Updates: “Reformed A**hole” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Reformed Asshole,” the man going through a divorce who wondered if he should apologize to a woman he slept with sixteen years ago and then never called back. Keep reading to see whether he reached out to her or not.

I really appreciate the advice you gave, and I didn’t contact her. I also appreciate the constructive criticism I received from the commenters. After reading everything, I realized that my thoughts were misguided. The entire separation/divorce has caused a ton of self-reflection. I do feel guilty about my actions with that woman, but I mostly feel guilt about my behavior with my soon to be ex-wife. When we first met, I was a kid and I acted as such (sorry to any 20-year-old readers, but you aren’t grownups yet). This behavior continued through my late 20s (to any late 20s-aged readers who may still be acting this way: grow up already) up until we had our daughter. I was obnoxious, negative, and selfish. I feel like I finally started growing up when my daughter was born, but by then the damage was already done. I don’t take absolute responsibility for the impending divorce, but I accept the majority of it. In addition to my daughter, who is the absolute love of my life, I also have a 19-year-old sister. When I wrote in about this woman I slept with and didn’t bother to call back, I was thinking about it in terms of a father or older brother. I would be furious if my daughter or younger sister were treated that way!

Anyway, I have been in therapy, but I didn’t want to talk to my therapist about this, as I have bigger fish to fry. I’d also like to give a special thanks to “Starfire.” I took her advice as well. I didn’t give a monetary donation, but twice a week I’ve been volunteering at a Phoenix battered women’s shelter. One night I work with some of the kids at the shelter and the other I help out their finance dept. Working with the kids leaves me exhausted, but I feel like I’m helping, which is extremely gratifying. I still have work to do on myself, but I’m getting there.

Thanks, again. — Working on it

Sounds like you are committed to working through your issues in healthy ways, which is wonderful. Best of luck as you continue to self-reflect, process your divorce, and move to the next chapter of your life!

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.


  1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    This might be my favorite update of all time. I wish more people would self-reflect. Even people that don’t have huge life events happen like divorce. I might spend my day self-reflecting. Think about the ways I could be better for myself and better to the people around me.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      Whoa… like all things in life, try moderation, my friend. I don’t want you to better yourself too much, too fast! 😉

  2. Addie Pray says:

    Thanks for the update! It was one of my favorites too.

  3. What a great update! Good luck on this next phase in your life. It sounds like you’re getting off to a really great start.

  4. Avatar photo theattack says:

    Glad to hear about your progress! But I don’t really believe it was necessary to insult/give advice to everyone else during the update for your own advice. Either way, good luck.

    1. What/where is the insult?

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Okay, it’s not really an insult. I just don’t like when people get all preachy to people who didn’t ask for their advice, or when they project their problems onto other people.

    2. I don’t think he’s really insulting anyone. I sure didn’t approach relationships like a grownup when I was 20. And he’s saying if you’re in your late 20’s don’t act like you’re 20…which he regrets doing.

      1. Agreed. People mature at different times and he’s relating his own timeline, but trying to advise people who may be in similar situations. I’m late 20s, and I know when I’m acting like a 20 yr old and its not pretty. I think its good advice in general.

        Great job on the volunteering, the self reflection and the new positive outlook LW!

    3. ele4phant says:

      I think there’s no insult in acknowledging that most 20 year olds are somewhat more self-centered then they will be in ten years, and that they should get a brief “pass” for that whereas a 29 year old deserves a smack on the head. I guess we can argue that yes, 20 year olds are adults, but undoubtedly most of us become more mature and more emphatic as we age. Even if they’re already mature, they’ll probably get even more mature when they are 30. No news there.

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I don’t disagree with that information. Just don’t think it’s necessary to preach to other people and project his own issues onto other people who didn’t ask for his advice.

      2. ele4phant says:

        I don’t think it was an intentional insult, or was trying to preach to others. If anything, he was being too wary, drawing apologizing and explaining what he meant, where no explanation was needed. He said that when he was twenty, he acted like a twenty year old. And twenty year olds can be dicks. Then he realized some people might take offense to that (on the whole) insinuation that many twenty year olds have a ways to go, maturity-wise, so he explained his statement. Which drew extra attention to something most of us wouldn’t have cared about or noticed to start with.

      3. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Kind of similar to how you’re projecting his update and acting personally insulted? Or different than that?

      4. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I don’t feel personally insulted. I’m not a 20 year old, and I’m not in my late 20s acting like a 20 year old. I also don’t understand what you mean by saying that I’m projecting his update. You’re being pretty harsh on me when all I’m saying is that people generally don’t appreciate unsolicited advice. The advice doesn’t even apply to me.

