Carolyn Hax answers readers’ questions on bringing up an issue with a significant other; staying or fleeing a relationship where he is obsessed with her weight; betting on mutual friends’ on/off relationship.
Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from August and September, 2003.
DEAR CAROLYN: Is it ever OK to lie to someone? What if this person is a very persistent ex-boyfriend who is asking invasive personal questions? I just got busted for lying to him and know I shouldn’t have lied, but, frankly, the only way to get him out of the way was to lie.
— Tempe, Ariz.
DEAR TEMPE, ARIZ.: No, that’s a lie you told yourself.
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Lying is OK in two general situations, to protect yourself or someone else from immediate danger — e.g., your friend’s abusive spouse asks if you know where your friend is — and to protect someone’s feelings. But even then, a strategic half-truth always beats a lie. (Person who spent all day cooking you a terrible dinner: “How did you like dinner?” You: “You outdid yourself, thanks!”) Situations in which it’s OK to make excuses for one’s own mistakes? None.
Lying was the only easy way for you to dodge your ex. You also could have said, “I will not answer invasive personal questions, no matter how many times you ask me.” Side benefit, it would have advanced the cause of Citizens for Having the Guts to Say What You Mean.
And if he didn’t relent, you could have screened his calls/ignored his emails/walked away. And if he still didn’t relent, you could have asked the police about anti-harassment laws.
If you want easy, just know your bounds and enforce them. Getting caught in your lie was a hint.
DEAR CAROLYN: How do you know when it’s better to bring up an issue of concern (pick any) with your boyfriend or girlfriend or to deal with it by yourself?
DEAR SEATTLE: If it’s a significant concern or says a lot about who you are, share it. If it affects your partner, share it. If not sharing means it’s going to fester till you spew green stuff, please, share it. If it’s minor but has entertainment value, please share it with the rest of us.
If it’s of no real consequence, not even remotely amusing, or if it’s something you’ve brought up 17 times before and ruthlessly failed to confront, please deal with it all by yourself.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am about five pounds away from being model-thin (i.e., probably a little TOO thin) and have a little bit of fat on my stomach (some days more, some days less, depending on what I ate). He asks me, “Did you do your situps?” or “What did you eat today?” What’s up with this? There are no other signs that I ought to flee.
DEAR VA.: You say that as if you need other signs.
With him, you are only as good as what you ate today. Worst case, he’s abusive; best case, insensitive thug. Surely, life can be better than that.
DEAR CAROLYN: Is it cruel to take bets on when mutual friends in an on-again, off-again relationship will recover from their latest major breakup and swear undying love again? In front of them?
— D.C. College
DEAR D.C. COLLEGE: It is cruel to do it behind their backs. In front of them, it’s encouraged.