Ask Amy: Reformed criminal now being blackmailed

Dear Amy: Over 40 years ago, I committed a significant crime.

No one was physically hurt, but I scared the devil out of a small group of people.

The crime was for financial gain, and I had planned it in advance.

My wife knew and begged me not to do it, but I felt I had no other choice.

My wife benefited from the proceeds of the crime and willingly spent the proceeds. I was never caught.

For 30 years we never spoke of this incident, as the memory was too painful for us both.

Over the last 10 years, however, when she is very angry at me or is trying to force me to do something she wants me to do, she threatens to tell my adult children and our grandchildren about, “the kind of man you really are.”

It is pure blackmail. Sometimes she says she will tell the whole story to the family in her own way after I am dead.

I have never repeated any unlawful acts in all the time since and have shared a good life and, I believe, have made a positive contribution to many people through my work.

I have considered telling my children as truthfully and factually as I can, and have written and rewritten my confession many times to share with them.

I have not sent that confession. It sits, password protected, on my hard drive.

I think my adult children would understand and forgive. I cringe at the thought of my grandchildren knowing this.

Do you see any other way? If my wife finally tells this story, it will be embroidered with her perspective and 40-plus years of whatever she wants to bring to the story. Her temper is legendary.

What do you think I should do?

— Reformed

Dear Reformed: I think you should meet with a lawyer, deliver a full and accurate account of what you did, and discuss your options, including admitting this crime and making restitution to the victims or institution you harmed. (The statute of limitations for you to be prosecuted likely ran out decades ago.)

And then — yes — you should tell your family about this. Doing so will remove this episode from your wife’s bag of tricks. It would be best if you and your wife did this together — but that might not be possible. (In my opinion, you should make this confession in person — not via written document but perhaps reading from your document, if that makes it easier.)

You should acknowledge your wife’s opposition to your plan and take full responsibility for your actions. You should answer any questions and assure your children that you have done your best to lead an exemplary life since then.

And then you should ask for their forgiveness. Ask for your wife’s forgiveness, too. Her attempts to blackmail you are deplorable, but — well, you started it.

A marriage counselor could help you to mediate residual personal or family issues related to your crime and confession.

Dear Amy: I’m a 48-year-old woman who’s been dating a 52-year-old man for four years.

He’s a man of few words.

He doesn’t always say how he feels, but typically expresses how he feels with gestures.

However, I’m ready to settle down. I’m ready to be married.

I’m ready to see where this relationship is really going, so do you think that it is OK to ask my boyfriend to marry me?

— Wondering

Dear Wondering: One quick way to see where your relationship is going is to ask your long-time guy to marry you.

Before you do so, you should ask yourself two important questions: Is this little-talking, slow drink of water the right person to stake it all on? Do you have a plan for what you will do if he hems, haws, doesn’t give you an answer and doesn’t make a telling gesture?

If so, then absolutely — go for it.

Dear Amy: Regarding the issue of post-pandemic hugging, I recently attended a professional conference in-person.

We all had a name tag and lanyard, but what was novel was that we could choose the color of our lanyard (red, yellow, or green) depending on how we felt about shaking hands or other touching.

Green meant go for it (high fives or handshakes), yellow meant “I’m still cautious,” and red meant “I really want to social distance — no touching.”

I thought it was a clever way to ease us back into the world of in-person events.

— Yellow for Me

Dear Yellow: I like it.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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