Friday, 1 May 2015

Reconciliation Requires Humility, Sincerity, Remorse and Contrition

In the movie Notting Hill (1999) the character played by Julia Roberts attends the bookshop where the character played by Hugh Grant works. She wants to resume their romantic relationship. Her request is resplendent with humility and sincerity. At its height she says,
And don’t forget, I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

The response of the Hugh Grant character is sensible in terms of protecting himself and based on a realistic assessment of their lives together and apart to that point. In a very pleasant conversation, he declines her request. The Julia Roberts character leaves his bookshop and goes about her business.

The Hugh Grant character reflects upon his decision to decline to resume the romantic relationship with the Julia Roberts character and realises he has made a mistake. Subsequently an opportunity presents itself for both of them to be at the same place at the same time. The Hugh Grant character seizes that opportunity and conveys to the Julia Roberts character his enthusiasm to resume their romantic relationship. His plea to the Julia Roberts character was also resplendent with humility and sincerity. Ultimately it was successful and their romantic relationship was resumed.

An Abstract Question
Shortly after I watched that movie a friend asked me an abstract question: Would I entertain a conversation from a specific former girlfriend with a view to reconciling our relationship? A lengthy conversations ensued.

I have long contended that we live in a world where people (wrongly) think it is acceptable to lie and that no adverse consequences flow from that dishonesty. That contention was put to the test rather promptly.

My friend knew a fair bit of the history and circumstances of the woman the subject of the abstract question. The woman in question had deliberately sabotaged a good relationship to pursue other relationships with other men. Her dishonesty increased markedly once she had established her relationship with one of the men. She was actively pursuing a new life and strategic friendships she had made were paying dividends for her. Flaunting her new life and her new men was a part of her strategy. She was also carefully crafting her narrative and her relationship with me was not a constituent part of that narrative. By her words and her actions, she had made it abundantly clear that I no longer served any useful purpose in her life.

I have written previously about credibility and I said independent corroboration of the contention the person with the shattered credibility seeks to make may be required in future before some people are prepared to accept that contention. As they made their aforementioned respective pleas for reconciliation, the characters of both Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant could be seen to be demonstrating humility, sincerity, remorse and contrition. It gave their pleas the necessary quality of integrity.

I told my friend who posed the abstract reconciliation question to me that I would be prepared to make the following concessions:
I would give the woman in question credit for:

  • The telephone call to request meet to apologise and resume our relationship
  • Getting on a plane and travelling to Brisbane
  • Arranging a hotel room to have the subject discussion

Thereafter things got very difficult. The logistics of the actual meeting were then discussed. Was it a hotel where security required meeting in the foyer or could the guest proceed straight to the room? There were strengths and weaknesses in both options.

Once entry to the hotel room had been achieved the complexity of the situation became clear.

My friend and I agreed that the subject conversation could only take place without there being any interruptions by computers, telephones, television or radio. Towards the end of our relationship the woman in question had become quite fond of utilising her mobile telephone and / or her computer whilst in my company, often to contact other people. My many requests for her to not do so were all ignored. It was one of the strategies she used to sabotage the relationship.

My friend contended that once I saw the woman in question my resistance would disappear. I assured my friend that any currency the woman in question may have had in respect of her physical appearance had been spent by her appalling behaviour and her significant dishonesty. Whilst the new life the woman in question worked so assiduously to create at the end of our relationship may have suited her purpose at that time, it did nothing to endear her to me. She has a significant history of not keeping her commitments to me and I have no interest in experiencing any more of her considerable nastiness. In fact what she had achieved was a situation where I do not know what part of the history she told me was true and what part was false. She was now in a position where I would not be inclined to believe a word she said without independent corroboration.

In the end I could not give my friend a specific answer as to what would be required to achieve the specific reconciliation she proposed in her abstract question. Whatever the woman in question said and did during that hypothetical meeting to discuss reconciliation, she would be required to demonstrate significant convincing humility, sincerity, remorse and contrition. Her plea would need to be resplendent with integrity. Then and only then might the proposed reconciliation be possible.

Whether by accident or design the Notting Hill movie had provided a rather insightful example of the reconciliation request and what one needed to do to successfully negotiate the exercise.

Insofar as the woman the subject of the abstract question is concerned, I have no realistic expectation that I will ever test my theory with her.