Ask Amy: Reader wonders if people can change

April 14, 2012

DEAR AMY: I recently left a two-year relationship with a man who has anger issues as well as family issues from the past that he never properly dealt with.

We fought for months before I finally ended it. I left him because our fights started escalating to the point that he would grab or shove me to try to get his point across; alcohol was involved every time this happened. I realized that this was wrong and that I was unhappy, and my friends have commended me for leaving him.

He has since gone to see a counselor to deal with his issues, including his drinking. I have not spoken to him since I ended the relationship.

He has written me several letters telling me his counselor has helped him do some soul-searching. He says he knows that the way he was reacting to me was completely wrong, he has gotten his drinking under control, and he wants another chance to show me that things can be better.

I do love this man. Everything else about the relationship and his personality were a perfect match, but I am afraid that if I give him a chance we will fall back into the bad pattern we had before.

He is a smart person with a great job. For months I encouraged him to talk to someone to deal with his personal issues so we could have a healthy relationship that could possibly lead to marriage. He has finally done so, and that gives me hope. Even so, I find myself wondering if people ever really change. Do they?

Should I give this person one more chance, or should I move on? -- On the Fence

DEAR ON: If I didn’t believe in change, I’d give up on my diet and continuous spiritual quest, retire this column and finally sleep in.

The most prudent way to gauge someone else’s change is to trust, but verify. I don’t think it is enough for this man to get his drinking under control — he should stop drinking. It will take more than some soul-searching sessions with a counselor to effect permanent change.

At the very least, you can acknowledge his efforts. If you want to renew a relationship with him, be prepared for resistance from your friends and family. They will worry about you. If you do this, reviewing your troubling relationship history with him and his counselor would be wise.

DEAR AMY: I think that both you and the “Mom” who wrote to you missed the point about her 11-year-old boy, who confessed to her that he looked at naked girls on the Internet and drank a “restricted” can of soda.

I wanted to shout, “Back off, Mom!” The problem isn’t his normal behaviors but that his mother is “horrified” and saddened by it. The boy needs space, not more intimate talk with his mother about values and choices.

He needs room to experience on his own the puzzling surprises of puberty. He won’t benefit from his mom getting inside his head. He’s already guilt-ridden by not meeting his mother’s lofty (and unrealistic) expectations — to the point that he felt compelled to confess.

Mom needs to understand that her beloved son is no longer 4 years old and needs to grow up on his own. If she doesn’t, I fear she’s endangering his future well-being. Perhaps counseling for Mom would help. -- Former 11-year-old Boy

DEAR FORMER: I understand the spirit of your comments, but if this “Mom” doesn’t talk to her son about these age-appropriate behaviors, then surely she won’t be invited to talk to him about other more troubling issues.

Sometimes having a “Mom in your head” is a very good thing.

DEAR AMY: When you attend a wedding, should you bring the present with you or send the present in advance? I was told you should only send the present if you are not going to attend the wedding. -- Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: I think it’s easiest on the couple if the gift is sent to a home address either in advance of or just after the wedding. Transporting gifts from a reception hall can cause problems.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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