      5. Addie Pray says:

        A lot of people who react annoyed/offended/upset about advice that they claim to not need react that way because deep down they feel there is some truth to it and sometimes the truth hurts. Therefore, one way to trick people into believing you don’t need the advice is not to react annoyed/offended/upset. It’s just like trying your damnest not to laugh when people are tickling you so they’ll think you’re not ticklish and then they’ll stop trying to tickle you. Deep down it’s the exact same. My logic is a little fuzzy on account of it being late in the day and I am a morning person.

      6. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I’m not claiming not to need the advice. I was not an adult at 20 years old. I’m just not 20 years old, so he literally wasn’t talking about me at all. It’s not like he was talking about me, and I’m trying to pretend like I’m waaay more mature than all the other 20 year olds.

      7. Addie Pray says:

        God, 80s babies are so self-centered, impatient, and sensitive. They think everything is about them (ie self-centered) and when it’s not they get all huffy and puffy and can’t just relax and sit quietly while the intended audience (others) receive the advice they need (ie, impatient) and when they get accused of being self-centered and impatient they get their pantes in a wad (ie, sensitive).

        Hey, I get a pass at being mean b/c you just gave me permission below to stereotype! Ok, let me have it. 30-something year olds suck because … They are bitter because they are not 20-something anymore? … See how much fun this can be?

      8. Addie Pray says:

        Except I’m kidding and I don’t want to start another debate about generations. … I’m just glad this LW is being productive and making himself better.

      9. Addie, you’re so vain. You probably think this comment/update is about you 😉

      10. Addie Pray says:

        Wait it’s not?! *gasp*

      11. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Hahaha, Well you seem to be doing just fine creating stereotypes for 30-somethings, so I’ll let you have that one too.

        And yeah, I’m probably overly sensitive. If only dear old mom had forgotten her birth control a few years earlier…

      12. Addie Pray says:

        Another commonly accepted truth is that 30-something year olds are amazing in bed, much much better than 20-something year olds. Hey I’m just the messenger!

        Ok, people, I’m off to the gym and then out for pizza. I know, counter-intuitive. But I never said 30-something year olds make sense.

      13. Addie Pray says:

        Here’s a new DW rule let’s all try follow: If someone says, “people who are [insert age range] tend to [insert something bad] and it would behoove them to knock that shit off”” – or whatever – and you read that and you fall within the age range but you know yourself to not do that something bad and not personally need to knock anything off, then consider the commenter to not be talking to you. File it away as good advice but not relevant to you. If it still bothers you knowing that this advice is out there but you don’t need it, rest assured there is some who is [insert age range] who did need it, and now that someone is going to correct his or her bad ways and BOOM the world will better place. Now, aren’t you glad you just rolled with it for the betterment (word?) of mankind? Yes you are. Yay, all better.

      14. Avatar photo theattack says:

        His advice didn’t apply to me. I agree with what you’re saying though.

      15. Addie Pray says:

        I’m open to suggestions for making this new rule more succinct. ….

        Basically, can we have a rule where we are allowed to stereotype people by age range? Like, I should be able to say “teenagers are silly” and no one jump down my throat for it, right? I advocate this rule mostly because I LOVE LOVE LOVE making fun of 80s babies. It’s one of my favorite things to do in life. Won’t you let me have that?

      16. Avatar photo theattack says:

        There’s already plenty of age-stereotyping around here. I think it’s already pretty accepted. Butttttttttt if you like making fun of 80s babies, you probably want to make fun of 20-somethings, not teenagers. Don’t freak out, but someone born in 1991 is allowed to go buy alcohol now. Weird, isn’t it?

      17. Addie Pray says:

        Oh right. No, it’s 20-something year olds that I like to make fun of. I don’t have a problem with teenagers actually. I was just using that as an example. The reason I don’t have a problem with teenagers is I really don’t have occasion to run into them. I’m sure if I did I could think of lots of things to make fun of them for. 20-something year olds are everywhere though… so it makes it easier, if that makes sense.

      18. Addie Pray says:

        p.s. 19-fucking-91? i remember 1991. like, i was already 12. i had adult-like conversations in 1991 about religion and politics and the new kids on the block. fml.

      19. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Scary huh? I still occasionally get really excited that I can drink in public and it’s not a big deal. I’m not breaking any laws. And then I remind myself I’ve been able to drink in public for 4 years. Scarrrrry thought. And it’s fine if you want to make fun of me. I make fun of myself all the time.

