Building Honesty in Relationships

There was a day where I met my boyfriend at the rock climbing gym, like many days before. This day was slightly different, though. He was acting strange and made mention he had something to tell me. Whatever it was, clearly it was upsetting to him. He didn’t want to speak until we left and we could be alone. After an hour or so of climbing,we were walking alone to our cars. It was then he laid the big secret on me.

Healthy Relationships

He had Googled his ex-girlfriend.

This is my blog, not his, so I don’t feel it’s my place to say much about his ex. it is sufficient to say they had a long, close relationship, the ending of which hurt my boyfriend deeply.  Head hanging low in shame, he admitted he may have gotten a little bit drunk the night before and given in to his curiosity.

I didn’t laugh, but a part of me wanted to. What was the big deal about Googling his ex? What did it matter. She was years in his past and I had no doubt of his love for me. It was cute, in a way, that he felt obligated to tell me this, though.

I’ve pondered this interaction multiple times and only recently have realized its significance. Sure, when he told me about this search is was a trivial thing. However, had he hid this search from me and I found out later, it could have been a very big deal. Why would he be looking in on his ex – and without telling me? Perhaps a rift would have been created. At the very least, a little bit of trust would have been lost. This is because that small interaction was about far more than a Google search.

Had he made a point to hide the search from me, it would have been akin to deception. Why should he have the need to deliberately hide something like that? The only answers I can come up with are that he is too afraid of my reaction to be honest with me (not a good sign for a relationship) or that he isn’t fully committed to the relationship (definitely not a good sign for a relationship). Keeping something simple like that hidden is a sign of our trust. Either he can’t trust me or I can’t trust him. That is the big deal that would have risen to the surface had I discovered he had Googled his ex and keeping it from me.

Just as there was a lot that could have been said if he deliberately keep this search from me, the was a lot said in that he went out of his way to tell me. Through his short speech, it was obvious he wasn’t sure of my reaction. Would I get angry? Would this be a last straw that resulted in us going our separate ways? Reflecting back on that moment, what stands out more than anything else is the respect he had for me in that moment. Maybe what he had to say would hurt me. Maybe he would lose me. Still, he respected me and believed I deserved to know. If that knowledge ended our relationship, then that’s what needed to happen. He didn’t want to hide anything from me.

Our world is full  issues that set emotions on fire more because of the deception than the issue itself. Much of the time, what happened takes a back seat to the meaning behind hiding the event. Take Bill Clinton‘s infidelity. Sure, no one would have been happy that he cheated on his wife, but the fact he did took a back seat to the much bigger offense. He lied. The same can be said for the Catholic Church. If they had been honest about the abuse going on and reported it to the authorities, less pain would have been spread and the church may not have the reputation it does today.

Both Bill and the Church lost a lot of the public’s trust through their deception. While no one would have been happy had they been honest, that honesty could have actually bonded them to the public. Honesty from the start may have helped people trust their words when they said they were sorry and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Whether it’s a personal relationship or a larger one with the public, being honest from the start could be a deceptive strategy to get people to believe you when you lie about not doing what ever you did again, but that rarely happens. The only place I have ever heard that being common is abusive relationships, where one person abuses the other, admits their offense and promises never to do it again, only to do it again a short time later.

Why is that the only case I can think of? Maybe I’m being too hard. Admitting you Googled your ex to your current partner is pretty small compared to any other issue I’ve mentioned. Still, it seems like immediate honesty would be the best solution. It seems to me, when people come out and admit their wrong before anyone else finds out about it have an easier time overcoming their offense. So why do so few people in the public eye take that course of action? Is there something in our society, or maybe our biology, that makes us want to hide?

Has your partner ever admitted something to you they were ashamed of, but felt you needed to know? How did their confession effect your relationship? Why does it appear people are more likely to hide their offenses than admit them? Is that a façade of the media, or do most people really hide like that?


Photo Copyright: piyaphantawong / 123RF Stock Photo

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40 thoughts on “Building Honesty in Relationships”

    1. Yeah. The things I mentioned were certainly more serious, but I think the lesson is similar. Be honest right away and life won’t be nearly as bad as it will be if you hide it.

