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Why Trying to Make a Guy Feel Guilty for Mistreating You Is a Waste of Time

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BREAKUP
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When a guy blows you off (by you I mean me), it's tempting to want to get back at him and make him feel guilty for his behavior. The thinking goes, Oh, I would walk away, but he can't treat people like this. He certainly can't treat ME like this. Someone has to show him.

What I've learned the hard way is you can't force someone feel the way you want them to. You may want him to feel remorseful. You may want him to feel as bad as he made you feel. But take it from me: It's not possible. You can take a Louisville Slugger to both of his headlights (and with sufficient evidence, he can press charges), but that won't make him rethink the way he treated you. It will piss him off. He will call you crazy and he might even re-aim his anger in your direction. Then it becomes a volley of revenge -- each of you feeling completely justified in your behavior -- but he's still not feeling any contrition. It's possible that at some point, he'll feel bad about the way he treated you, but he will do so in his own time.

When I was a sophomore in college I was sleeping with a guy, Archie, who had a girlfriend, Betty. Naturally, I was unhappy about the existence of said girlfriend. It's hard to feel sorry for me, though, I know. I'm not asking for sympathy. I was 19 years old and wholeheartedly believed I was doing what I needed to do to get him to be with me exclusively.

Eventually, Archie and Betty broke up, but it wasn't because of his infidelity; she had no knowledge of that. I'm not sure what happened, but they were through. I didn't rejoice, as it was past the point of my interest; I'd fallen hard for another person. I was, nonetheless, perturbed when Archie told me over Christmas break that he and Betty had reconnected, were working things out and were going to start over in the New Year. I thought about it for a minute, and said, "No." Even though I no longer wanted to be with Archie, I remembered how much he'd hurt me by always going back to Betty, and I wanted him to feel the same pain. I couldn't inflict that pain on him, though, because he didn't feel for me the way he felt for Betty. The only logical thing for me to do, I reasoned, was to make it so he couldn't have Betty. "If you try to get back together with her," I said, "I'll tell her you've been sleeping with me this whole time." He begged me not to, but the cement had solidified around my decision. Knowing he had little choice, he told her himself. She was crushed, but not for long. She took him back shortly thereafter.

I did not like this new development at all. Fortunately, I had another piece of damning information. He had also slept with a good friend of Betty's, Veronica. This time, I didn't bother to give him a heads up that I was going to let Betty know, I just did. Guess who got blamed for the whole thing? This girl right here. It was all my fault. Archie said I ruined his life. Betty said I ruined her life. I have no idea if Veronica was held accountable. I was not an innocent bystander by any means, but I was also not the one being unfaithful. The two of them stayed together. My plan backfired and my ego was crushed under its own weight. I was out of revenge tactics, so there was nothing left to do but feel the pain of the whole situation.

Years later, Archie got in touch and asked if he could see me. Within the first hour, he offered an unexpected avalanche of apologies. He went through every incident and apologized. He also asked me if I would consider dating him. Without hesitation I said, "No." It didn't feel triumphant; I was more annoyed than anything else. I thought, Really, you want to date me now?

The best way to let a guy know he cannot treat you badly is to walk away. Don't look back. Walking away doesn't make you a doormat -- standing there and continuing to put yourself in his path does. Focus on your life and don't waste energy figuring out how to teach him a lesson. Let life do that for you. At some point his behavior might tap him on the shoulder and say, "You have to face me now." Know, however, that he can still choose not to face it. Serial killer Ted Bundy once said, "I don't feel guilty for anything. I feel sorry for people who feel guilt." There you have it -- not everyone experiences remorse. Whether or not he feels bad can't be your concern, though; concentrate on your own healing. By the time this apology came my way I didn't need it anymore. I am grateful Archie extended it, but I would have gone on my merry way regardless.

Excerpted from Loves Me...Not: How to Survive (and Thrive!) in the Face of Unrequited Love. Copyright © 2014 Samara O'Shea. Excerpted with permission by February Books.