I had a boyfriend when I was fifteen, with whom I had sexual relations. I got pregnant several times, but I aborted all of them at his insistence. He hurt me a great deal and made fun of me a lot….

I got married, and have forgiven this man who hurt me so much. But he now calls me on the phone and says that he wants to be my friend. He also says that he still loves me, even though he’s married. I don’t want to have anything to do with him. He sends me emails, and I erase them and block his address so he can’t reach me again…

If I don’t want to be his friend nor want him to call me, does that mean that I haven’t really forgiven him? … I wouldn’t want my lack of forgiveness, if that were what it is, to negatively affect me or my family.

Dear Friend,

As a result of your desire to do the right thing, you have become confused. There are two different factors that seem to be contradicting one another. On the one hand, you want to protect yourself from the hurt that this man could bring into your life: He hurt you before, and you have every reason to believe that he would hurt you again. This impulse toward self-protection (or self-preservation) is present in emotionally healthy individuals, and is a God-given instinct. But even stronger than your desire to protect yourself is your need to protect your family. This is a direct result of your love for them.

The second factor, seemingly at war with your need to protect yourself, is the knowledge that forgiveness is necessary for emotional health. You have already chosen to forgive this man, and he no longer has a hold on you or your emotions. You have refused to let the past turn you into an embittered, resentful, and vengeful woman, and instead you have built a happy life. You do not have to let him come back into your life to prove that you have truly forgiven him.

We advise married people to cut off personal contact with all individuals from past serious romantic relationships. Certainly that includes anyone who the married person had sexual relations with before their marriage. To carry on those relationships can be extremely dangerous to almost any marriage. It is extremely risky to believe that you can be “just friends” with a person that you were ever in love with, or with whom you had intimate relations.

You are wise to block this man’s email address and phone calls. It is possible that he feels guilty for how he treated you, and that he wants to ease his conscience by “being your friend,” but only God can deal with matters of the conscience. What he needs is to become a friend of God’s, not a friend of yours.

We wish you well,

Linda and Charles