  1. i guess googling an ex is pretty simple… but if a person can’t even be honest about something simple, then who knows what else they are hiding…

    good read 🙂

    1. Exactly. And I didn’t tell him it meant nothing. I made sure he knew I wasn’t mad and that it wasn’t a big deal. At the same time, I made sure he knew how much I appreciated his gesture. That he felt the need to tell me at all meant he wanted that level of honesty in our relationship. What he did may have been simple, but the action of telling me was a big, positive deal.

  2. My last girlfriend did admit something awful she was doing… eventually. It was weeks later, and the situation had already developed into something that was pretty terrible for me. Our relationship ended extremely badly, with a lot of dangling threads that never really got tied up.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that. Weeks later sounds like too late to me. I don’t know what it was, so chances are it may have destroyed the relationship anyway. Still, I feel like just about any confession is better done as soon as possible.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond, and I appreciate your sympathy.

        And yeah, I can almost guarantee it would have destroyed the relationship anyway, as I am a pretty sensitive person, but I don’t know. We could have still talked, or been friends, had there not been that delay on the confession.

        Ah I don’t know. Maybe things would’ve ended up the same. Either way, thanks for responding.

        1. They wouldn’t have ended up the same though. Even if things were destined to end, she could have at least had enough respect for you to make it as painless as possible. I feel like, if you actually care for someone, you’d do that for them.

          But, maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.

          1. Well, I’m probably a hopeless romantic myself, so your perspective is absolutely valid in my case.

            All I can do now is try not to let what happened creep into my future relationships. Like, I need to continue to trust people in spite of what happened.Maybe now, I’ll just be a little less naive in my trusting than I was then.

            Gotta try to turn it into a positive somehow.

  3. I think trust and open communication are the foundation stones upon which any functioning, healthy relationship is built. Neither my husband or I have ever had a possessive, jealous bone in our bodies and we trust each other implicitly so we share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other. We are each other’s best friends too (mawkish yet true) so we confide even small, minor, silly things with each other.

    Peoples reasons for not disclosing things are probably many and various but perhaps an uncertainty with the reaction of others or a fear of judgement are factors that should lead them to analyse the choice of partner and whether they are a good fit for each other. I still think talking things through can overcome most obstacles though.

    1. I agree about the reasons people may not want to confess something to their partner. But, if communication and trust is strong enough, I like you, think most obstacles can be talked through.

  4. I believe that even though the consequences are bad honesty is the best policy, I have learned that bad news you should be quick in giving it and be there for the reaction of course with wisdom.

    1. Also, giving bad news as soon as possible in itself can act as a sort of peace offering. It’s known the person didn’t have to admit anything and it opens the door to having a discussion. When someone does something wrong then tries to hide it, they now have two digressions. Why should they be trusted further?

      1. whether or not you will continue trusting a person depends on your choice based on your experience and expectations . Important is always to forgive a person so you can move on without any grudge. 🙂

  5. Wow. So after all your boyfriend did the best thing he could have done by telling you this. I’m glad that you have this trust in a relationship thanks to being honest with each other. As someone before me posted – communication is the key.
    My ex-boyfriend hid the fact that throughout our relationship he was falling in love with somebody else. I knew something was wrong, I set him free and we became friends afterwards. Then we stopped being friends after he apparently had forgotten that we were in a relationship once, and he told me that he was in love with that girl from THIS particular day. This particular day being the one we were in a relationship for a good few weeks already. So this is a story how I would have saved myself some heartbreak, had he been honest and he set me free waaay earlier.

    1. I think my boyfriend also knows how it feels to be deceived. That long time relationship he was in before me…. she left him for her ex. In fact, he had found, through his googling, their wedding registry. He feels cheated on, betrayed that she never told him until she was breaking up with him that she still had feelings for her ex. I think because of that, he feels a great obligation to be brutally honest about his past.

  6. I agree that communication is the key but it should be applied with wisdom. People may want to be open and honest but they are scared of the reaction they may get from the other end. When wisdom is applied, the news is delivered in a way that fosters the relationship rather than break it. Our different personalities and context should also be factored in when we’re communicating certain vital info. Nice one!

