The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ask Amy: Ex says their relationship had ‘inappropriate power imbalance’

Dear Amy: About 10 years ago, I very briefly dated someone who was 15 years younger than me — I was 38 and he was 23.

He pursued me. The age difference bothered me from the beginning, and I told him repeatedly that I didn’t want to date because of it. I was also dealing with suicidal depression, was unable to work and didn’t want to date anyone.

He persisted for months and eventually wore me down. (He texted and called daily, showed up at my house uninvited, and made his case through mutual friends. He even had his parents call me to tell me that they approved.)

We dated for about two months. We had nothing in common. He and his friends were heavy drinkers and drug users, and my depression worsened.

Ultimately, I ended it (kindly). It shouldn't have been a surprise to him. The entire time we dated, I told him — and all my friends and family — that I was uncomfortable with the age difference and with dating anyone at that time.

My health improved and I moved about 1,000 miles away. We haven't been in touch for 10 years.

Recently, he contacted me on social media and said his therapist is suggesting there had been an inappropriate power imbalance because of the age difference and that he had been unable to consent — all very #MeToo ideas.

I haven't responded. I am alarmed because, well, it's not accurate.

I work in the media now and am a little worried about being canceled. But I'm more concerned that he feels this way.

Should I respond?

— Worried

Worried: No, you should not respond. Taking at face value the details as you describe them, being in touch with this man would be like pressing “go” for a person who previously violated reasonable boundaries, engaged in behavior that sounds like stalking, and who seems capable of overall relentlessness.

You state that you were not working at the time of your brief relationship, so I conclude that you were not his superior at work. He was 23 years old — over the age of consent. The 15-year-age difference between you two is immaterial.

It seems reasonable for a therapist to suggest that there was a power imbalance between you two, because many failed relationships are the result of a power imbalance.

Don’t read any #MeToo allegations into this unless he explicitly makes them, and don’t apologize for participating in a very brief relationship that you broke off.

Preserve and print out any communication between you two.

Most of us have regrets from choices we made in our early 20s. You can hope that his therapy leads to insight instead of allegations.

Dear Amy: What should I do for an alcoholic friend who will not go to treatment because she has been there before and they just preach religion?

She is not religious at all. Are there any resources for alcoholics that don’t preach religion?

— Trying to Help

Trying: As world-changing as the “12-step” model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous has been, some people are turned off by references to God, or “a higher power.”

Many programs inspired by the success of AA have adopted some of these basic truths and techniques, but have removed any religious references. is an extremely helpful resource for anyone looking for a nonreligious recovery program. The site features a comprehensive list of books, blogs, essays and a database of secular recovery programs — all pointed toward people like your friend.

Especially helpful is their “collection of alternative 12-steps,” which offers secular interpretations of AA's 12-steps.

Your friend might be using her resistance to religion as a reason to avoid any recovery program, but you could certainly help her by pointing her toward the many secular options available.

Dear Amy: “Wondering” wrote to you with a question regarding whether she should tell her now adult children about their half brother (who was adopted out as a baby).

Yes she should!

I have known that I was adopted since I was 10. I am now 71 and have been in contact with my 11 half-siblings (both paternal and maternal) for some years.

I found some through persistent research to determine who my birth mother was, and some through DNA analysis, which gave me my birth father.

As you said, this will come out sooner or later, and if she talks about it now, she will control the narrative.

— Adoptee

Adoptee: Thank you for providing your important perspective. I hope that adoptive parents follow your advice.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency