Dear Leather and Lace: About three months ago I answered “Debby’s” online personals ad. We quickly met offline and the relationship seems to be going extremely well. The thing is, I told her a couple of lies when we first started corresponding and I haven’t had the courage to “come clean” about them. To make things worse, as I now have to keep lying about these things, it’s getting more challenging as we get to know each other better I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I had no idea when I lied to Hillary that we’d really get close, I just wanted to impress her so she’d keep corresponding with me. I lied about my age (I said I was 25 but I am only 20). Also, I told her that my dad was a wealthy surgeon and that I was going to go to medical school. And I told her I was a big athlete, but the truth is, I’m not even close. My dad is a plumber, and I do intend to go to medical school (but I haven’t even applied, much less been accepted). I’m not an athlete, but I like bowling with my buddies. I feel bad about what I did, and if I don’t tell Debby the truth, I will never sleep well, again. And if I do tell her, I’ll probably lose her. Please help!
Jack, Wondering What to Do
Alison’s Take: Jack, there’s no point my telling you that you did a silly thing that you’d eventually regret. Lying is never a good policy, and you already know that. You’re also right to be worried about the consequences of “coming clean” but you’re smart enough to know that if you don’t, things will be much worse when the truth comes out.
No one appreciates a liar, but many people feel compelled to impress someone new with lies or half-truths! This is especially true online, where your age or occupation (or anything else) can easily be concealed to attract someone. The lies you told to Debby aren’t harmless, but they haven’t changed her life — at least not yet. I suggest you suck it up and tell her the truth now. Hopefully her feelings for you and her compassion, will be enough to win back her trust over time. And I am sure she will realize you want to tell her the truth now, because you know that relationships based on lies are no more sturdy than a house of cards–they cannot stand.
People do act out their fantasies online, with the freedom to be anything they desire. This might feel harmless at first, but it can backfire with serious consequences. As far back as there has been a “mating dance,” men and women have tried to make themselves more attractive by stretching the truth. It’s not a smart way to make a relationship with someone, especially because ideally, you want to meet someone who loves you for who you are, not what they think you are. To be honest may limit your choices, but in the end, it’s one the one who wants you that you want just as much, that counts. You can’t get that by lying.
You need to do damage control with Debby. Talk to her in person and tell her how sorry you are that you told her lies in a stupid moment of male bravado, and then didn’t know how to tell her the truth. Let her know that you are going to work hard to get into medical school and make her proud of you, and that you will do everything in your power to win her trust and love. Debby may be so angry that she ends the relationship with you, but from what you have said, she will probably come around, eventually. Be prepared to face whatever consequences come from this, but you can’t live forever with lies, let alone sleep well at night.
*For the first time since we started this advice column, I really do not agree with Tony “Leather” (see his “take” below). In my opinion, you might catch someone’s attention by lying about having a fancy car or a lot of money, or a job you don’t really have, but you can’t KEEP them that way. I have never met anyone who didn’t finally crack under the strain of lying to someone they love and handling that kind of shame of deception for a long time. Tony says that if a woman lies to him he will still love them just as much, but for most people, the deception kills their trust. And trust is the keystone to every relationship. So, if you are tempted to exaggerate, think twice. There is more than one soul mate for everyone. You’ll ’ll find someone special much faster if you keep yourself “real.”
Tony’s Take: How you handle this depends a lot on the woman and how mature her outlook on the world is. After we have been out in the world for a number of years we get disappointed with our lives and start embellishing them just in order to have something positive to talk , about or we gloss over or fail to mention things which bring us pain. You, it appears, have gone far beyond the bounds of “innocent” white lies (where you started) and moved on to full scale deceit as far as Debby is concerned,. This is not good for any relationship.
Next time , start backing out of the embellishments as soon as the relationship starts. If you really like someone or love someone, nothing in their past should matter — who they are and what they have done should not matter. For my part the women I have loved have had carte blanche to lie to me about anything in their lives because I am mature enough to realize that if they did so they had a valid personal reason to do so. I trust them that their emotions for me and their devotion to me is real. They know that when they reveal more that might be contradictory or a major omitted fact, that I will not react negatively to their revelation. I will continue to love them as much as I always have (although I can see a woman getting upset if someone didn’t mention something very serious such as that he’s a recent ex-con or a child molester).
The internet is a double blind medium — you know nothing about the other person except what they tell you, and they know nothing about you except what you tell them. Many of us take this “freedom” to reinvent ourselves as a version that is more pleasing or more to our liking (like fudging on age, weight, etc.). What matters then is intent. If you look younger than your age well…. a women never tells, does she? If you are on a diet and list your goal weight as opposed to your current weight, again it is a “white” lie. What matters is what might be, not only what is. In this case if you actively apply for medical school or schedule to take the MCAT then you turn the lie into “white” lie. You can tell her you are trying to do the best for the future but are not there yet. If you join a gym and start going regularly, then again it is no longer a lie but a “white” lie,. Then you can tell her you are trying to get into shape but are not there yet. Although you NEVER make up an exaggerations about a third party, even your father, simply state that you were embarrassed by your humble origins and point out that many plumbers take home more money than a surgeon because plumbers do not have to pay for malpractice insurance and office staffs.
Although it is the best policy to be upfront about everything, dumping all of this on her at once will kill the relationship because it is too much too quick. You must get the big lie out of the way first, which means telling her that you now trust her enough to actually talk about your dad, and tell her the truth about him, while saying you were just ashamed of your blue collar origins. Be intent on living the other lies, turning them “white”, get more in shape and concentrate on becoming a medical student. When you actually are accepted to medical school, share that with her. As far as age, if you act mature (which you have not been) then you are mature. She will readily accept you even if you are three years younger than she is (but usually not more). Let her discover who you are naturally, and learn that you are constantly trying to improve yourself (if she ever mentions it tell her you are trying to be a better person because she deserves a better person).