  7. What strikes me are the following themes that underlie this post; guilt, confession, redemption(?) and of course a certain level of neurosis. And there also seems to be an assumption that a couple is equal to one mind/soul, a return to the garden of eden utopia. The truth of course is we are no more in the garden of eden and we are all human and not some idealized notions that only tie us in bondage and reduce us to a guilt driven life.

    1. No one is perfect, but why be in a relationship with someone who you can’t trust, who you can confess your sins to without fear of dramatic backlash? I’d rather be single then be in a relationship where I didn’t feel I was an equal partner.

  8. Yes. This may be the exact reason that confession is not often about those we are confessing to but that we are confessing period. I mean, there may be meaning for those of us who are confessing in who we are confessing to but often times those who are hearing the confession believe it is trivial. Both of these are ok. It’s ok to feel like something is trivial and even to express that a little… but only a little. It’s ok to feel like something needs to be confessed and to confess it.

    1. I 100% agree. I think the action is more important (sometimes) then what is being confessed. The flip side is how the other person uses it. I had an old friend who used to hold her boyfriend’s confessions over their heads. She’d get angry and stay angry, but then behind closed doors admit she wasn’t angry anymore. She just wanted that control. She wanted them to suffer…. or something. I don’t know, really. All I do know is that I found it a childish reaction to a mature man confession something.

  9. I think for many, it’s difficult to personally face what they did let alone bring it to their partner. That’s probably why it’s so difficult to bring into the light. They would much rather it go away than to deal with it or have their partner deal with it. As dishonest as it is, “turning a blind eye”, sticking your head in the sand” is easier to deal with? I personally don’t agree with that, I’ve always thought being open and honest with your partner is the way to go, even if it could possibly end your relationship.

    1. I get that, too. To be quite honest, my boyfriend has a bad habit of “sticking his head in the sand” for certain issues. However, it’s not a fatal flaw as he always talks to me about these things (even if he doesn’t have a logical reason for why he’s sticking his head in the sand) and accepts my help. We balance each other out in that way and more.

      1. Yay, and yes, I think that’s how it should really be. No one is perfect, and having that mentality and wanting to be open and receptive to your partner thoughts and feelings is a great way to go. To trust that they can come to you with anything good or bad. Much better than not coming to you at all.

  10. I really like your post. And I like your way at looking at things. I find myself admiring your honestly… and So, I am writing here something something The Confession which rocked my world last year and not because what was confessed but because what happened after it.

    After being in a relationship for a while, we decided that we wanted to continue our relationship even if we were about to live worlds apart. So, during last year we were in a long distance relationship. Last year after facing some rough time and after driving each other crazy. She went through a period where she lost all faith and also the memories of anything good in this relationship. And we stayed silent for almost a month. During this time she slept with another man. According to her she didn’t cheat because according to her we had broken up. I was broken but I loved her too much and was convinced that this was just a mistake since she said she felt guilty about it…
    Few months later we decided that we should get married. The logic was that we had been living apart and it was driving both of us crazy. And then after me running around for almost a month collecting my documents, passport etc she tells me one day that she cheated on me again. I was broken and it hurt like hell but I didn’t reacted, didn’t went aggressive or anything like that. Two days later she told me that she was just lieing. And, I did get pissed off then. But, I could sense that something was off and that she wasn’t comfortable. This went on for almost a month. Finally, the day I was going to buy my ticket, she told me that she did cheat on me and she was too afraid of my reaction so she lied. And then there was different versions of what had happened. I atleast heard six different versions of it before I freaked out because I had no clue if this was actually some isolated incidents or a regular thing. I didn’t talk to her for few days, I was lost. I had given up everything here to be with her and irony struck me too hard.
    But, after few days I finally talked to her and told her that I forgive me and I am ok with it if she promises me that this was the last time.
    And, bang! she couldn’t accept the fact that I forgave her. She became irritated, annoyed and evasive. After a while she told me that it was becoming so difficult to be with me because am was acting like a superhuman being… and crap like that followed for a while… And then she started ignoring me, evading me etc. After a month of this treatment she went to Colombia for a seminar. Again for the time she was there, she remained pissed off at me. And once she was back to her own country, I started getting these mails from her telling me that she realized how much she loved and etc. But, then few days later her anger followed and then again those mails about how much she loved me and needed me etc…

    Honestly, the experience has left me shattered. Because I have no clue what was happening back then…
    Ps: sorry for this huge comment, but I felt like you would understand. I am really touched by your post.

