Dear Amy: Several years ago, I was involved in projects with a female friend (I'm a man). I occasionally made jokes and said things that in retrospect I realize were inappropriate. She finally set me straight.

Since then I have had time to revisit a number of things that at the time I felt were innocent remarks or actions, but were in fact wrong.

We have become friends again, but I occasionally think that I'd like to apologize for the times I made her uncomfortable. I know there are other men who have been even guiltier than I, but they have never apologized. Do I need to? Or would my apologizing now, years later, be just for my benefit?

Amy says: Other people doing worse things than you have done should not enter into your equation. You cannot justify your choices by finding negative examples to compare yourself to.

There is no downside for you to apologize to your friend for mistakes, "jokes" or comments you made years ago. Maya Angelou said it best: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

You say that your friend "set you straight" and that your friendship suffered. Opening up a discussion and offering her your current perspective and understanding — along with an apology — will help both of you to close the loop on this and move forward with greater understanding and intimacy.

A miserable life

Dear Amy: I am a man in my mid-60′s, married for the past 35 years to my second wife. We have two children, both grown and on their own.

We have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for years. She is an alcoholic and is often very nasty toward me. Life is miserable.

Before this marriage, I was married for two years to my childhood sweetheart. We had what I thought was a wonderful marriage until one day she announced that she did not want to be married any more.

I was devastated. I tried for the next year to woo her back. I found out later she had been having an affair with a co-worker, whom she eventually married.

My dilemma is that I cannot get my first wife out of my head or heart. We have not had any contact in more than 35 years, but she is always on my mind.

I don't know what to do about my feelings. I made vows that I plan to keep no matter how miserable I am, so I cannot leave my wife. I cannot go to counseling because I think it would break my wife's heart to know my feelings, and I have never spoken about this with anyone.

I had envisioned living with my first wife into our golden years with a long and happy marriage. Now I will be spending my golden years with a bitter alcoholic with no chance for intimacy. I don't know what to do.

Amy says: I hope you realize that if you seek individual counseling, what happens in the room is completely private. Therapy is where you can reveal your persistent longings. You don't need to tell your wife anything that is shared with your therapist.

My theory is that your longing reveals your desire to escape; your former wife is a placeholder for everything you believe you have sacrificed.

Attending Al-Anon meetings (virtually or in-person) and communicating with others whose lives are impacted by alcoholism will make you feel less alone and — I hope — much less miserable.

Amy Dickinson is stepping down at the end the month and will be replaced by R. Eric Thomas. Send him questions at