sorry BUT…” or, “I’m sorry because I need something from you,” then it’s a dirty sorry, and that just adds insult to injury.

    I’ve got someone who wants back into my life, and he’s got nothing but dirty sorries for me. It’s just a reminder of all the hell he put me through. It sucks.

  2. I have apologized. I felt compelled. I went through a phase where I apologized to a few people, about seven years ago (I wasn’t single). I just made my final apology recently.

    BUT– I don’t care if I ever get apologies from anyone. if I didn’t hunt you down and punch you in the face, well, I’m totally over it. 🙂

    scorpio mars, 3rd house. 8th house venus/saturn/chiron.

  3. I think it would be mostly mute. Although part of me would appreciate it. It would not make me bring them back in the fold though. Too much time would have passed to really care about something that far back. Unless it really did alter my life in a drastic way.

  4. I’d really appreciate it. I have Pluto in Scorpio on the descendant, and I can definitely carry old wounds for longer than they’re worth. However, I’m also very forgiving, and an apology after all those years would be freeing for me.

  5. I tend to let sleeping dogs lie if an apology hasn’t happened within a short period of time after insult or injury (and by short I mean pretty much immediate). It’s been my experience that one the rare occasion when I did go back a year, two years after an incident and aknowledged and apologized for what I felt I did that hurt someone, they used it as an opportunity to a. try to get back with me and b. try to get back AT me at the same time — very messy, and ultimately hurtful again, a second time, to both parties. Better to have aknowledged it to myself and moved on than to go have gone back. But hindsight is 20/20.

  6. I’d rather move on, tho it can take a while! fixed G square. Some betrayals can be so flagrantly gross, at first they might as well piss into the ocean. On occasions acceptance & compassion have worked wonders for me, but then the process has already taken place without the offender’s participation. Anyway then a clean apology really is more for their own peace, so good for them, and then yeah, it would be nice to hear. But I feel its more important to forgive myself for being a sucker or getting into victim mode then carry spoiling stuff.

    Looking at that burning bridge and monkey carrying a torch, who wants such monkey back into their lives anyway? where is that great picture coming from I wonder what the story is there!

  7. I would really love to leave a better comment on this, but I just don’t think I can get my point across. I’ve been trying for the past, oh, fifteen minutes and it’s no good. So I’ll just say no, I wouldn’t like the apology. Especially if the offense is years in the past.

    I have taken up to a month to apologize for something I did, though. I sometimes need the time to go diving and then polish the pearl so I can present it with as little fuss as possible. Otherwise there’s hardly any point to it.

  8. “I think it would be mostly mute”

    liz – I had to rethink this when I read that and tend to agree with you. There are some people I would really like an apology from – just some kind of acknowledgment but chances are the person who would come forward would be apologizing for something I had forgotten or that never bothered me in the first place.

    This did happened to me in the other direction. An ex boyfriend contacted me to congratulate when he heard through the grapevine I’d had a baby and he saw her picture. I was mortified hearing from him because I always thought I had done something wrong. I wrote him to apologize and he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Said, all his memories of me were good one and I just couldn’t believe it.

    What a weight off but I bet it happens this way more often than the other.

  9. If it was a clean, genuine apology, then I would like to have it. I could probably even give you a list of people I would want an apology from and what the offenses were, because I remember things like that way. too. well. I get over the angry phase pretty quickly, but the bitter tends to linger. I think it’s probably my busy 8th house and Mars in Cancer.

  10. A few years back I was writing articles, pro bono, for a local theatre’s newsletter. They would tell me who to write about, and I would interview them. It was time consuming, but rewarding, and I enjoyed doing it. The last article I wrote I was especially proud of, but when it was published the editor had decimated it. She never called me to say she was doing so, and I was furious. I mean it was hacked. It basically caused me to withdraw from volunteering there, because I felt it was unappreciated. Well, a few years later I’m back there doing a Bruce Springsteen show, and I see the editor in the bathroom. I barely acknowledged her presence (I’m A Scorp). She then came up to me, and apologized for the hacking of my article… blah blah blah. It made me feel so good that she owned it. She didnt try to blame it on anyone else, or sugar coat it. (She’s a Cap). I’ll always remember how good it made me feel, and it shined a very bright spotlight for me on owning up to one’s mistakes… esp. my own.

