Honesty and Openness (Part 2)
Dear Dr. Harley,
I've known my boyfriend for over 2 years and I am deeply in love with him. We've recently looked into moving closer together, possibly moving in together and working towards a future as husband and wife. I've always trusted him, felt very loved and cherished by him until last Sunday.
Last Sunday at about 1 AM we were both asleep and I was extremely tired that night. In a half asleep daze, I heard his cell phone beeps and realized my b/f was making a phone call. It was very obvious he was trying to "sneak" a phone call as he whispered and tried to talk away from where I was. He did this for about 20 minutes before he came back to me. I casually asked him who he was talking to, still not suspecting anything. But he lied and said he was only chatting with his brother. It got my attention because it didn't make any sense. When I confronted him, he finally admitted he was calling a girl, a pen pal, someone he's never met but has been friends with for a year. Evidently, this girl had paged him earlier and he chose the opportunity while I fell asleep to return her page. He was calling another country to talk to this girl!!! He left snuggling with me to sneak off to make this call and then lied about it!
I let him know at the time that I was quite upset and hurt. But now, one week later, I am still angry and am considering leaving him. He, on the other hand feel I'm over reacting and has blown things out of proportion. I feel I can no longer trust him and don't know him well as I thought. What are your views on this?
Honesty is something we all want from others. I'm sure your friend has reasons for his dishonesty, but at the same time, he wants you to be honest with him. He would also have been upset if you were to have done the same thing to him. We all hate to be lied to -- that's why I call dishonesty a Love Buster.
But in your case, there may be more to it than that. Honesty, for many meets an important emotional need. In other words, what may have attracted you to this man may have been his honesty and openness. You may have fallen in love with him because you felt you knew him, and that he was willing to share his deepest feelings with you. When you discovered him keeping something from you -- a relationship with another woman, of all things -- he could no longer meet that need, and the man you thought you knew didn't really exist. Now you don't know whether or not you can trust him about anything.
In my book, His Needs, Her Needs, I discuss the emotional need for Honesty and Openness. As with all emotional needs, when it's met, it makes a person feel very good, and when it's not met, it makes the person very unhappy. When your most important emotional needs are met, you fall in love with the person who meets them, but when they are not met, you lose that feeling of love. You may find your love for your boyfriend already slipping away now that you feel he cannot meet your need for honesty.
If your boyfriend does not have the same need for honesty, he will not understand what's wrong with you. He can understand why you would have been upset at first, but why continue to be upset, and why would you think of ending the relationship. What he doesn't understand is that from your perspective, he is now a totally different person than he was before he lied to you. Before he lied, he met your need. Now he doesn't. If he wants your love back, he must somehow reestablish your trust in him. He must return to the days when he was meeting your need for honesty.
I suggest that you show him my Policy of Radical Honesty. Ask him if he is willing to commit to the level of honesty that is described in that rule. You and he may never have discussed honesty with each other, and now you have a chance to explain your position on the subject.
I'm sure he wants to be honest with you, in principle. But the truth is, he is carrying on relationships with at least one other woman, and perhaps others. If he tells you about them, you will probably express dismay and encourage him to break them off, which is something he doesn't want to do. By being dishonest, he has been able to have his cake and eat it too, so to speak.
Having a great relationship means that you adjust your behavior to suit the sensitivities of each other. And you do it with total honesty. You have probably abandoned your lovers of the past, in part, because it would upset your boyfriend if you didn't. He should do the same.
My Policy of Joint Agreement (never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse) is a clear-cut relationship builder. It helps create magnificent marriages where spouses are deeply in love with each other. But the policy also invites dishonesty. People do not like to check with someone every time they turn around, even though it creates a strong family and loving marriage. They want the freedom to do what they please without the consequences. But it turns out that there are consequences for everything we do and a great marriage has a price: It is limiting your behavior to habits and activities that are acceptable to both you and your spouse. To do otherwise is to invite marital disaster.
If you and your friend can agree to follow the Rule of Honesty and the Policy of Joint Agreement, taking each other into account whenever you do anything, you will be headed in a direction that leads to a great marriage.
One other suggestion: Don't live with each other before you marry. Eight-five percent of those who do end up divorced. Some day I'll write a Q&A column explaining why.