Am I overreacting?
February 21, 2009 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Are "innocent" lies okay?

So I have some trust issues, namely that I don't really trust anyone and am highly skeptical of people in general. In this situation, I'm wondering if the slight hurt I'm feeling is warranted or not:

So I'm casually seeing this guy. There aren't any commitments, just some unspoken tacit agreements. We've had this 70% friend 30% lover relationship for about 4 years now, and we spend quite a bit of time together. That said, we're also both hermity folk: we like our alone time. Since we don't live together, that in and of itself is easy to manage. Any other time it's a simple "I want some time to myself tonight", or if we both happen to be online a "Not feeling so conversational at the moment." No hurt feelings.

Recently though, he's been lying, and I'm not sure why. For example, he told me the other night that he was going to head to bed for an early night, since he had to be up early in the morning. I told him goodnight, and didn't think anything of it. Later that evening I was heading back to my place and saw him at the coffee shop on campus, alone. He didn't see me, and I felt awkward and stalkery seeing him, so I just chalked it up to not being able to sleep. Only it's happened again. He said he was heading off to bed, and an hour later I almost bumped into him (alone again) at the library, reading. Again, I didn't say anything or let him know I saw him, because it felt weird.

I don't need to keep tabs on the guy, I'm not his mother. He doesn't need to be accountable to me at all. But why bother telling me one thing, if it's a complete lie? It doesn't make sense. He's not seeing someone else, but it still hurts, and fractures the trust I was building in him.
posted by thatbrunette to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try telling him what you have seen and then see what he says. I wouldn't make it a question - just describe the facts and tell him it makes you uncomfortable - even though the specific events were not big deal, it bothers you that you can't be sure when he is telling you the truth. Then see what he says. If it feels honest, that will help your confidence. If he gets argumentative or dismisses you then that will tell you something about your relationship. Good Luck.
posted by metahawk at 11:34 PM on February 21, 2009


Maybe he changed his mind? Maybe he found he couldn't get to sleep, or maybe this is what he often does before he goes to sleep. I find lies to be too much trouble, but some people think that explaining every little thing about themselves is tiresome. If it was his intention to go to bed when he left you, then it wasn't a lie. The only way to find out is to ask, and you can say, quite comfortably "oh, hey, saw you at the library Sunday night, you having trouble sleeping?" if you like. At which point he might go, No, what happened was I realised I had to do a presentation first thing at that appointment I mentioned and I realised that I hadn't finished it after all, OMG, and so had to etc...
posted by b33j at 11:34 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


White lies get us out of things we don't like to say in conversation. Perhaps he has trouble sleeping, maybe he has night terrors, he could have had a bad dream, maybe he just got up. There are a million reasons, but I don't see a lie.
posted by sanka at 11:35 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I'll say "I'm going to get an early night" to a friend when what I really mean is "I'm going to engage in activity A which you could potentially do with me, except that I want to do it alone". Yes, it's a white lie. I only use it with friends that I don't the kind of understanding where we can say "I need some alone time". Does he realize that you're okay with him needing his space sometimes? Because maybe he just didn't want to hurt your feelings by saying "I'm going to study in the library but I'd rather you didn't come with me."

Or not, of course. You're probably going to have to him.
posted by stray at 11:41 PM on February 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


White lies, designed not to cause grief, pain or harm to another human being - are acceptable. Take this as you wish.
posted by watercarrier at 11:46 PM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


He didn't see me, and I felt awkward and stalkery seeing him, so I just chalked it up to not being able to sleep.

You should have just gone up to him and said "Hey, what's up, everything alright?"

You definitely should have done that the second time, 'cause now you've got a bunch of thoughts in your head, you're thinking he's lying and asking strangers on the internet about these lies and you haven't even talked to him yet!

You're only going to get a mishmash of replies here and none of them will be from the person who really matters in all of this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 AM on February 22, 2009


Stray nailed it. It's a way of saying goodnight when you aren't actually going to bed. For me, "early night" means I will be playing xbox in my pjs till 3am with my good buds Ben&Jerry. I love ya, but this is me time.