  11. I agree with Ewinbee, it has to be a clean apology. But an apology usually has strings attached, so I would be wary of letting someone who has hurt me in the past get close enough to apologize.
    There is someone I should have apologized to years ago, and I am sincerely sorry for hurting him. However, there is absolutely no reason for me to contact him to apologize, because he is happily married now. What would either of us get from an apology. I prefer to think that he knows I am sorry.

  12. I think an apology has the most genuine potential to acknowledge another human.
    Depending on the circumstances, I’d like one. I like to have my feelings acknowledged. My mum apologized for something recently that I had been carrying for decades. She finally could see what kind of burden I had and to have that acknowledgment was sweet.

    However some circumstances don’t warrant an apology–with certain actions people alter the course of a relationship permanently and there is no re-routing.

  13. I think for the most part, it’d be worthless to me. Either I’ll have gotten over/around whatever it was, or I still hate you and probably always will.

    Recently my brother added a former classmate of mine ot his facebook, and in grade two she sold me down the river. I got over it(basically the other girls in our small school told her she could be friends with me, or she could be friends with them but not both, and well they had the numbers so I couldn’t fault her), but when I was thinking of adding her as a friend I saw the other kids from my (small) elementary school and realised I didn’t want to be anywhere near them. Not even on the same friends list because I still hate all their guts and if they contacted me in anyway it’d just rip my guts to shreds. Just looking at the names made me want to go home and lie down.

    The ringleader of the debacle apologized to me in grade twelve “Now I see what you went through and I’m sorry” and I just walked away, and that still makes me feel good.

    It takes a lot to burn bridges with me and once its done I hope you rot.

    Moon in virgo 8th or 9th house (pretty sure its the 8th), square venus and neptune (make nice and forget? Don’t think so), Scorpio Uranus in the 11th.

  14. interesting question.

    i agree with the no strings requirement. if it’s years after the fact especially, the apology would need to be offered with no expectation of a response, because that is a request for absolution, not offering sincere regret.

    dealing with a similar situation with a family member, actually. there are lots of hurt feelings and she wants to reconcile (meaning pretending it never happened). while a sincere apology wouldn’t just erase all the pain from being used and tossed aside yet again, the absence of one seems to add insult to injury, as if the hurts didn’t exist or were simply not important enough to acknowledge. Doesn’t exactly add much reassurance we wouldn’t be signing on for more of exactly the same treatment.

    Mars in Scorpio, 4th house.

  15. I think the acknowledgement (from certain people, for certain wrongs) of wrong doing would be beneficial, but it’s not necessary. For the most part, I get over things very quickly. I don’t ever forget them, but I do get over them. If I genuinely like a person, then I’d just about forgive them anything. There are some hurts however, that could never be forgiven. So, in those cases, an apology would be utterly useless. (I’d attribute that to my Moon in Libra, 8th house. I want to be fair, but don’t screw me over. ha!)

  16. I think it depends on perspective. What I’ve been through in the last year and a half is so horrible, there is no apologizing for it. And if someone came up now from my childhood and apologized for being mean, or an ex apologized for not loving me, I think all I’d have for them is a stupid stare. Once upon a time, it might have meant something more.

  17. Cassi-I also have Sun in Leo and Moon in Capricorn. I don’t hold grudges much either. They’re just a waste of time and energy. I’d rather smile and get on with my life. But my Scorpio ASC won’t ever let me forget a wrongdoing 🙂
    I just won’t lose sleep over it.
    An apology is always nice though, as long as it’s genuine.

  18. I am ok that someone might want to apologise for something twenty years ago however it doesn’t mean much to me. It would seem to mean more for the apologiser because I don’t seem to hold onto grudges or become fixated on how I may have been treated years ago.

    If a person was wanting to apologise for some kind of serious abuse done years ago then that is quite different and not really well accepted. Why would one give that person the luxury of apology?


  19. i have an apology i’d like to make, but i’d have to find him first. given that, i can at least resolve to not make the same mistake again.
    but, i was 14 and confused….
    mostly i hope he’s happy and doing well.

    as far as… well, there’s someone who apologized to me a year ago. and i’d really rather not talk to him, but he seemed to feel like he needed to and i let him but that’s as far as i was willing to go….

    it just seems like the respectful thing to do. i can’t tell that it made me feel any better, though. nor worse. just kind of confused.

    well, maybe it would have helped if he’d said what he was apologizing for, rather than a blanket “i’m sorry.”

  20. It’s funny sometimes how a year changes things. *laughs*
    Reading this again, my immediate answer was, “I’d like an apology for major wrongs, even years later,” so I’m surprised to see that I answered so completely the other way last time.

