The other day I was commenting to my girlfriend about how ever since I have been with her in a committed relationship, I have completely stopped smoking and that I don’t even think about it or crave it or miss it or even “sneak” one occasionally.
Surprised by it, she asked me how long after I met her I smoked and referred to a time when she told me I smelled like cigarettes, and I told her I was with a client who smoked and that was why. So, I told her that I smoked less and less after I first met her and that once we got serious and started falling in love with each other I completely let it go because it was important to me that she wouldn’t have to deal with that nasty habit and all the bad things it brings with it.
“So, you lied to me?” she asked with a tone that could easily escalate, and I replied with a question, “What would you have done if two months or two weeks into our relationship I would have told you that I smoked?” to which she replied, “I would have told you to get the f*ck out!”
And there it was. I knew this would be her reaction, and I was falling so crazy for her that I didn’t want to ruin it, so I lied—because I cared.
My entire life I have been a victim of “protecting others’ feelings” or of being afraid of how people would react if I told them the facts straight to their face and risk me being thrown out or worse yet, hurting them.
So I lie—small, stupid lies and sometimes large lies, and it makes me feel pretty bad about myself, but sometimes I get angry at them that they can’t think through an issue or obstacle without scolding or being angry or considering to understand at least for a moment.
When I met my second wife, wow, she was amazing! Beautiful beyond belief, sexy, fun, funny, and crazy about me. I didn’t tell her I had already been married and had two children until about 90 days into our relationship. I figured by then she would know me; she would know I was a good guy, and she would understand my apprehensiveness for telling her something so big too early and risking the possibility to scare her off.
Well, that wasn’t the case. No one ever understands, and what comes next is the third degree, the requests for explanation, the inquiries into “what else are you hiding from me,” the uncomfortable situation for the next few days or weeks, and of course, the loaded gun that they can use at any time against me for a seemingly infinite amount of time.
I am now becoming more jaded and stiffer and realizing that if I would have just said it, it would have hurt, but they would have not gone anywhere. They would have developed a stronger sense of calm and respect because of my honesty.
My girlfriend would not have asked me to get the f*ck out because she, too, was falling in love with me and once I did get the f*ck out, she would call me and ask me, “Are you sure you don’t smoke anymore?” and my second wife would have asked if that was the only thing I was hiding and she would have totally come back—guaranteed.
But I am afraid of causing that pain, of hurting someone who loves me and cares for me, of feeling like a heartless asshole, and of course, I lie to protect their feelings.
If my girlfriend asks me to spend the weekend with her, I tell her I have to go to work…which is a lie, but I don’t want to hurt her by saying that I don’t feel like it and that I want some time to do my things. And I don’t want to go out of obligation and feel like I don’t have a say.
Do I think she would ever say (and mean it), “Oh, it’s totally okay, we can do it in a few days?” Not in a million years.
I have lied to my bosses to prevent them from reciting on their condescending sermons about things that, as an adult and a hard worker, I already know. I lied to my parents about my homework—most times because I didn’t understand it and I was afraid of what they would say if I told them so. I lied to myself to justify behavior that I was embarrassed about. I have lied to the priest by lessening the level of my sins, giving them a version that is not quite the actual and direct truth.
Now please understand these lies are not the same as lying to hide wrongdoing. I have done that (I am sure I am not the only one too), and I consider that a terrible thing. I have, however, turned that corner and with strangers or anyone, if it is a blatant lie, I don’t tell it. Here comes the truth! And boy does that feel good. It is the little white lies I have an issue with.
I can’t believe I am the only person who feels this way or behaves like it. I know people who will “come out and say it,” and while some regard them as “honest and direct” and don’t mince words, most people regard them as insensitive assholes.
So now I have the dilemma that at 64 years old, I still feel like I hate hurting people.
Here is a more recent example: my girlfriend asks about marriage a lot (actually every time we are together, although we have only been together for about four months). I have tried to be “as honest as I can” because I do want to be forthright. I have explained that after two marriages, I am simply kind of “done with it,” that it isn’t necessary to have a great relationship. In order to not make her feel anxious, I ask her to please let the process play out and to not suffer with the future—to live here and now. None of it seems to slow her inquiries down.
So do I come out and tell her that marriage is out of the question and that we are going to last as long as we both respect each other, are loyal, and reciprocal? Do I stop there, knowing that the other piece that is absolutely nonnegotiable is truth, and I can’t say it because it may end everything, hurt her, or hurt me, but that she “forces” me not to say it because of her constant and one-sided expectations?
I know for a fact that if I tell her the truth—that marriage for me is not even a remote possibility for at least the foreseeable future—this amazing and beautiful woman will leave. If I tell her that my love for her is limited to the fear I have of being destroyed again, she will be so hurt and possibly also walk away.
The moral dilemma continues. Please feel free to comment and be fully honest; I actually can handle the truth.