Living with yourself after doing a horrible and selfish thing
January 22, 2012 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I need help in moving on with my life after telling a lie. Many lies. That hurt someone very badly.

I did a very bad thing. Please don't berate me for doing this thing, I already know it was an awful thing to do, and I'm aware that I hurt people in the process of doing this.

I did this horrible thing because I am suffering from depression, social anxiety and low self esteem. Those are the reasons why I did it, but not excuses, I know. This whole situation really woke me up to the fact that I have some psychological and mental issues that I need to get help for. I am seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist ongoing, and I am on meds.

This question also involves talk of a chat site. I am aware that I need to get out "in the real world"... I am trying to do this to the best of my ability. I am exercising and trying to be more active and attend meetups. I don't mean to sound flippant or casual about any of this. I really do understand that I did an appalling and dishonest thing.

The bad thing I did is this: I put up fake pictures and assumed a fake name and age on a chat site. I made some casual friends by doing this, and I made one extremely close friend. I fell for him completely, and he fell for me, but he fell for my fake pictures and fake persona. We talked for hours every day online and on the phone, for around 5 months. His personality clicked so well with mine, and mine with his. He told me secrets and things he has only told a few people. I made promises to him and we talked about the future. He invited me to go see him, and I said yes and even booked airline tickets to visit his home town. (He had air miles, so we used them to book the tickets.) I did this in full knowledge that I would not be getting on that plane, but I wanted to carry out this "fantasy" as long as I could. I waited until the very last second to tell him what I did, he even went to the airport to pick me up as I was sending him messages that I would not be on the plane.

I finally told him the truth that night, and he was understandably freaked out and hurt. He was in state of shock, and fluctuated between not wanting to talk to me ever again, and sending me texts and calling me every 20 minutes because he was confused and saddened by the whole thing. I think he was still in a state of denial about the whole situation, and he still wanted to meet me (we live about 2.5 hours apart). So we did meet, and hung out for a few days. The meeting went ok, and we remain in touch. Though he was hurt by what I did, he empathized with why I did it, and his forgiveness helped me realize that I need to just be honest about myself and I will find that I am an ok person, and that honesty really is the best policy no matter what.

I want to live honestly now. I am trying so hard to face my problems instead of running away from them and hiding from them under fake pictures and lies. I have a few questions about how to do this...

- Do I have to tell this to people in the future? Close friends? Future boyfriends? Family? What is my responsibility about being honest about my past to them?

- I am chatting with someone on the same website, under my REAL person. I am not pretending and I am being uber-honest. We click well as friends. The problem is, I talked to him under my fake persona once or twice previously. Do I have an obligation to come clean to him about what I did?

- How do I go on living with the knowledge of what I did? I really hurt the person I was involved with, I mean really hurt him. I also disappointed a lot of people who found out about what I did. I had low self esteem before I did this, it was the reason I did it... and now the knowledge that many people look down upon me for this is breaking my heart. It's like I dug myself deeper into this depressed self-hatred hole by doing this dishonest thing. I know I can take this situation and learn from it, and grow from it, and not repeat the same things I did. Can anyone give me hints to do this?

- What obligation do I have to this person I had the fake relationship with? He obviously would never view me in the same light that he did before, yet he still claims he wants to be friends. I however still have romantic feelings for him, and it is hard for me to talk to him. I am still half-living in that fantasy I had before, and him treating me like a friend versus him treating me like a person he cares deeply for romantically is killing me. Do I need to still talk to him? Part of me would feel better if I cut off contact with him all together. But the last thing I want to do is cause more drama in his life. Also I think it might be healthier if we stopped talking. Friendships that start off on lies are not the best thing. Is there a way to salvage this? Do I just put the ball in his court and let him make the decisions?

- I really feel like a bad person now. I feel unlovable and unloved. I know this is partially depression talking and partially guilt over what I did. How can I come to terms with the fact that I did this bad thing, but that I as a person can still have a good heart and still be an honest and caring individual? I want to change who I am, but I am stuck in this cycle of self hatred. Again I am in therapy and on meds, so please don't suggest that. I just want to hear what you all have to tell me right here, right now, from your life experiences.

throwaway email:

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
the non-relationship you had with that person has absolutely no chance, you need to move on. also, you're on the wrong track thinking that you did something wrong in that situation - being guilty and apologizing are a straight-up waste of time, and they DON'T HELP. move as hard and fast as you can in the direction of getting your mental problems expertly treated. that's all you need to worry about. you'll understand what you're going through now after you get your head on straight, not before.
posted by facetious at 7:01 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

If he has forgiven you and wants to be friends, I am not sure why you are still into this self-flagellation.