    What can I say? I’ve got Libra. 😛

  21. I don’t think I require apologies, but if someone felt compelled for their own peace of mind, I would accept their apology.

    I recently made an apology to a cousin of mine for something I did in 2002 and he was so gracious about it. I’m not sure if he even knew it was weighing on me all of these years, but 2 sentences later and I felt like he knows I realize what I did and that I care about him immensely.

  22. From a friend, co-worker, or family member: yes, at any point in time. From a former lover: no, or only soon after.

    I don’t know where this comes from. I have my moon in the 11th house, maybe that accounts for the view on friends. I am a cap rising, Scorpio midheaven and I care deeply about my work. Not sure about the lovers bit: 8th house sun and Venus? Or Gemini fifth house?

  23. Omg Satoris response is hilarious! I think for me if you hurt me and you think about coming around be prepared to issue the deepest heart felt apology upon which I will gleefully listen to turn my back on you. I never look back mars in capricorn

  24. The times I’ve had someone from the past apologize to me it hasn’t seemed heartfelt or in a spirit of healing. Either it came off as condescending or reopened old wounds, and I didn’t trust their motives. If someone is a wounder, O think they sometimes do this to try the same old thing again. What I really appreciate and sometimes long for is a heartfelt and timely apology soon after a conflict. That goes a long way toward mending. Withholding that for years just shows someone doesn’t really care and isn’t worth getting involved with again. I had an ex who contacted me a few times to forgive him, it never seemed sincere.

  25. With some even if you do make amends it never feels free or real. Some element of pretend that I would rather not have in my life. Some blows may take lifetimes to heal or run there course it seems.

  26. I´m Cancer, with the Moon in Aquarius, and its ruler Uranus in Escorpio, my 3rd house, but Pluto in Libra.

    I would appreciate an apology, as i would have waited for it, for all that time, full of anger

  27. I don’t really believe “no strings attached exists” except as something we say. Folks can say it, but what they are really saying is play the game my way.

    I like it when folks apologize & genuinely take responsibility for stuff — it is often all I wanted in the first place. (Sag rising, Aries sun) People can use the “o I shouldn’t bother them” as an excuse for continuing to avoid actually dealing.

  28. Capitulation, courage, honesty? Count me in. It might not get them too far but in my heart of hearts, I would looove to hear various people say they’re sorry for screwing me over, regardless of how long ago it was.

    • Maybe I’ve enjoyed too much finding out whatever sin they’re asking redemption for has been silently eating away at their soul like some relentless maggot all those years. Yaaayyy! Oops. I have a lot more grace now than in the past. Nowadays, I just want to be happy and let things be water under the bridge.

  29. I just realized too there’s also people who feel they need an apology years later when they never deserved one from the beginning. In case that’s relevant for anyone ?

  30. I don’t care enough about some people I’ve wronged to apologize to them. Maybe I found them whiny and entitled. Haha! Maybe subconsciously I didn’t like them, so I wronged them anyways.

    So I guess it all worked out for the best in the end?

      • I didn’t name names, though. I’ve apologized to people before and been wronged before too. I never violently harmed anyone, but that doesn’t excuse it.

        I’m just saying why open old wounds? I guess if I accidentally met them, I’d apologize. But why open up an old scab? I doubt they care about me, either.

        I’m also sure I can be entitled/whiny too. I probably came off uppity, myself, in my previous comment up there. I’m just saying’ and wondering if the people we’ve wrong, including me. If when we did wrong them, there was a part of them, that we didn’t like. That doesn’t excuse it, or make it okay. I’m just wondering.

        • It only “works out” when it truly works. If you’re still wondering perhaps it hasn’t worked. It’s probably really sad to think you go about doing this or that I think taireans have a problem with that behavior or perhaps it’s just seems that way to me?

              • You’re not making sense. Don’t you mean those people I need to apologize to need to stop holding on to those grudges?

                How can I be the one holding on to a grudge when I’m the one that doesn’t care?

                Maybe you’re just envious I have a point of view of my own. If you’re going to criticize me, at least make sense.

                I’ll stop replying to you, starting now, before this escalates.

  31. No. I made that mistake more times than I could count in this lifetime. Always with selfish intention concealed under non-selfish appearances. ? Once you burn the bridge, you have to remember doing so for a good reason. Don’t look back and don’t apologize for that decision. Otherwise, you reawaken those buried Pluto corpses and old feelings and resentments. And why do that? Live. Let live. Don’t do CPR on what is dead. ?

