Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am thinking about going back to school in the fall. I haven’t attended a “traditional” college for a while. When I last attended, I had some serious issues with a faculty member. Let’s just say that things did not end well, and I ended up with a disciplinary record. Since that time, I have gone to counseling and take medication to control my anger. I now understand what caused the issues with the professor. Fortunately, I have found that there are schools that are willing to accept students, despite their past mistakes. However, I live in a small area, where college faculty members tend to know one another, even if they are not employed by the same school. I am concerned that the professor may divulge information about what happened at the other school and I may get a negative reputation. If this issue comes up, how should I approach it? I don’t want to be seen as a “crazy” or “difficult” student.

Wondering Woman in PA

DEAR WONDERING: The faculty member you had the problem with is not likely to know your application status at another school. Your disciplinary record at the previous college may surface, but your previous school should not share the details of this record without you knowing about it.

The answer for you is to own the reality of your choices and behavior. If this issue comes up, you should be truthful, without violating your own privacy by divulging details regarding your treatment or medication. You can simply say, “I behaved terribly. I have accepted the consequences, and now I am excited to get started on a new beginning.”

Once you have become established at the new school, you might want to contact the previous professor, apologize, and ask for a clean slate.

DEAR AMY: I have a casual friend I have known for almost 20 years. We socialize without spouses, usually meeting for lunch, wine, walks or movies. I truly enjoy her company when we get together every few months. Her husband is known by most of her friends and acquaintances to be — to put it bluntly — a jerk. He does not spend time with her and does not seem to have a real job, but is a big talker and self-promoter. They have always had money problems. My problem is that when we are together she shares things about her husband that make me uncomfortable. I think it must help her to unburden to someone, but I don’t ever reciprocate, and wish she would not do this. I am beginning to dread getting together, because I know I will hear more things about her husband that I feel should be private. If I stop our get-togethers, I don’t know how to avoid telling her why. I want her to know that I care about her, but I don’t want to hear about this jerk.

Torn

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DEAR TORN: I don’t know from personal experience how men handle this sort of intimate disclosure concerning their spouses, but I do know that women seem to fall into two camps: Those that dish on their partners, and those that don’t.

The problem with disclosing intimate details is exactly what you are currently experiencing: If all you know is what an obnoxious jerk the partner is, then you are going to form an impression that the person is, in fact, an obnoxious jerk.

You need to discuss this with your friend. Tell her how uncomfortable it makes you to hear these negative things and yet not feel free to pass a negative judgment. Ask her what her intent is when she tells you these things about her husband. Is she asking for help or advice? Is she venting? Does she want you to know what a jerk her husband is? If that is the case, tell her, “Message received.”

DEAR AMY: I would like to weigh in on your terrible advice in response to “No More Letters,” whose parents read letters she had written to her grandmother (after the grandmother’s death). That is like reading a diary! It is a terrible breach of privacy.

Appalled

DEAR APPALLED: Actually, it is not like reading a diary. A letter sent to someone becomes the recipient’s property. I agree with you (and others) that the parents should not have read these letters, but unlike others, I understand the impulse to do this. I’m glad the parents returned the letters to their daughter.