    1. That whole story is terrible. I’m sorry that happened to you. I like to think I’d break up with my boyfriend the second I confirmed he had cheated on me. Now, I love him so much that I’m not sure I could do it. I’m sure it’s more likely I’d do what you did.

      However, I know myself well enough to know I’d always second guess his commitment to me from that moment on. I’d be paranoid and drive him nuts until one of us broke it off.

      In your case, it seems she got those nerves. I think that’s common too. Once you cheat on someone, you start second guessing your partner. If you can do it so easily, can’t they.

      To me, I expect my boyfriend to tell me if he cheats. He knows that there is a 99.9% chance that would end our relationship, but if he loves me like he says, I feel he’d yell me. To be deceived is just salt in the wound ripped open by cheating.

      Not sure if this helps, but if she couldn’t commit to you, then she wasn’t meant to be. I’m not going comment on her character more than that. If you haven’t found her already, know there is someone out there who will be a fantastic, worthy partner for you.

      1. Thank you for your reply, it means a lot. The thing is that I stopped talking to her after few months since I was no longer make out when she was lieing or telling me truth about things. Her behavior changed dramatically after the whole incident. Yes, you are right, she started second guessing everything and after a while I followed in to that. I didn’t talk to her for almost nine months during which I did receive few mails from her but nothing substantial…

        I was so messed up that I got easily manipulated into more than friends by a fellow colleague. We started with ranting out about our exes. But, after a while she started advancing to which when I said no, it turned into ‘I am ugly’; ‘am I not allowed any sympathy or affection’; and then terrible stories about her family. I never agreed to be her bf but did comfort her. Sometime later I indulged into my own desires and wish to have some sort of reassures. But, that was the most stupid mistake I ever did. I was never into her and I always told her that and with a month of this situation I realized that it was pure stupidity and wanted to stopped. Surprisingly, this person started first emotionally black mailing me to stay and latter everytime I would ask for an end to this. She would just take it to extreme. But, I made sure that whatever space would be created must be created. I cut off emotionally and physically from her but still she wouldn’t let go. It continued for months like this. I was blackmailed on every level from a plea to provide her an environment to study- shelter from her family’s abuses, to a place where she could find herself again, to a place which could help her get independent again, to a place where she could just be herself for once in her life etc [OMG I should have seen it coming]. I finally went away to my parents and after returning tried to limit communication to as little as possible.

        During this time me and my ex started talking again. When the above mentioned person find out that I chat with my ex sometime, she started making a lot of fuss about it. I finally gathered up the courage and asked her not to interfere in my life.
        After which another level of drama unfolded. She asked me to met for one last time and promised that she would leave me alone after it. She wanted to get back to my place and drink and talk there. After getting really drunk, we ended up doing it. Everything was normal for a week. I had my freedom at last but then suddenly I received a text from her telling me that she tired to kill herself… I was shocked and shaken. She came to my place in the morning. We talked about it and laughed about it… I started calling her every evening once just to make sure that she was doing ok. Another week past like this and one day my ex told me that she received a miss call from an unknown number from my country. I was surprised but thought maybe one of her exs were calling her.

