Forgiving a Dark Past, Part 3


By: The 4-Way Panel

Dear 4-Way
I am dating a man I am very much in love with. We have been seeing each other for nearly four years. Recently, we were having a talk about our childhoods and he revealed something to me that bothers me tremendously. He told me that when he was younger, he molested a boy who was younger than he was. He was obviously filled with sorrow, shame, and regret and I certainly understand that this revelation must be cathartic for him, but now I feel like I don’t know him at all. We all do bad things—and he was a troubled child himself at the time—but I can’t help but feel this crosses a line. Now, I am distancing myself from him and feel very uncomfortable around him. I am so upset; I feel like leaving him, but I love him dearly. But what if we have kids? Is this something I can “forgive”? I’m at a loss here. Please help.—TW, Tacoma, Washington

  The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy

Ah, one of the more difficult zones on Relationship Road—your partner’s past. This road sign would show a crooked road with a red flashing light attached to it—whether it’s someone he dated or an organization he joined, or more serious stuff, like drug use or other illegal activities. I’m probably as judgmental of those I date as the next person. I don’t need my special someone to have a squeaky clean past à la Happy Days, but eh, da Fonz ain’t down with the town slut-village idiot-child molester either.

As bad as that sounds and as awful as your boyfriend’s actions were, let’s take a step back. This event occurred a long time ago, way before he knew you, when he was a troubled child.

This is about his mind and his beliefs and the actions he chose. He chose poorly. But, he was a child, a troubled child at that. I don’t know how much you can hold him accountable for that now. He needs to make amends for that, but I assume he’s grown now into the good person you’ve fallen in love with. Would he do this now? That would be hard to believe, but only you can answer that.

It’s a good sign that he trusts you enough and is comfortable enough to share something incredibly deep and painful to him. That’s not pleasant for you to hear, but it is a good thing that he told you because it seems less likely he would do such a thing again. I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to molest your own kids.

What he did was awful and he’ll have to find his own way to make amends for that. Has he apologized to the child he molested?

This is your call. The boundaries you draw are what you’ll have to live with. I would feel okay with it, but you have to go with your gut on this.

I try to cut people slack. It’s more about how are they right now. Is he honest and does he treat you well? I’m guessing he does because you say you love him and you’ve known him for four years.

That said, you’re allowed to have your own standards and your own lines to draw in the sand.

Check back tomorrow for the gay woman’s perspective by Jody Fischer.

The 4-Way is published monthly. If you have a question for our 4-Way panel, please send it to them in care of the editor at To read more of The 4-Way columns or to listen to our podcasts, visit The 4-Way now.

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