Be honest about acceptable level of honesty for your relationships

Be honest about the acceptable level of honesty in relationships

Q: Are any lies acceptable in a relationship? I have been dating a man for two years. He was divorced three years ago and gave generic reasons — not communicating, not feeling loved, etc. However, a year into our relationship, he mentioned he had had an affair during his marriage. I was shocked — not necessarily about the affair, but because it took him a year to tell me. He said he thought he told me, and anyway it was just an emotional affair.

Another year goes by and I find out it was a sexual affair. I am really angry now, again, not because of the affair per se, but because he lied about it.

Are these red flags? The second was an intentional lie: He made a very big point at the time of differentiating an emotional versus physical affair. He says all this is in his past, and has nothing to do with me. Therefore, in his words, he "had good reasons to lie."

He did apologize for lying, but also said he doesn't think it's a big deal. In other words, he doesn't seem to be genuinely sorry. I know people make mistakes, but all this shows he was not only deceptive in his past, but also continues to be so in his present.

Washington

A: I was raring to go, but then you answered your question yourself: "This shows he was not only deceptive in his past, but also continues to be so in his present." Okay. So?

I realize one part of your question isn't self-answering — whether any deception is acceptable. But I can't even answer that part for you, because only you can set the limits of what you'll accept.

Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. If you're not sure when or how to enforce your limits, then someone can cross freely into objectionable territory without much protest from you. You did call him on his lie, yes, but did you express your skepticism of his apology? Or did you let his justification pass unchallenged, while you've privately stewed ever since?

You're angry, your trust is shot, you're feeling played, and yet (if I read correctly between the lines) he hasn't yet heard this from you.

Honesty isn't just about the black-and-white world of the whopper he told you. It also includes honesty with yourself about what you can and should tolerate, and honesty with him when you believe you deserve better than his weak "I had good reasons to lie." You want someone with the guts to live out in the open — and the only way to ensure that is to set this standard yourself.

Do what you feel is right

Q: Dad has a life-threatening illness and is in and out of the hospital. Sister has mental issues and says she must bow out of situation. Fine, I take charge. Then she gets miffed that I am taking charge. So I give her a job, and she doesn't do it. I can't win.

Maryland

A: Yes, you can. You can decide which is right, and do it — whether it be taking charge, or delegating when you know she might not come through. Either way, you'll know you're doing your best. It won't inoculate you against annoyance, frustration or criticism, but it's a stake in the heart to guilt.

Be honest about acceptable level of honesty for your relationships 04/12/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 12, 2009 9:07am]

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