Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now. The only issue that came up between us is when I told him I would rather that he not keep in touch with past girlfriends. I said absolutely no contact. The past should stay in the past. He can have contact with his ex-wife because they have kids, but not girlfriends. He agreed to this. Last night I found out that he has been in contact with a past girlfriend. His excuse was that he replied to an email out of respect. Now I'm feeling betrayed and so hurt. I do not know if I can forgive him. What should I do?

Feeling Betrayed

DEAR FEELING: Responding to an email is not a betrayal. Of course you can forgive him -- if you choose to. When someone disappoints you, understanding and forgiveness should be your goal. Your boyfriend defied the rule you dictated to him, but he didn't rob a man in Reno. Perhaps he has a history of cheating -- and your behavior makes it seem as if you have a history of being cheated on, otherwise you wouldn't feel the need to control this specific aspect of your boyfriend's life.

Though I agree that partners shouldn't be in touch with exes (unless there is an open friendship), if the person you are with has always behaved in a trustworthy manner toward you, then you should assume that he will continue to be trustworthy. You should not snoop or pry, and if you have concerns or insecurities, you should talk about them and also listen to how he responds.

Imagine how differently this would have gone if you had simply said, "I have to be honest, this makes me feel very nervous. I thought we agreed on this. I feel really disappointed and discouraged." If he offers to be transparent and asks for forgiveness, then you should make more of an effort to escape from your own vortex of feeling, forgive him and move on.

DEAR AMY: I recently ran into an old friend (and former colleague), and we set up a date to have after-work drinks in a few weeks to catch up. Three years ago I asked her out on a date, but she declined because she was in a relationship. Last year we were scheduled to do drinks (as friends) and her boyfriend vetoed it at the last minute, saying he felt uncomfortable. I had forgotten that. How should I ask if he's now comfortable with it, if he's even still in the picture?

Ethically Conflicted

DEAR CONFLICTED: Your friend's relationship should not be your concern at this point. She is in charge of her own choices regarding how she wants to spend her time -- including the choice to let her boyfriend's comfort dictate the terms of her contact with you.

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She may no longer be with this person; if she is still in the relationship, you might receive another last-minute cancellation.

Part of your "catch-up" will be to find out about each other's personal lives; wait until you see her to do this in person.

DEAR AMY: The letter from "Feeling Kinda Bummed," whose gay partner's mother asked him to not attend the father's funeral, brought back memories of my own relationship in the 1980s. Although invited, I declined to attend the wedding of my partner's daughter out of consideration for his ex-wife. A few years later, at my partner's funeral, I was invited to sit with his family at the service, but again declined out of consideration for her. I applaud Bummed for being gracious and not putting his partner in the middle of an awkward situation. Your advice was good, but I would also advise the partners to take whatever steps, legal or otherwise, are necessary to make sure that Bummed cannot be excluded from his partner's funeral, should that unfortunate event occur.

Surviving Spouse

DEAR SURVIVING: You made many sacrifices for the sake of others' sensitivities. Fortunately, many spouses and partners no longer find it necessary to stay away from family events; I hope "Feeling Kinda Bummed's" story is an increasingly rare one.