DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend is upset with me because of something that happened in my past. I really have no idea how he found out about it, but it wasn't necessarily a secret. He won't open up to me about why it upsets him or how we can work through it. I don't like how he's reacting. It's unfair of him to shut me out when he wasn't even in my life at the time of the incident. What do I do? -- No Time Like the Present
DEAR NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: Sit down with your boyfriend and tell him that you need to talk about the elephant in the room. Set it up by saying both of you had lives before you got together. In your case, that includes uncomfortable things that happened before you met. You realize that this particular incident is upsetting to him, and you want to be able to discuss it openly with him. Tell him it makes you uncomfortable that he has shut down about something that happened long ago, that does not affect him and that you cannot change because it is over. Ask him to explain what he is feeling and to talk to you about the situation so that you can find a way forward.
If the issue raises questions about your values or integrity, it may be hard for him to move on even though it didn’t affect him when it happened. Figure out what you think the issue is, and speak directly to that. If, from your perspective, it was a forgivable situation, explain why you think so, and ask him to agree to move on.
It is also true that sometimes our past simply comes back to bite us. Is this one of those incidents?