Dear Doctor Love - The Letters
I’ve recently started dating someone, and we are getting along swimmingly. We were recently at a charity ball, and I ran into one of my old university friends and introduced her to my new partner.
She looked visibly upset, and ended the conversation quite abruptly. She later messaged me on Facebook to say that he was a terrible school bully to her in high school.
What should I do? Do I want to date someone like this?
From Dating a Bully
Dear Dating a Bully, it sounds like you are in a really difficult position here. Bullying is never acceptable, at any age, and given that your friend was visibly shaken, it sounds like the bullying was significant. The problem is, people do grow up and mature and are often ashamed of who they were when they were younger and the things they did. We all made mistakes as kids, some more than others.
Perhaps give some thought to whether you have seen any behaviours like this from him. Is he unkind at restaurants, rude to shop staff or does he belittle people behind their backs? If you have seen behaviours like this it is likely that this man is just an unkind person and always will be. That is a bit of a red flag and you might want to think about whether you want a future with him. However, if you have never sensed anything like that, it would be wise to have a conversation with him and allow him the opportunity to explain. If you’re concerned about asking so directly, you could perhaps just start a conversation about childhood and what you were like at school and ask him the same. That could lead into a more in-depth discussion.
We all change as we grow up and you should give him the benefit of the doubt. If he is truly sorry, he might even be able to repair some damage to your friend with a heartfelt apology, but often those scars never heal and you may have to accept that your friend will never forgive him if you decide to stay together.