      20. My sister can drink in two years. And in two years I’ll be 30! ACK. Good think I’m keeping myself young by dating a 26 yr old. And for now, its nothing since i’m only 27. Next month will be tragic…

    4. I don’t think it was an insult at all. Just a realization, that 20 year olds when compared to those in their late 20s/early 30s approach relationships much differently. I think it was insightful of him to realize how immature or selfish he may have been at that age and what effect it had on his relationship.

      As someone whose 26 and stated the relationship with my husband at 20, the way we communicate and act within our relationship is vastly different now than it was at the beginning. I was much more “me” focused at 20, which doesn’t really lend a hand to mature communication and growth.

  5. Best update ever. And I’ll take the shout out – even with the reversed name. Giving your time is way better than what I suggested. You sound like you are definitely on your way to better things. Best of luck to you!

  6. This is definitely a great update– it sounds like you really listened to everybody & built upon the self-reflection you already had going on. And I don’t take issue with your statements about those in their twenties who still have a lot of growing up to do– it’s true of many (including myself) Good luck!

  7. Nice! And what a positive thing – Starfire’s comments leading to extra help at a woman’s shelter in Phoenix. How’s that for a positive DW ripple effect =)

    1. Oops…FireStar (I thought that looked funny).

      1. 🙂

  8. And btw, LW, I’m really happy for you! Great update.

  9. Moneypenny says:

    This is a great update!! And even better that the LW is giving back.

  10. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

    This made me so happy to read. It’s so wonderful when people are mature enough to acknowledge their mistakes and try to right their wrong’s in a healthy manner. What you’re doing by volunteering at the shelter and working with the kids… that’s a beautiful thing. Know that you’re making a difference.

  11. I will be the first to say that this is a terrible update then.

    “When I wrote in about this woman I slept with and didn’t bother to call back, I was thinking about it in terms of a father or older brother. I would be furious if my daughter or younger sister were treated that way!”

    And here is the problem with the chronic mistreatment of women these days. Why is it that many men ONLY come to this realization when it affects THEM!? Why do they have to empathize with a daughter or wife or mother or sister FIRST before they start acting out? Why can’t they be just decent people without having something happening to THEM first?

    And then we act like guys like this deserve such medals for doing the right thing. Is the bar set that low?

    Yes, I’ve seen the studies that show when men have daughters, they’re more likely to favor equal pay and other gender equality policies in the workplace. Whoopie. How’s about just favoring that to begin with? I guess I don’t call that progress when a guy has to have some PERSONAL connection to something to want it to change.

    When I need to a reject a guy, I do it in the kindest most delicate way possible. And it’s not because I have a father or a brother or a nephew or guy friends (and I do). I do it because it’s the humane thing to do, and that’s how I’d like to be treated. I don’t need to think about any other male I know other than the guy in this scenario.

    1. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

      He already admitted that he fucked up and wanted to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the catalyst for him was thinking about his daughter and sister, but I think age and maturity had a lot to do with it, too.

      I completely understand your anger (it boggles the mind how both men AND women can lack empathy and compassion toward the other sex), but I think it’s misdirected here. LW knows he was an ass.

    2. People grow, people change. People need to go through experiences sometimes to gain objective perspective on themselves and their actions.

      I don’t think it matters where the motivation came from. He was ready to change (the important part) and making those observations are what helped it click for him…of course he doesn’t deserve a medal…people are encouraging him to maintain his path.

      There are other things I take issue with in your comment here, but I don’t think it will do any good to hash it out.

    3. ele4phant says:

      Jeez. So what should he have done? Gone back and time and never been a dick to start with? Recognizing later on he that he had been a dick (perhaps due to his new fatherhood) and admitting he had been in the wrong is not enough?

      Sounds like he couldn’t have won with you unless he was able to do the physically impossible and time travel. He messed up. He matured and realized it, and regrets his past actions. Better late than never, yes?

      And to be honest, I don’t think this is a guy thing. Perhaps you’ve always been a lovely, empathetic person, but I can promise you I was a raging bitch to some of the guys I date in my late teens/early twenties. I think, based on my experiences and those of my friends, YOUNG people treat each other like crap, not just YOUNG GUYS. Maybe in different ways, but surely you know some young men who have gotten their hearts stomped on by some bitchy, uncaring girl.

      1. Actually there is something to the progression of men’s beliefs about feminist tenants (broadly speaking) once they have daughters. LIke something clicked in them that they didn’t have before. (Jay-Z is a very public example of this- saying he’ll never use the word bitch again in the ways he used to in his rap because of his daughter) And at a certain point it is kinda bullshit that they can’t figure it out on their own without having to be personally invested in it.

