DEAR AMY: After more than 20 years of marriage, my husband and I divorced. During the marriage, my husband had a brief sexual affair with my sister. I did not find out until several years after the event. My husband confessed to the incident because he was feeling guilty. He confessed to other incidents, and after much counseling, we divorced. I have given my sister every opportunity to fess up and apologize. I wanted to forgive her and for us to move on. She refused to acknowledge any role in this and I finally quit speaking to her several years ago. She has a history of deceitful behavior, refuses to accept any responsibility for her misdeeds, and has always felt entitled. She is the youngest and our parents didn’t do her any favors by not forcing her to have responsibilities like the rest. They enabled her behavior. Now, my sister has medical problems and financial hardships. I am the only family member in a position to help. No one has asked me to help, and I have not offered, but I want to help her. If I do, am I giving up my right to an apology and a request for forgiveness? I don’t want to blackmail her into a confession and apology, but that is probably the only way I will ever get it, and it won’t be sincere because she isn’t really apologetic. What do you think I should do?
DEAR DECEIVED: If you want to help your sister, you should do so. After all of this time, you should accept the fact that your sister will likely not admit to any wrongdoing, will not apologize, and will not ask for forgiveness. You are right about a “forced confession.” So, can you carry on and help her without attaching conditions?
If you choose to help your sister, you should do it out of compassion and without any expectation for her to behave in any particular way.
Forgiveness isn’t necessary for you to do what you want to do. However, if you can find your way toward forgiveness (regardless of her denials and behavior), you will find yourself liberated from this betrayal.
DEAR AMY: I have been with my husband for five years. His friends from high school make up his main group of friends. Some have married (or are dating) inside the group, and some have married outside. The girls in the group are a very cliquey bunch. Every so often we “outsider” girls have to hear about girls’ nights that they had to which we were not invited. One of the girls inside the group was the first to get married, and didn’t invite the outside girls to her bachelorette party. I’ll admit I also didn’t invite these cliquey girls to my bachelorette party. I came to the conclusion that since they didn’t invite me, I didn’t invite them. It wasn’t out of spite. When any of the guys have had their bachelor parties, the outsider guys get invited. I want to get along with the girls, but they are not welcoming at all, even though I’ve been with my husband for a long time. My husband also gets upset by this, but doesn’t say much. They will also take and post photos of them together, leaving us out of the photos, even though we are in the same room. This is upsetting to the outsider girls. Do we have the right to be upset? Should we say something?
DEAR UPSET: First of all, while it is definitely not pleasant to be excluded within a larger group of friends, I have to wonder why you would want to be included within this noxious “girl” group.
You had an opportunity to behave in a way that would model pro-social and inclusive behavior when you held your own bachelorette party and chose not to invite them. At this point, you could express yourself like a grown-up: “Hey, your exclusive behavior bothers me. Can we find ways to come closer together?”
All of you should behave more like grown women, and less like “girls.”
DEAR AMY: “Want to Make it Right” wanted to reach out to someone that the writer thought he had bullied in high school. Thank you for responding: “It is never a mistake, and never too late, to make amends.” That quote made it onto my refrigerator.
DEAR READER: Thank you. I feel honored!
Here’s what’s on my fridge: “It’s never a mistake, and never too late, to make carbonara.”