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Was it a whopper, or just a little white lie?
First Published Jan 28 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jan 28 2014 01:01 am

Dear Carolyn • The other day, I discovered my boyfriend had lied to me about riding with a girl co-worker to a college football game in another state (he claims they only drove together, and didn’t see each other at any other point during the weekend). He has apologized profusely and said he never told me because he didn’t want me to think anything was going on between them when it wasn’t. Would this be considered a white lie? Or just a flat-out lie? And when is it considered OK to lie in order to protect someone’s feelings? I have a feeling he should have told me the truth in this situation.

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Dear Wary Girlfriend • Of course he should have. Boyfriend of how long? Thanks.

Dear Carolyn • We have been "talking" for more than a year now, but he was hesitant to start a new relationship because his old one of three years didn’t end so well. But we have been officially dating only five months.

Dear Wary Girlfriend • That helps, thanks. The short answer is, flat-out lie. The long answer starts here: You’re new to each other, he’s been burned before, and the details of your story point to a high probability of youth. There are few circumstances where flat-out lies aren’t a serious problem, but being young and insecure in a new relationship can be one of them. For many young people, fear of consequences is powerful motivation to spin. Of course, spinning backfires: If seeing the real versions of each other would break you up, then you don’t belong together in the first place. So. If your boyfriend in fact didn’t stray but genuinely feared your reaction, and if experience taught him to associate truth-telling with punishment, then that would mitigate his lie. Once. If he’s telling the truth now, he can be forgiven, for misjudging you as someone who preferred a sanitized version of events. Once, because now you establish who you are. You apparently want complete honesty, so say that: No matter how bad the truth, it beats a lie. Live it, too — both by being truthful yourself and by receiving hard truths gracefully.

Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.




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