        Few our later my ex tell me that she received text from this person and this unknown person claimed to be my gf. I was shocked and then these two people exchanged texts and copies of my texts were exchanged. But, since I never said those three words or was never in relationship with her. So, even my ex figured out that I wasn’t involved with her or anything. So this person got more pissed off and then came out her ultimate strategy. She call my ex and told her that she was pregnant with my child and then she told me the same thing. I received a load of curses from my ex and we stopped talking again.
        But, I was more worried about this pregnancy situation. I mean I had used protection and everything but she said it was an exception and she had all the symptoms etc. My world shattered. But, since it was too early, test were not showing anything. We went to a gynecologist and even she said its impossible but this person didnt agree. Her cycle was still due for a week and so this drama continued. Luckily I contacted some of my friends and broke down in-front of them. And they supported me, kept telling me that it was a hoax but i was too terrified. This person even indirectly threatened me with legal actions.
        But it all started to get clear when a whole week passed after her cycle was due but she didn’t wanted to visit a doctor. She started making excuses and told me wait for another week. I waited but again excuses followed. But, one day I took her to the doc and somehow made her take the test and well, she wasn’t pregnant… but the story continued. She told me that in exceptional situations it doesn’t shows till a little later and that her cycle didn’t come so… it continued like that for another two weeks. One day during a event I asked her if her cycle came and she told me yes it just ended today. I was so pissed! Couldn’t she have told me earlier! I never talked to her again. I still get very emotionally black mailing msgs from her. But, then one of her friend came forward and told me the kind of stories she was making behind my back… and I got to see the real face of this ‘exploited’ person. she has said a lot of horrible thing to me. some I don’t think I will be able to forget ever.
        Now, my ex wants me to be her friend. But, accuses me of cheating on her and breaking her heart… I feel like digging a whole in the earth and just sleep there forever.

        Am so sorry to write these huge comments to you. I don’t why or how I just feel like opening up to you. It so strange since we are total strangers and these are pretty embarrassing details. But, there is something about you and your posts that make me want to write and communicate to you. Surely, you have a blessed soul.

        1. I’m not sure about a blessed soul, but I certainly don’t mind the bad comments. I’m so sorry to hear this all happened to you. I don’t know where you are in life right now, but if I were to offer advice, I’d say cut them both out of your life entirely. I have friends who don’t like this. They say they can’t just cut someone off after spending so many year together. Sometimes, that’s just what is needed to move on. These experiences will make you stronger and, who knows, maybe they will lead to the one you’re meant to be with.

          My boyfriend met his ex in high school The only reason he went to the college he did was because of her. While that relationship ended, if he didn’t followe her to that college, we would have never met. Life has a funny way of working out sometimes.

          1. Thank you very much for your support, it means a world to me.

            Well, I am 27, doing a super specialization (kinda course work for P. hd). Like your bf am enrolled in this course because of my ex.
            And, I totally agree that I should cut them off (other person I never respond to) but my ex has lot of power over me still and everytime she writes a sad mail about how depressed she is I just can’t hold back. But, I agree this has to change.

            Thank you so much for your time and patients. I wish very best of luck to you and your bf in life. Wish you both get all the happiness in the world.

            1. Be careful with that. My brother got involved in a long distance relationship with a girl. 99% of the time, she’d contact him with some sob story about how terrible life is and how horribly she was treated. He ate it up and was just head over heels. Then, the second another guy showed a bit of interest, she was gone. He was heart broken, but I could see it coming from a mile. In high school, I had a few friends like that. They strung guys along with their sob stories. Sometimes, they even had boyfriends. Their guy(s) on a string were backups. None of their relationships lasted very long, but they were almost never single for more than a day. It was all manipulation. Sometimes you have to be selfish and think of yourself. Whatever she does due to her depression is her fault alone. You’re under no obligation to deal with her any longer.

              Which isn’t to say I don’t understand. And I don’t know this girl, so what do I really know? All I know is I have seen girls manipulate nice guys with sob stories. I don’t like it.

              1. You are right. I completely agree and actually this is what is happening here too. I am so stupid that I even tell her that this is what is happening right now… That she just needs me to be there for back up and emotional support while she enjoys her casual dates. She even told me that she tried dating someone few months back who wasn’t her type and that it didn’t work out (I know for a fact that there were more than one guy involved).

                Your response actually made me more confidant about her strategy.
                She would throw at me those sob stories and once I am again talking to her then she becomes cold and unresponsive. I know it all can’t get any more obvious than this.

                Thanks for being so sweet, you are my life savior and thanks for the patience. Your words have helped me alot.

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