Yes, it is disturbing behavior and I would definitely recommend getting professional help (therapy) but for this particular relationship, what more can you do? Other than promise him and yourself and all future chat partners that you will be completely truthful/honest going forward?
posted by bquarters at 7:11 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've found a lot of value in Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection. She draws a distinction between guilt ("I did a bad thing") and shame ("I am a bad and unworthy person, the bad thing I did is further evidence of what a bad and unworthy person I am").

You can learn and grow from guilt (as Brown defines it: a recognition of doing something wrong, feeling bad about having done it), but shame just buries you.

When you learn and grow from this experience, you'll know whether or not to share it with future partners or friends. It may be something that you need to do, it may not. I think it'll depend on the outcomes of your treatment and what lessons you take from the experience.

I agree with facetious that you should make a clean break from this friendship. At the very least, you're not comfortable continuing contact, and whatever you've done, you deserve to make relationship decisions for yourself based on what's best and healthiest for you. You've apologized and explained yourself: you don't owe this guy anything further, and the path of least drama is going to be to end the relationship altogether.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:11 PM on January 22, 2012 [14 favorites]

How do I go on living with the knowledge of what I did?

I apologize for offering you a quote because it's not especially couth, but I read your question and this quote is something that genuinely struck a chord with me and helped me, and maybe it will be useful to you.
FORD: No! Listen to me. No. What do you do? What do you do when...when... And if you reveal yourself you betray someone else, and...

MARIA: When you've done something "unforgivable." When you've done something unforgivable, you forgive yourself.
Cite. I'm sorry for what you're feeling. Good luck moving forward.
posted by cribcage at 7:11 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Take a deep breath, sweetie.

You start slow, is what you do. You can't, right this second, plan out the whole rest of your life and how it's going to feel and who you're going to tell about having done The Bad Thing. Like those AA folks say, one day at a time.

Forgive yourself, today. Figure out what you're going to do, today.

If I were your older sister, I'd say to stay off this site and just don't contact this guy. You need to take care of yourself right now and get your head healthy. Do that.

The Bad Thing was bad, but certainly not the worst act of dishonesty that's ever happened on the internet. Probably not even in the top 1000 this week. And you owned up to it -- your therapist will help you figure out what to learn from this.

Take your meds, go to therapy, take a walk. Repeat. Time will help.

And you're not unloveable, no way.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

You did something, but owned up to it, and though you hurt someone, the damage isn't permanent. It seems the person you hurt has moved on and is/has healed from it. That is pretty much the best thing you can hope for in this type of situation.

The way to move past it is to move past it. If your friendship with the person you deceived is solid, then continue it, but don't try to make it into what it's not (that's lying, but lying to yourself). Make sure you don't do this ever again, because you know how bad it will make you feel about yourself.

I think you should find a way of treating the root causes of what made you do this. The anxiety, depression, etc., all make you want to be "someone else," and it sounds like you're still not comfortable being you. Find a way (therapy, group therapy, talking to people you trust) to become okay with yourself, so that you can reach out to others from a better place.

But first, forgive yourself. You shouldn't treat yourself worse than you'd treat someone else.
posted by xingcat at 7:25 PM on January 22, 2012

When you've done something unforgivable, you forgive yourself.

Oh, this, a million times!

Been there, done that, and although the next two weeks hold the worst memories, my t-shirt is getting more faded, fortunately.
posted by jgirl at 7:29 PM on January 22, 2012

Do I have to tell this to people in the future? Close friends? Future boyfriends? Family? What is my responsibility about being honest about my past to them?

You do not have to tell anybody you know "in real life" about this. Friends, boyfriends, family: you don't. It's not relevant to them. You don't have a criminal record that's going to keep you from getting some job, you don't have an STD you need to warn them about, you aren't on a sex offender registry, you don't have to stay off drugs because you're on parole. There is nothing about this that bears reporting. This is just between you and your therapist.