      2. ele4phant says:

        I can get being upset with the situation in general, that some men (let’s not generalize here, its certainly not all men) continue to objectify women until they themselves have a daughter or a baby sister.

        However, I don’t see what good can come of berating one man who’s come to this realization. Its good when they arrive, even if its due to a new daughter and not their own maturity. Its not like we’re falling all over him, trying to give him a medal for this new perspective, but you know, I’m not going to poo poo that he’s finally made it, ya know?

    4. This isn’t just a guy thing. People often develop empathy once an issue/situation becomes personal for them. That’s just humans in general. That is why so many progressive movements try to MAKE things personal for the population they are trying to reach (human interest stories, etc.). It would be fabulous if we were all born with inherent empathy for everyone different from ourselves, but that is not how it typically happens. We grow with experience. I am a kinder person than I was five years ago, and a lot of that has to do with people I have known and events I have witnessed.

      1. Christiane says:

        I agree. As women we tend to notice that about the way men treats women. But we do the same in other types of situation to some extend. For example, most people are way more sensible to what impaired people can live when it’s a problem that touch them personnaly (friends, familly…). This is just human.
        What this man did years ago was bad, but we all do bad things and at least he came to realize it. Not everybody does. Unless you are yourself perfect in every aspect of your life I dont think you have the right to bash a regretful man.

    5. It’s not a terrible update. Presumably, his father/brother-hood connection to a new way of regarding women prompted him to write Wendy originally. The update explains how, in light of WWS, he redirected those feelings more constructively. It’s true that it would be better if people were born with fully formed empathy or the skills to relate ideally to others without having a personal stake in whatever issue is at hand. Fumbling towards empathy as we live and learn deserves no medals, but it still makes me glad when someone gets there later rather than never. And when the personal connection thing happens more than once, a thoughtful person develops a precedent, the next time they encounter a dilemma around how to treat a new
      kind of other person, they remember that once they had gotten to care about the last new kind of other person, treating them with respect and decency became a given. Then hopefully. they can skip reinventing that wheel at this new person’s expense. That doesn’t always happen, but what’s the alternative to acknowledging even slow or late progress? Disparaging it because its not on a utopian timeline? We live in an imperfect world, full of plenty of fathers and brothers who hate their own daughters and sisters. Ill take a late bloomer, so much like the rest of us, any day.

  12. I really enjoyed this update! The hardest part about self-reflection is that in doing so we might shine the light on some not so great parts of ourselves. I think it’s so great that you acknowledge your part in everything and making a positive change for the future. Many, many people aren’t capable of such a turnaround.

  13. I had my own opinion on the advice to 20-year-olds stuff but couldn’t figure out where to put it. Anyway, I don’t think it’s an insult (I’m 26 anyway, for the record), but it did rub me the wrong way. While it’s true that age can play a big role in how people treat others, being considerate has less to do with age as it does being a respectful person. There are jerks at all ages, and the fact that he realized his behavior was wrong and wanted to fix it is a happy surprise, but not necessarily an assumed result of getting older.

    1. Avatar photo theattack says:

      Totally agree with you. Unfortunately not many people on DW will.

      1. Christiane says:

        Me too. This is the only part of the update I didn’t really like. Age is not and excuse to everything. But on the other hand, even if some people mature at different ages, I aslo think that one person will be more mature at 40 than at 20. I am 23 years old and I do want to think of myself as mature for my age, but I still hope to keep on growing with time.
        But it really wasn’t an insult. This is his opinion and this is probably true for many people. He should not had generalized it, but when you express yourself, it’s really likely that you’ll end up saying something that will rub people the wrong way or be missunderstood.

  14. There are countless 20 yr olds who act better than adults twice their age. Im 26, and was not offended, but my take on it is that time helps us see our past actions with the insight of increased experience. Not every 30 yr old is wiser or more thoughtful than any given 20 yr old, but virtually every 30 yr old is a steep maturity upgrade from their own past self at 20. To give the benefit of the doubt to the lw and the maturity-w-age bandwagon, I like to think im competing/maturing against myself (ooh! Its all about me!) and as I get older I damn sure hope I can see my 26yo self as flawed and not quite there yet. When I was 20 I thought I was pretty mature. My 22yo self disagreed. Myself at 24 thought I was a fool at 22, etc. I think its silly when we bristle at being called immature or works in progress. We will think of ourselves the same way in a few years and being super defensive really doesn’t make a convincing case, like when justin beiber brags that he’s such a swag grownup.

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