To try to amend her ugly lies, she has to tell the ugly truths
Q: I have recently reconnected with one of my high school boyfriends. Our breakup was extremely difficult, and occurred during my junior year of high school, when I was 17.
Being furious and young, and thinking I'd never see him or speak to him again, I told a number of lies concerning him, including telling one of my brothers that the boyfriend was gay.
It's now five years later. We are both much more mature now and are working to repair the old rift while trying to begin a new relationship. It's going well so far, but the problem is my brother. I mentioned the old boyfriend's name during a conversation with my brother's wife, and my brother had a very negative reaction, which leads me to believe he remembers those awful things I had said at the time.
Now I don't know what to do. The old boyfriend and I are not making any sort of declarations yet. But when the time comes, what do I say to my family other than that I was young and angry, so I lied to get a little revenge for the pain he caused me?
Not so Vindictive Anymore
A: "Other than"? But you haven't even said that yet, despite an engraved invitation to do so the moment your brother had his "very negative reaction."
The problem isn't your brother. The problem is that you were unusually harsh on your ex-boyfriend, even for a wounded 17-year-old, and that you've closed the maturity gap only part of the way since then.
It does sound as if you've renounced the practice of firebombing someone's reputation, which is a good and necessary start. But your silence at the aforementioned crucial moment is just another way of hurting someone: You tacitly confirmed your brother's opinion of your boyfriend — including any false impressions you planted — by doing nothing to contradict it.
And there's also the matter of the language you use in your letter. You "believe" your brother "remembers" your accusations? You admit you erred, but you're hedging mightily within that admission.
To set the record straight (if you will), it's not enough just to stop telling ugly lies. You have to cross over to full maturity by telling ugly truths, even when you don't want to, even when there's no purpose in telling them besides pure fairness, even when the ugliness you expose is your own.
"I understand why you reacted badly when I mentioned (boyfriend's name) — and I'm the reason. I spread lies about him after we broke up. I told myself it was revenge for things he did to me, when in fact I just wanted to convince myself that I was a blameless victim. I realize now I was responsible for my share of the damage, and there was no excuse for what I did to him."
That is what you need to say to your brother — not "when the time comes" (translation: when circumstances force your hand), but now, whether this relationship flies or not.
By the way — the truth might not dent your brother's opinion; it's possible he disliked your boyfriend long before you broke up. This is about correcting yesterday, not spinning or selling tomorrow.