The only person you hurt here other than you was the guy who still wants to be friends with you. (He has nothing to gain by "claiming" he wants to be friends with somebody he doesn't have to ever see in real life or talk to in any way if he doesn't want to.) You didn't even make him buy the plane ticket! Do tell him, by the way, that you can't be friends with him because you still have romantic feelings; you don't need to torture yourself. If his romantic feelings are over, he'll miss you, but at least he'll feel flattered, and his missing you will be much less painful for him than you having to interact with somebody you have unrequited feelings for. You don't have to do that to yourself.

You're looking for ways to torture yourself, and you just don't deserve it. This all started because you felt bad about yourself and scared -- which is very clear to your friend, I promise -- and those feelings haven't cleared up. Depression is like a parasite, you know? It eats you and it does everything within its power to stay alive, including telling you that you are the worst and so guilty and deserve to be hated by all. All this self-excoriation is a brutal, awful trick. I'm very glad you're in therapy and I hope you find some medication that helps soon. You were guilty only of finding yourself deeply inadequate because you are depressed. Forgive yourself like your friend forgave you, like he wants you to forgive yourself. He understands that you're hurting. People who aren't invested in showing off and piling on and who have the facts would understand that what you did is a reason to feel sad that you didn't think you could be yourself and to hope you find a way to feel better about yourself soon, not to lord it over you or think you're a Bad Person.

It would probably help you a great deal to find other websites to frequent. Right now your brain feels like it's constantly returning to the scene of the "crime." If there is anybody you might want to consider disclosing to, by the way, it's that person you chatted with before, because he might feel betrayed if he found out about it somehow. And you don't have to tell him the whole story, just that you were feeling anxious/unattractive/shy and were using another persona. That's a relevant reason to tell somebody. There is no relevant reason to tell anybody who isn't active on that website. Just be sure to tell your therapist how awful you're still feeling about it. Really impress that upon them, that it bothers you this much. They need to know where you're hurting. (If the therapist doesn't understand, after you explain, that this is a big deal to you -- printing out this question would be an excellent idea -- you would be well-advised to look for one who listens better.)
posted by Adventurer at 7:30 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

- Do I have to tell this to people in the future? Close friends? Future boyfriends? Family? What is my responsibility about being honest about my past to them?

No. You made a mistake but you didn't do anything illegal right? PLUS you owned up to it and you took steps to correct it both in the short term (coming clean with the guy) and the long-term (getting treatment). That's all one can ever do. Unless it comes up in conversation and/or you want to talk about it, this particular incident doesn't have to be disclosed.

How can I come to terms with the fact that I did this bad thing, but that I as a person can still have a good heart and still be an honest and caring individual?
That's exactly what therapy is for. The more you tell yourself positive things like this the more you'll be able to believe them.
posted by bleep at 7:32 PM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I just want to hear what you all have to tell me right here, right now, from your life experiences.

I want to say this as gently as I can, because I hear that you are hurting and very remorseful about what you did. I think it's actually a good sign that you recognize that this was a dishonest thing to do that hurt a real person. You can definitely use this to work on improving yourself- living your life more honestly, getting more comfortable with YOU, so that you don't feel the need to hide behind a persona online, focusing your interactions on physical space for a while until you feel good in your own skin.

But, ah, as someone who has been around the internet a while, my life experience is as follows- oh, honey, you are not the first person to get caught up by anonymity online and you sure as hell won't be the last. Faking it on the internet is like a nerdy girl rite of passage. What you did sucked. But no one died; it wasn't poison. You don't have to confess this to everyone you know. You don't have to flagellate yourself for the next 10 years. Go forth and sin no more, that's about as far as this needs to go.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:13 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

He had air miles, so we used them to book the tickets.

just on a practical level, it would be good if you paid him back the value of the tickets.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

- I don't think you have any responsibility to tell anyone about this. That said, I think you'll eventually tell most people you are close to because we tell people who are close to us things like this. I think you'll find it to be easier to tell people in a year or two when this is more behind you. Not just chronologically, but emotionally. You'll have proper perspective.

- For the guy you are chatting with most of the above applies. The good news is, you're kind of putting the cart before the horse. You're still effectively imaginary to him. Give it time and after you meet and known each other awhile decide then if you still feel the need to tell him.

