Several years ago, I abruptly and unilaterally ended an 18-month relationship. I stand firm with my reasons, but my (kind and lovely) ex was understandably upset. We haven't spoken since. I still feel guilty, but that's my cross to bear. Despite a happier relationship since then, I'm pretty sure that The Ex hates my guts. Here's the problem: in a few months, I expect to see The Ex at a mutual friend's event. Being in proximity will be unavoidable. I want to send The Ex an email, saying that I'm sorry how things ended and that I'd like us to be at least cordial at this event, and that I'm willing to keep my distance if they don't want to talk to me. Part of me thinks this is sensible and will allow both of us to enjoy this event without apprehension. The other part of me thinks this email will just sound condescending and melodramatic. What is the kindest way to approach this situation?I have an idea for something LW can do to be kind to The Ex without imposing on them: don't bring a date to this event.
If The Ex is still in some way hung up on LW, seeing LW with a date will make the event more difficult for The Ex. Not bringing a date will eliminate that difficulty.
If The Ex in is an emotional place where they would get some schadenfreude out of seeing LW dateless, especially if The Ex has a date, then not bringing a date will give The Ex the gift of coming away from the event feeling that they won.
At this point, people usually point out something to the effect that other people's relationships aren't about you and it would be unhealthy for The Ex to be having any of these feelings. But, be that as it may, they are feelings that do sometimes occur in some people. If The Ex is having them, LW can give The Ex the best possible experience by not bringing a date. And if The Ex isn't having any of these feelings, then LW's actions are irrelevant either way. In any case, not bringing a date will have either a positive or neutral effect on The Ex, without imposing on them in any way.
On top of that, not bringing a date will attend to LW's emotional needs as well. LW seems to feel the need to do some sort of penance. Going to the event solo would do that, and it would be generally in line with a natural consequences penance too. One of the impacts of LW's decision to abruptly and unilaterally leave The Ex is that The Ex was suddenly deprived of the benefits of having a date to wherever they'd normally go with a date. In addition to the various logistical inconveniences of going solo, it's publicly visible, and often feels like a humiliation when you're in mourning for the relationship and can't even answer the question of "What happened?" So, by not having a date with them, LW experiences that inconvenience and public visibility, perhaps even that sense of humiliation depending on their emotional state. Then they will come away feeling they have done penance without ever actually bothering The Ex.
In short, if LW doesn't bring a date to the event, any emotional needs that can be affected by LW's actions will be affected positively. Anyone who has no emotional investment in LW's actions will not be affected either way. Positive or neutral impact, no imposition or unwanted contact.