  32. I share Maya Angelou’s attitude on a lot of fronts (e.g. “When we know better, we do better,” or, as lyrics of some song, “But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”) I really prefer that anyone who might want to level those scales, toward me, suxk that up, and contain the process, without seeking me out – pay it forward, period.
    On my side of things, much of what people might want for me to reach out, and *offer them closure* ::eyeroll, and spit, at the concept:: or whatever… My thinking is similar to anonymoushermit’s. My version of that: I was probably not “nickel” (pure) in the situation, BUT, I still remember why I wasn’t totally wrong, in my reactions. Because, let’s all remember this: context matters.
    PS This comment is, obviously, not a philosophical elucidation. Simply, one thought, in the context of a topic, aming people who also, like me, look for further understanding bit by bit.
    <3 EE peeps 🙂

  33. Oh ah, I forgot my main reason for replying here.
    *Frick. And refrick.*
    I have someone who I have wanted to Thank, ever since – while feeling at a loss for how. Very, very similar, in the circumstances. And whenever I think about it, it bothers me a.lot. Doing so badly would be worse than not doing, and the risk for misunderstanding has been high all along. She stood up for me, when it mattered… and yet, misunderstanding is still, today, more probable than not – she’s brillant, but, far too few real conversations. And real conversations need contexts, reasons, to happen. She was generous to me, and I have never yet properly expressed … whatever (how very much I appreciated, at the very least – or most, I truly don’t know, even today). I suspect she knows, but, this bothers me more than any past requirements (which I doubt, btw) for apology.

  34. My ex of ten years has contacted me a few times over the intervening years, but with no apology. He just pops up (by email, which I had since changed and never gave to him, so … creepy!) and wants to be chatty and wonders how I am, etc. I don’t reply. If he did apologise (because towards the end he was pretty awful to me) then I would reply, just to show grace. I think on some level he wants me to reply just so he can feel that there are ‘no hard feelings’. But without an apology, I guess I do have hard feelings! And, I have moved on (and have since married, and am very happy) and don’t wish to renew even a friendship with him. Good grief, it was ten years ago! I don’t even want to revisit it.

  35. An ex from way back kept contacting me, once every few years, and apologised every time. I liked it that he felt bad about what he had done, but blanked him (because what he had done was too hurtful). Eventually I accepted his apology and we became friends. As in, real friends (both of us coupled with others), not “hoping for something else friends”.

    However, I eventually realised that what he had done to me, he’s doing exactly the same to his current long-term girlfriend. It makes me feel a bit sick. She’s a wonderful woman and I want to hit him hard on the head. He’s a very neptunian Sag. I can see now that his apologies only served to appease his (rightly painful) conscience – while at the same time he learned nothing in the process!! Argh… Don’t know what to do about it at the moment.

    • PS – as a footnote, every time he apologised it was a general apology “for his behaviour”, he had never specified exactly what he was sorry about. I’m expecting quite a few apologies from people, for decades (I’m very Plutonian), and I now know that what I expect nowadays is to also hear precisely which actions they regret, and why. Pfff…

  36. I see genuine apologies as being about saying “I’ve realised I made a mistake, I’m sorry I hurt you and here’s why I’ll never do that again”. They’re an attempt to rebuild the trust needed in a relationship. And many years down the road there just isn’t a relationship to rebuild.

    There’s one person who really burned their bridges with me. If they ever want to apologise that’s fine.

    I’m pretty certain my reply will be something to the effect of “It’s yourself you need to apologise to because you threw something wonderful away that you can now never get back”.

  37. I did it many times and I’d do it anytime. If I wronged someone it’s there even after 10 years, even if the bridges are burned. Sincere apologies are not intended to rekindle the relationship in my case, is like a step in the grieving process because when I wronged someone and I’ve come to realise that it takes me a long time to digest and regroup (even years). When I found compassion to forgive myself and awareness to sediment the lesson I’m ready to apologise because only then can I understand how I hurt the other one…though most of the times it resurfaces the hurt feelings of the other person.
    When it comes to others who hurt me..well, I’ve got plenty of Pisces- I’ve already transcended it. I feel like no one needs to apologise to me and on various occasions when they did, I was already over and done forgiving them.

  38. Context is important to this question. Some people I just never want to revisit but I also agree with bluemagoo except for the last part. It always takes 2 people to ruin something, especially in close relationships. I’ve never seen anything one-sided.

