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by Abigail Van Buren

Teenager Is Running Scared While Shoplifting for Mom

DEAR ABBY: When I was 20 and in an abusive marriage, I had an affair with a much older man I'll call "Ben." Ben promised he would take me away from the pain, and we both left our respective partners.

Twenty years later, Ben's ex-wife is still bitter about their divorce. Although Ben and I are no longer together, I feel the need to apologize to her for my role in ending their marriage. I admit I did some nasty things to her when she expressed her vindictiveness over the years.

I am now married with children and lead a very different life, and I'm ashamed of my behavior back then. I want to accept accountability for what I did and give her the chance to address me. I don't think she will be receptive, but for her to still carry this anger 20 years later -- and never to have remarried -- validates that I have caused her much pain.

Should I write her, call her or just put it behind me once and for all? -- REMORSEFUL IN GEORGIA

DEAR REMORESEFUL: If I understand you correctly, what you want is to lessen your guilt by letting this woman tell you how deeply hurt she was that you helped to destroy her marriage. I can see the benefit for YOU, but how will it benefit her besides dredging up all the pain and anger you caused her? Will it ease either one? I doubt it. Nor will it cause her to remarry or to think better of you.

Better to let the scab stay in place rather than pick at it and concentrate on finding another avenue for redeeming yourself.