Adapted from a recent online discussion.
You decide whether to dwell on, deny or deal with your mistake
Washington: I ended a relationship VERY badly. Essentially turned it into a yo-yo for three months while I was making up my mind. I've apologized but can't seem to get past it in my own head. It's not the kind of person I like to think of myself as, and I hate that someone is walking around with bad feelings toward me. How do I move on?
Carolyn: Figure out why you behaved the way you did, what you could have done to prevent it, and what you can do now not to repeat it. Most people do something rotten eventually, something they can't undo, and so they have to get used to the idea of living with something forever.
Having something on your conscience presents you with a choice: Dwell on it, deny it or deal with it.
People who recognize what jerks they can be — who don't sugarcoat their mistakes or rationalize themselves off the hook — are less likely to act like jerks again than people who deny their dark sides — people who assume they're one of the good guys in every encounter they have. Humility and contrition are powerful motivators to start making better choices and being a better person.
Now you have a more accurate, realistic view of your character. That will make you better at anticipating yourself, and preventing your shortcomings from making your decisions for you.
Remember, too, that this process works both ways: Just as we all do bad things, we all have bad things done to us, putting victims at the same crossroads as offenders. Do we dwell, deny or deal?
So while you rightly took responsibility for hurting your ex, it's your ex's responsibility to choose wisely at that crossroads. Your ex may think ill of you, sure, but those feelings could be transformative in so many different ways, if s/he lets them be.
Friends should be forthright about their travel reservations
BYOS: My three best friends and I, all 28, take an annual trip to New York to party and see a show. We each have one sister, and decided this year to bring our sisters along. Mine is only 19, and cannot hang out at bars, which I made clear when we were making the plans. My friends said it was okay and that we'd be creative about filling our nights.
Yesterday, though, I got an e-mail from an account I didn't recognize, anonymously asking me to reconsider bringing my sister because it would be "more fun" to "honor the traditions of boozing it up" and "meeting guys." These have been major elements in previous trips, but I thought we had agreed we'd make an exception this year.
Mostly, though, I am terribly hurt that one (or two, or all) of my best friends chose this weird anonymity instead of just coming to me directly. I don't know whether to confront them en masse or just let it go, but I am thinking I will have to forgo this trip. What do you think?
Carolyn: Wow. Forward it to all three of them, with a note that if anyone has something to say, you'd prefer that she'd come out and say it, thanks. What comes of that will tell you whether you still want to go.