    • prism – I agree that there’s always a contributory factor from both people when relationships aren’t working.

      However when you have a relationship that is good and one of the people just runs away because their emotional baggage kicks in, then they are entirely responsible for its demise.

      I did that myself a few times when I was in my early 20s and really the other person wasn’t doing anything contributory other than being a decent loving human being who wanted to get closer.

  39. I was deeply wronged by someone once and it was born in them from a place of true innocence. I wanted to forgive them completely but they committed the same trespass with a quickness and refused to openly talk about it. I knew how painful it was for them. I also knew that communication and work could strengtgen what we had.
    When my turn came to hurt them from a deep wound and i overreacted in fear they could not forgive me.
    We could not communicate in a way that could satisfy us both and I remain angry at them for the way they chose to demean me and categorize me in wildly misguided diatribes of cruel caricature. The complexity of the world and the people in it is not to be trifled with.

    All this person had to do was speak with me, one on one with no interlopers and I’d have acted within reason. I had more respect for them than just about anyone. I have no answer to this question as it relates to this person. What happened was simulacrum. The possible and reality looped at different speeds around me.

  40. I had an ex from long ago contact me through Facebook recently, as I have contacted exes in the past (please don’t do it just because you can). He sincerely apologized and said I was a wonderful person, etc. I told him if he was so sorry, why doesn’t he send me the money I gave him that he used to put his ex-wife and kids in a hotel down the street from our house, where I found them both naked in bed together. Unfortunately, I never heard from him again.

  41. I have a top three list. The day any one of those on that list gives me a sincere apology, my soul will be lighter. But I know I am never going to get an apology from any one of these people, as none of them can admit that they did anything to wrong me.

    It’s truly amazing how someone can totally decimate you emotionally and claim innocence for their deeds.

  42. Hello, I wouldn’t care for apologies but why would one be apologenic against someone who wrongs you? I know someone like that.

    I wouldn’t apologize to someone like that.

    If they choose to apologize to me, good luck. It won’t get accepted. So try all you like, you will waste your time.

    Instead, use action instead of words as words are usually empty and cheap filled with empty promises.

  43. Thats easy to answer. I would never ever take an Ex back. Not even if he was the last man on earth. Not those that I broke up with and not those that broke with me. Even as I am friends with most of them since we separated. I had no relationship ending that had a single chance to survive. So there is no point in trying it again. But getting an: Hey I’m sorry that I did wrong to you 30 years ago, can feel healing, and it takes courage which I always appreciate, in myself and in others.

  44. I would tend to think that they are apologising to make themselves feel better, not me.

    A Satori said, if I have not hunted you down, I am over this. That means I do not want to revisit this territory again, and I do not care what you have to say. It can also mean I have forgiven you. And forgiveness is not dependent on the other person feeling any remorse at all. It is my decision and mine alone.

  45. I have apologized for my behavior of years past. Not sure if it helped the persons I apologized to but it released guilt/shame in me at the very least.
    As far as those whom have wounded me…. it would be good to have acknowledgement that they behaved like assholes. I have no desire to resume a relationship with those whom I have cut out of my life. They are likely to re-offend… been there, done that, no thanks. Plus, I never forget. Taurus Moon 3H cusp

  46. I would appreciate an apology. But my intuition comes first, if I get a ‘huh, you’re just doing this to save your reputation’ then I will just decline their apology.

    I do realize some things are genuine misunderstandings and will forgive if I realize that I had misunderstood something you did, or there was misunderstandings on both ends.

    There are extreme situations where there’s nothing a person can do to repair the damage between me and them. And if 90% of the issues were with them? Do you think I truly want to rekindle a relationship with someone with so many issues? I might not even accept an apology from them, because accepting an apology from them will be almost like giving them too much rope!

  47. I agree with Satori and Choufleur. If I waited for an apology for that many years, I consider it unhealthy to my psychology and have already worked it out for myself to forgive (not necessariy forget). If they felt compelled to apologize, I would accept it with grace. It can be healing for both parties sometimes, but in general, I’d say it’s for the one who did the harm. Someone once told me, in AA for instance they have you apologize and make amends for harm you did, make amends, pay back any dues. It’s so you can start with a clean slate and face your false pride and bad behavior if you want to stop drinking. I’m sure some folks have things they want to apologize for that happened years ago and it might be startling to be on the other end suddenly!

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