Dear Carolyn:

I married my childhood sweetheart at 20 and our marriage lasted about two years. We were both young and needed to grow up, but we were unable to do it together. It's been two years since we've been together and I've spent the majority of it badmouthing him to my close friends and family so as to not seem like I walked away without a reason. I mean, he was a jerk, but I might have exaggerated a bit.

The problem is, even through it all, I never stopped loving him and the past month we have started talking and are considering starting to date again. I don't know how to tell everyone the man that I supposedly hated for so long is back in my life. Do second chances work? Or am I being naive?

Returning Ex

It's not naive to trust each other again, as long as you've both grown up since you split.

It is naive to think you've grown up, though, if you still feel the need to spin your personal life to win other people's approval. The following list of people needed to be comfortable with your reasons for ending your marriage:

1. You.

People may judge you harshly, yes. But this was your marriage, not theirs.

And even if you divorced for dubious reasons, there was no one better to provide constructive criticism than your close friends and family, the people you love and trust most.

Those are two excellent reasons to take responsibility for your own decision, along with the flak that comes with it. But here's an exquisite one: Badmouthing your ex to cover up your real reasons for divorcing him in effect shifted the blame onto him. That's so much worse than if you really had "walked away without a reason."

Which is why the key to your second chance is your knowing how to tell everyone about your second chance. You just tell them the truth. And you take the flak that comes with it.

Relationships are complicated, and yours might fail a second time, for the same reasons or a whole new set of them. Most do. But if you can summon the maturity to stand up and admit that you exaggerated your ex-husband's faults because you were embarrassed about your divorce and he was the handiest scapegoat, then I like your second-chance chances much better. (Better still if he's not still a jerk.)

Dear Carolyn:

Is it unreasonable to tell friends that they are allowed to stay at our house only for a few nights or ask them to be in the house by 10 p.m. when they are staying with us? A friend of my husband's is offended by my rules, has taken the restrictions personally and is now upset with me.


Reasonable people can disagree on what rules are reasonable, but not on your right to make even unreasonable rules for your own house. If your husband's friend found them offensive, then he was free to stay in a hotel. He was also free to behave like a good little middle-schooler and keep his opinion of your rules to himself.

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