“My boyfriend left the house and I don’t when he’s coming back,” Jenny told me the other day on the phone. I listened sympathetically while she sobbed, relaying the whole story. A year ago in her single days, she’d had a few too many at the bar while out with friends. She ended up going home with one of her guy friends. Their friendship crossed the line quickly, but stopped after a heavy make out session when they had sobered up enough to realize that where they were going wasn’t somewhere they’d want to be in the morning. They stopped it short and promised to never speak of it again.
Several months later, Jenny’s new boyfriend asked her about her past relationship with this friend, and true to their agreement, Jenny denied that anything had ever happened. It was when she was still single, and she decided that telling him would only make him uncomfortable as they were all mutual friends. And mostly, she knew that he would be pissed that she had hooked up with a friend of theirs. Keeping mum about the situation was the only thing she could think of doing.
But as time wore on, Jenny felt guilty about lying. So she fessed up. What resulted was a yelling match, a slammed door, and Jenny on the other line with me sobbing into the phone. And as she wondered what she was going to do, I couldn’t help but feel my anger seethe at how the blame was being placed entirely on her.
Jealousy doesn’t feel good. I’m not sure who those people out there are that claim a little bit of jealousy keeps the interest going in a relationship, but I don’t believe it for a second. Having been a part of a jealous relationship, I can honestly say that it is not healthy, and it’s totally unnecessary. Sure, we all have been hurt in the past, and it’s a natural impulse to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the present (even when we know that if it’s going to happen, it will with or without us monitoring the situation). And it’s true that there are many situations when jealousy is warranted because someone is truly untrustworthy. But in other times, jealousy has nothing to do with the accused, and everything to do with the accuser. It’s their issue, stemming all the way back to a time when someone did them wrong. In the past, I’ve been yelled at because a guy so much as looked at me, and I’ve been called horrible names if my eyes ever met another male’s gaze. And then there’s the questioning about past relationships before the current beau was even in the picture. Curiosity is one thing. It’s ok to know about the person you love before they knew you, and what their past relationships were like. It gives glimpses into your loved one’s past that explain a bit about who they are today. And if honest curiosity is all it is, then by all means, ask away. But when past behaviors are held against someone who has moved on from it, that’s when it gets hairy. I’m sorry to say that I have divulged too much information in the past when put under the bright lights and interrogated. I did it in the name of trust, to show that person that I had nothing to hide. Let me be the first to tell you, it doesn’t work. If someone is so adamant that they are going to catch you in something, and you placate this little fantasy by giving them everything they think they need, it won’t stop. No matter how many times I gave away the farm when it came to my own personal past life, nothing was ever good enough. My life before them was consistently held against me. And the questioning continued until the relationship inevitably died.
What I came to realize years later was that, while I had felt like I was in the wrong, it was actually my significant other who should have been in the hot seat. They had no right to be asking me about things from my past when they only chose to use it against me. I, like Jenny, and like many of you out there, am not a saint. I have done things I regret, but have learned lessons from these blemishes. They have helped me to grow in many areas as a result. While I wish I had the wisdom then not to make some of the mistakes I did, I wouldn’t take them away. I am the person I am today because of them. And I’ll be damned to make the same mistake twice.
Hearing Jenny go on and on about how she was 100% in the wrong, and wondering how she could ever regain her boyfriend’s trust again, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
“Jenny, have you ever wondered about WHY you lied in the first place?” I asked her.
“Because he would have been mad at me and at our friend for having kissed,” she told me.
“Besides the fact that kissing him was not wrong, have you ever thought that maybe you lied because it wasn’t safe for you to tell the truth?” I asked her. She murmured in agreement. “Jenny, I can’t help but feel pissed that this guy is even bringing up the past. He has made it an unsafe place for you to even tell him about your past, and yet he still expects you to answer him honestly when he asks you questions that don’t have anything to do with him. He has no right interrogating you when he knows how he’ll react if you confirm his suspicions. He really needs to grow up in the jealousy department. And instead of getting mad at you, maybe he should be mad at himself for making it impossible to be honest with him over these hard issues.”
She didn’t take this so well, and the conversation almost ended. I’d gone a little farther than I knew I should. But I was really angry at this guy, who I usually think highly of, but who was also making my friend’s life miserable in this moment. Not to mention that he was being a complete jackass.
“This is fixable,” I said, softening the blow a little. “The black and white of this situation is that you lied to him. And now he feels like he can’t trust you. But the gray part is the reason that you lied in the first place. That’s the part of this conflict that needs to be addressed so that you two can grow from this. It’s just going to take some communication. Good news is that when stuff like this arises, it gives opportunity for growth and can actually strengthen your relationship. A successful relationship must be worked on every day.”
“Well, right now he doesn’t even want to talk about it, or to me. I’m not sure what to do except to just give him his space.”
“That’s all you can do,” I told her. “Wait until you two can talk rationally before you try and work it out.”
Jenny wasn’t totally convinced with what I had to say, and is still taking a big brunt of this on her shoulders. And I wonder…
Am I wrong?
Should she have told him the truth upfront since they are in a committed relationship?
Is there a line in relationships where honesty is not the best policy, or should honesty be adhered to at all times?
Did her lie make her untrustworthy and guilty of withholding information?
Or am I right in thinking that he shares a large part of the blame here for her lie?