How Much Truth Do We Owe Each Other?


One of the trickiest things to deal with in relationships, especially early on, is the truth about feelings. Stereotypes suggest ladies should hold them in lest she spook Him. Man-types are thought to feign emotions in order to reach their destination (i.e., her pants). In a perfect world, people would just be honest with each other and accept that honesty as they work toward building a relationship together. But that doesn’t always happen and sometimes the honesty isn’t enough to stake claim over the moral high ground.

For example, I have a dude friend who was dating a nice lady. He liked her and enjoyed spending time with her, but she saw things headed down a very different trajectory than he did. She wanted to get married (despite still being married to her soon-to-be ex husband). He was in it for the funsies. They were both open about what they wanted out of the relationship, and yet she insisted on staying in it.

It worked for him, because he was able to casually date someone he liked. However, the only reason I can imagine it worked for her was because she was lying to herself. So what should that mean for him? How much truth does he really owe this individual? He told her he wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship. That he just wanted something casual. But what he didn’t tell her was that he wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship with her; that he just wanted something casual with her.

It seems like a subtle difference, and probably one he didn’t really consider in the moment. Because at the time, the broader sense was exactly what he meant and he was being 100 percent honest with her. From where I was standing, it seemed she wasn’t being completely honest with him either. She insisted she was fine with his no-strings terms, but I have to posit that what she was really fine with was the idea that she was going to change his mind with her mad girlfriending skills.

What I struggled with was his responsibility to be more honest with her than she was willing to be with herself. Essentially he knew his view of the relationship wasn’t going to change. Not ever.

Despite his insistence that nothing would change his mind about the seriousness of the relationship, he had no problem returning her “I love yous”( essentially because it was the path of least resistance). Combine this with the fact that he’s generally a nice guy—the kind who sends flowers, makes dinner and calls when he says he’s going to—and you’ve got a prime situation for self denial.

I argued that he needed to break up with her if he wasn’t in the same place she was emotionally. He insisted that his honesty about expectations relieved him of any responsibility for what she might be reading into the relationship. I countered with the idea that general honesty may be enough under normal circumstances but the fact that this is a woman with children who is in the midst of a divorce meant that he needed to protect her from herself. To be honest, I don’t think my argument was fair, but coming at it from the perspective of a girl who's been in her own bubble of delusion, I could see that the real path to chivalry meant more than honesty. It meant making decisions she wouldn’t even if she had all the facts.

He ended up doing the right thing (in my lady-biased mind) by breaking up with her before it got too deep. I give him credit for going beyond what was technically right to do what was harder, but better for the other person. She was mad, naturally, but in the long run he did her a favor. And ultimately he did himself a favor. By ending something he knew wasn’t going to make him completely head-over-heels, long-term happy, he made room for someone who would. So everyone wins. Hooray.