Dear Carolyn: Last week, I confided in my friend “Maya” that I slept with a different friend’s husband for a short period a few years ago. I don’t want to make excuses, but it was during a very bad time in my life and I did a lot of things I would never do now.

I knew I was disclosing a pretty big secret and Maya would probably pass judgment, but I didn't know how much. A few days after that conversation, she texted me to say she had been thinking about it a lot and wanted to know if I could provide her any assurances that I would be more trustworthy to her than I was to that other friend. I wanted to write back that OF COURSE I would never go behind Maya's back, but those words feel hollow.

The answer is that I never would, both because Maya’s friendship is so important to me (the other friend’s was too, but maybe not in the same way), and because I am now an entirely different person who makes better choices in general. But I don’t know whether these words seem hollow too.

— Scarlet Letter?

Scarlet Letter?: A better topic for conversation than text, no?

Either way: Tell her it’s a great question, and fair, and you will respect that by not giving her some hollow answer, like, “Of course I’d never do that to you.” Or even, “I am now an entirely different person,” because presumably before the affair you also saw yourself as someone who wouldn’t do that. We know our current selves pretty well at best — and our future selves are a guess.

Instead, you’ll say only what you know to be true: that this experience changed you, that you’re making better choices in general, and that like yourself so much better now for it.

And you hope she will be transparent with you if this worry keeps dogging her. Good for her for speaking up where she could have just backed away from you slowly.

It may be your friendship can’t recover from having this truth out there, it happens — but if you’re transparent with each other, then there’s also a chance you become closer for it.

Hi, Carolyn: My boyfriend has suddenly become a little distant. When I asked whether everything is okay, he said yes. His actions are telling me otherwise. My instinct is to back off until he either comes around or ends things. But if he’s distant and I’m distant, it seems that will inevitably lead to a breakup.

So, do I act as if everything is business as usual? How long should I give it before I end things myself? I don’t want to be strung along, but I also don’t want to overreact if this is something that may pass.

— Back Off?

Back Off?: You can say you want to take his answer at face value, but you’re skeptical — so if there is something on his mind, you hope he’ll trust you with it when he’s ready.

Then give him some room to come to you.

If you distance each other into a breakup, then that doesn’t strike me as an overreaction so much as a sign — if nothing else, that you don’t communicate well enough to work.