Wednesday, 11 August 2010

In which I have one of my more unusual mid-date conversations

After the unanticipated first-time question on a recent first date - “have you ever cheated on anyone?” - came the equally unanticipated follow-up: “so did you tell him?”.

I’ve had some interesting first date conversations in my time (although the one about the perfect Malachite bathroom tile wasn’t one of them. And the one about the hypoallergenic kittens was far beyond the realms of merely interesting). But this was definitely a first.

One might argue that it’s actually a clever discussion to instigate on a first date: your date’s behaviour when answering the question will probably tell you as much as the answer itself. And so, I stirred my mojito (they were meant to be Martinis. Ah, deaf barmen) and hoped that my answer- to some, quite controversial - wouldn’t scare off my date.

“No. I didn’t see any point.”

And I didn’t.

My relationship with The Voice, such as it was, was deeply casual; a classic case of expiration dating in the last couple of months of my degree. The slip-up with Speckled Lad happened after a night in our favourite Edinburgh bar: gins led to whisky led to… well. Quite. It was only once I’d packed him off to the library for Finals revision the following lunchtime and left the shower that a text on my phone from The Voice reminded me that I had, in fact, turned into a big, cheating hussy.

Taking it as a great big reiteration that whatever TV and I were doing had no future, I broke up with him in extremely civilised manner a couple of days later. But I had no intention of telling him what had really happened to end things, other than pointing to the fact that we were about to be living 400 miles apart. And given the casual nature of our relationship, I decided that in this particular break-up situation, honesty wasn’t the best policy.

Contrary to received wisdom, I don’t necessarily think that honesty is de facto the right course of action where an infidelity is concerned. Because, examined more closely, when it comes down to it the reasons for disclosing an infidelity aren’t generally in the spirit of keeping no secrets from one’s partner.

They’re about disclosure for disclosure’s sake; about assuaging the guilt that you feel you can’t shoulder by yourself. If it’s a one-off incident, inconsequential, not leading to anything more then you’re only going to hurt them by telling them - and however you look at it, that can’t ever be the kindest thing to do.

But if the reason for telling your partner is that you genuinely believe they deserve to know; that it’s a symptom of an underlying problem in the relationship that needs sorting, rather than a one-off misdemeanour; that you believe they deserve to know the facts in order to make their own mind up about whether the relationship has a future, then fair enough.

In my case, it would definitely have been the former, for which there was no need.

Quite whether I articulated all that effectively mid-mojito, I have no idea. But I imagine he regretted asking.


Daniel said...

I agree. 100%. The truth is always wanted but only sometimes needed. A bit like pudding.

David said...

Another kettle of fish, set to boil. Nice work Blonde. There are innumerable reasons for not telling the other half of an indiscretion, whether it fear of losing that person or fear of hurting someone you care about (admittedly only two but I'm sure there are more). In any case, it's evidently not as clear cut as our 'honesty is the best policy' upbringing would have us believe.

The motivations for disclosure can centre on various things; what kind of a person you are, what kind of a relationship you're in, why you did it in the first place etc.

The conflict of all of these things makes it very difficult to find one all-encompassing solution for everyone's individual circumstances. That is, I mean, apart from not doing the dirty in the first place...

Personally though, and as someone who has made that mistake, I won't pretend that I can assume any kind of loftiness. And in truth, the reason for me coming clean wasn't borne out altruism or sense of duty but more to do with the sheer terror of being exposed as the utter shit I was. You learn from it though, you surely do.

Blonde said...

Daniel: Gotta disagree with you there. Pudding is always needed.

David: Ah, not just me who's the amoral hussy, then? Good to know. I really do think the 'honesty is the best policy' approach oversimplifies things to a ridiculous degree. Life just isn't that clear cut.

notanarchitect said...

As my Commercial property law teacher used to say 'You must learn to embrace the Grey'. Nothing is as black and white as people would have us believe.

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