Ask Amy: Former high school jerk yearns to make amends
Dear Amy: I was a very unhappy person up until my 20s. I’ll spare you the melodrama, but I didn’t grow up in the best home and had very poor social skills. After learning to manage some real anxiety and depression issues and a lot of therapy, I’ve been in a much better place for a long time. I’m now in my late 40s.
After a recent class reunion and re-engaging with some old acquaintances, I have heard about a number of ways I acted back in the day that range from insensitive to downright terrible.
It pains me to realize that I was apparently an insufferable jerk. I don’t think I’m that way anymore (at least I hope not). But what do I do with these revelations?
I’ve tried apologizing, and some will listen, whereas others just apparently want the satisfaction of telling me off.
With one man who says I bullied and harassed him (I don’t remember it that way), I even tried saying, “I wasn’t a happy person then,” on top of apologizing.
I am left not feeling very good about myself, which is not a good path for me.
It’s like I’m never going to be able to redeem myself in the eyes of a large swath of people I grew up around.
I’ve thought about a universal, wide-ranging apology on social media saying, “Look, I know I wasn’t a great person to be around, but I’m not that way anymore.”
Thoughts? Suggestions? — Formerly Terrible
Dear Formerly: I don’t suggest a wide-ranging apology on social media, mainly because it might lead to a piling-on, as people recall episodes and incidents from over two decades ago.
Mainly, I want to offer you a high-five. You have changed. You have tackled your behavioral problems and are now quite appropriately trying to acknowledge, as well as somehow manage the fallout. It’s a reckoning.
Acknowledging your behavior is huge. Apologizing to the people you have wronged is appropriate — and also huge.
There is an additional step, however, that you may have missed — and that is asking for forgiveness. You say, “I did this to you. I know I hurt you. I am ashamed, and so sorry.”
Then you let the person vent, respond or recount the consequences of your behavior.
And then you say, “I’ve worked very hard to change. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Some people will forgive you immediately. Some will ponder your sincere effort at making amends, and will forgive you later. Some may never get there. And some will be inspired by your honesty and authenticity.
Dear Amy: My partner of 19 years received a letter from a 50-year-old woman claiming to be his daughter.
It was a shock. We are both 75.
The birth mother named him as the father only recently.
He wants to take a paternity test. He is spending hours on the phone with her almost every day. He has been open with me about their contact from the beginning, but I am having a hard time accepting this situation. I’m concerned about the amount of time he is spending talking to her and then discussing her with me. It is overwhelming.
I am getting tension headaches. I can feel myself withdrawing into a shell.
I know I must not criticize or complain about the attention he is giving her — because this will only create a wedge between us.
How can I handle this? — Left Out
Dear Left Out: Your life, including your daily routine, changed radically overnight, after this person surfaced in your partner’s life. Urge him to get a DNA test immediately.
It’s also reasonable to ask him to include you in this contact so that you may also get to know this woman. He needs to be mindful of all of his relationships, not just the one he is building with her. If you are feeling neglected, say so.
Dear Amy: Your advice to “Dealt a Bad Hand” (that he find a new poker game to join) was like being dealt a two/seven off-suit — a hand that’s hard to win. Finding a new game is not so easy.
Although the age range in my game is 35 to 75, we often act like 14-year-olds; joking around, teasing each other, and having fun.
The reasons for “not permitting a split pot” are endless. But to take it so personally is possibly a misinterpretation. — A Poker Player
Dear Player: I’m giving you my chips. Thank you.
You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.