Next time you run into him having an early night, go over, say hi, give him a kiss and then book. It lets him spend his early night how he wants, but you don't have to go around going oh noes!. May also be a weight off his own mind if he knows you know what he means by "early night", he might be a little stressed about you thinking he's actually gone to sleep.
posted by Iteki at 3:38 AM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I spent my college years at an institution with a very strict and unforgiving honor code…one violation and you were out, no questions asked. It was a delightful way to live, becuase there was no getting ahead by cheating, and absolutely no theft…we didn't even have locks on the doors in the dorms.

There were few acceptable exceptions to strict honesty, but one was tact. You didn't have to tell Mom the meatloaf sucked, you didn't have to tell kids there was no Santa Claus, and you didn't have to tell someone their company wasn't wanted. The test was, were you profiting from the lie somehow, or were you preserving an innocent fiction to spare someone's feelings?

When you think about it, it's a pretty straightforward distinction. I think your friend, however clumsy, is attempting tact.
posted by dinger at 4:15 AM on February 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Does he realize that you're okay with him needing his space sometimes? Because maybe he just didn't want to hurt your feelings by saying "I'm going to study in the library but I'd rather you didn't come with me."

In the post, she specifically answered that needing space is not a problem:
That said, we're also both hermity folk: we like our alone time. Since we don't live together, that in and of itself is easy to manage. Any other time it's a simple "I want some time to myself tonight", or if we both happen to be online a "Not feeling so conversational at the moment." No hurt feelings.
So yeah, asking for and getting a space isn't the problem. She needs to address with him whether there is a problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 AM on February 22, 2009


When I have people around me who are used to hanging out with me (housemate, etc.) I feel awkward telling them I'm going to do some form of solitary activity. And this happens even when the other person is, like me, a total hermit who needs time alone like oxygen. Even when you're close with the other person, telling them that you prefer not seeing them that day can feel like a bit of a rejection.

Especially since you two were in the middle of a conversation, it's just easier for us to announce the end of the conversation with "I want an early night" rather than "I'm going to explicitly prioritize time by myself over this conversation with you".

When I was reading your question, I kind of thought that when you saw him again, he was with a gaggle of friends knocking down a beer at a bar, or something. That would've bugged me. But reading, by himself, in a secluded coffee shop or in the library? Maybe he just prefers the lighting in the coffee shop to his bedside lamp.
posted by Phire at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2009


I also think stray has it. Sometimes I really love the company of someone, but only for a limited time. Like three or four hours is totally enjoyable, but more than four hours of their company is too much for me. Saying I have something to do afterwards would be my tactful way of saying that.
posted by gt2 at 9:02 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


After 4 years together you should be past lying about needing some time alone. Also after 4 years, if you catch someone in a fib you should be comfortable enough to discuss it.

This would all seem very harmless in a new relationship, but this is a long time to still be bs'ing and weird about it.
posted by 26.2 at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, there's two parts to this. 1) I tend to give harmless white lies if I think telling the entire truth would just lead to a whole 'nother discussion about something that I'm just too lazy to take the effort to get into, or perhaps is too embarrassing, or any other number of reasons.

2) Your friend's white lies could be a harmless habit in the same way. Or it could be a sign of a characteristic of being untruthful in more significant ways. Your friend's mileage may vary (or he may have tampered with the odometer).

There's probably no way to tell until you get to know him even more than you already do, and even then, you may never know when he's lying or not. I guess that could apply to anybody, it's just that you've caught him lying (although that could be too strong a word here, from what little we know).

And it's one thing to say he's going to bed early when he's in fact going to watch TV, or play a video game. It's another thing to go out in public despite the off chance that you, or a mutual acquaintance, could run into him. That kind of seems like asking for trouble.

To be an optimist here, perhaps he likes going out alone at night, but doesn't bring it up because he's afraid you'd ask to tag along, and he doesn't want to feel like a jerk by declining?

I'm not sure how sneaky this is, but you could ask him about how his sleep was, etc, and see if he instead fesses up to what he really did (and hopefully it ends up not being a big deal), or if he comes off as squirrely, or if he's really, really good at straight-faced lying.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:39 AM on February 26, 2009


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