Girl Talk: Honesty — Did I Do It Wrong?

I consider myself to be a pretty honest person, save the occasional white lie — “Oh yeah, I’ve read War & Peace. Thought-provoking!” However, I think telling the truth is not always easy and it doesn’t necessarily work out how you’d like it to. The goal of telling the truth shouldn’t be about relieving a guilty conscience; if being honest is going to have massive repercussions, it’s important for the truth-teller to really consider its worth; other people’s truths should be theirs to tell, unless the emotional cost to the one being lied to is that grave. Ultimately, though, I think we all decide when to be honest based on whether we would want to hear the truth ourselves. Is it a foolproof decision-making method? Definitely not, but sometimes it’s all we’ve got. My personal experience with honesty has always been a bit confused. My parents had somewhat differing points of view when it came to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They agreed that when asked a direct question, you should be honest, but when it came to sharing answers to questions that are unasked, they were vastly different. My dad seemed to believe that we kids deserved to have all the facts, even if we might be too young or unprepared to swallow them. For example, when my mom wanted to wait until after the holidays to tell my younger brother that she and my dad were separating, my dad chose to tell him on Christmas Day. The impact the truth had on my brother was the same that it would have been on, say, January 4th, but my mom thought that having the opportunity to tell him on a less “special” day was kinder. My dad thought hiding the truth was ultimately more destructive.

Of course, when you’re dealing with honesty and kids, it’s a little different, but I’ve experienced my share of lies, both direct and of omission, in adulthood, the biggest being with my ex-fiance. He, as I’ve written about numerous times, lied to me about developing a new relationship with his co-worker as we were in the midst of our break/breakup. While I was holding out hope that there was still a chance we could work things out, he was moving on with her. When I eventually found out the truth, I was livid and deeply hurt. The truth was what it was, regardless of when I found it out — it was going to hurt to hear that he had fallen for someone new, whether I heard it in October or the following May. Though I accept his excuse that he didn’t tell me the truth to protect me from further hurt as (mostly) genuine, it didn’t work. It only delayed the inevitable and the inevitable was compounded by the fact that I felt doubly betrayed.

I recently learned that honesty isn’t always the best policy. To make a short story even shorter, a couple months ago I slept with someone. That someone, apparently, was also sleeping with someone connected to my friendship circle, someone I considered an acquaintance. I saw her socially shortly thereafter and discovered that they were actually involved and that she had real feelings for him. Almost right away, I put any feelings I had for him aside (remember how I develop insta-feelings for one-night-stands, which, yes, I know I should stop having?). I liked her as a person. I had no idea what was going on with them, but I didn’t want to be involved, in the way, or be the other woman in any way, shape or form. Moving on.

Except that same girl pursued a friendship with me and, feeling a kinship with her that exists outside of this dude’s existence, I went with it. Many of my friends are married already or are getting married; my best friend just had her first baby. I don’t meet too many single women my age who I really relate to anymore, who have the same desire to form new friendships. Many women in their 30s have established a group of solid friendships and don’t have any urge to expand that circle to include new people. I felt excited that this woman who I had things in common with wanted to be friends. But the impact of my one-night-stand, which I was already bemoaning for making me sad, as they always do, hit me again. What if she, as women are apt to do when they get together, wanted to talk about dating, specifically dating him? I mean, I have plenty of other dudes I could share war stories about, but it seemed just wrong to listen to her talk about him and her feelings without saying anything about him and me. Not because what happened between him and me mattered, especially to him, but because my not telling her could eventually very much affect a relationship between us. I wondered whether I could have a friendship with her, one that was just beginning, hitched on a lie of omission, where she could end up thinking any advice I had offered was laced with ulterior motives.

After a lot of thought, I decided to go with my gut. My gut was telling me to tell her the truth if prompted and only if her relationship with him wasn’t progressing. That is exactly what happened, so I told her the truth. She took it well, I thought. She seemed to believe that my intentions were genuine, that my objective wasn’t to demonize him (in fairness, I don’t actually think he did anything wrong) or to hurt her or to relieve any guilt. I didn’t know what would happen going forward, but when we parted company that night, we hugged.

Today I realized, in what is clearly just another sign I should quit stupid Facebook, that she has “unfriended” me. I’m genuinely sad. I knew being honest in this situation came with risks, but I guess I didn’t put much weight in them actually happening. After all, I tried to imagine how I would feel in her situation, both now and down the line. That’s ultimately what I based my decision to be honest on. And I guess that’s why I don’t really regret it, even though it has seemingly cost me a new friend. But perhaps that was the lesson I really had to learn — that maybe we weren’t on the same page about what friendship entails anyway.

Photo: iStockphoto

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