- It will get easier to go on living with the knowledge of what you did. All you need to do is keep on living and the rest will follow. Just remember, doing a bad thing doesn't make you a bad person. It's what you do having done it that is the real test of character. You truly regret your actions and will try your damndest to not repeat it. That will go a long way to help you get past this.

- I think you're going to need to tell him that you need some time without him in your life so you can get your shit together without the constant reminder of your guilt for what you did and your remaining emotions for him. It might be that you'll never have him back in your life after you do this, but it keeps a door open for friendship. Or if not total radio silence at least start to lean back from him until you reach a level of friendship you can handle.

- Again, you're not a bad person. A bad person would not be putting this much thought into trying to right their wrongs. You made a mistake and you're in the process of making it as right as you can. That's all anyone can ask for in a person.

As for personal experiences, several years ago I did a horrible thing to the best friend I had ever had. It ruined things between us forever. There wasn't a thing I could do to right my wrong; and I tried. She won't forgive and she won't forget and I don't blame her one bit. I definitely can relate to how you feel about what you did. Eventually you'll become at peace with your actions. Not forgetting, but forgiving yourself for being a human being that makes mistakes. And, by remembering, avoiding similar mistakes in the future.
posted by Green With You at 8:38 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

While I agree you're not to beat yourself up over this and it's good you are seeking real help, I'm not sure what you did was strictly legal.

I think it's really good you realize this was wrong and are taking action.

Please don't confess this to anyone other than a therapist. Ever. You're taking action and you're never going to do it again. That's all that matters.
posted by jbenben at 8:55 PM on January 22, 2012

We are all humans; we all make mistakes. The important thing is that we realize what we have done, and that we learn from our mistakes and are more aware of how our actions can hurt others in the future.

At the same time we are making mistakes, we are also begin hurt by others. Think of times you have been hurt by another person. You are resilient, and although you may think back and feel a bit of pain, you are able to heal.

What has happened to you (and what you have caused) is all part of the human experience. We all move forward by learning from our mistakes.

You have realized what you have done, that you have hurt another. That is the important part. Some people go their entire lives not noticing how their wake has affected others. I think you are brave for admitting this to yourself.

Having said all of this, I think you should watch the documentary "Catfish." I don't want to say too much else -- but it is a brilliant film about what it means to be vulnerable. And it says A LOT about the human ability to forgive.
posted by junipero at 9:07 PM on January 22, 2012

I was on the receiving end of the thing you did once, a few years ago.

"Alex" (for that was the name she used with me) probably did what she did because she wasn't satisfied with her real life, I suppose. I never really got any closure from her, so I can only assume what her motivations were.

But... I've moved on. It hurt like hell when she revealed that everything she had told me (her job, her name, her GENDER, even...) had been a lie. I felt awful, betrayed, stupid, humiliated, and so terribly small. The thing that helped me the most was to pull away completely. She didn't want me to (which makes me suspect that she was completely different from you... she seemed almost inconvenienced when I finally got her to tell the truth. You're genuinely remorseful for what happened), but I finally managed to get her off of me (metaphorically), and then I was able to unpack my stuff about the situation. As for her... good question. The way she'd harmed me, in such a cavalier fashion, without remorse... I really don't care about her. But, I do care about you, and I only shared that so you could see how different this story could have been.

You don't have to tell anyone that wasn't directly involved, and you can keep it in vague terms, in case online deception comes up in a casual conversation. This was not a crime, and this was not unforgivable, so you don't have to tell your meatspace friends or your family. You did something stupid, and it happens. How to move on? I'd first delete the shit out of the faux-profile, block the chat site if you can, and then work to address the real issues behind why you did what you did. You seem to have a strong handle on it (which probably takes a lot to admit... some people just write it off as everyone lies on the internet), so now it's time to address those issues. Therapy works, as well as arts and crafts. I'm serious... looking at something you made helps you feel accomplished. The mean little voice in your head might think you're horrible, but you can start to counteract that by showing yourself something you've made out of nothing. It really does help.

Finally, when it comes to the guy, let him take the lead. Take a step back, and let him come to you, if he wants to. He very well might, I don't know. But, don't force yourself on him, and don't make your self-forgiveness dependent on his forgiveness of you. You both have work to do on your own now. Okay? Take care of yourself... you have plenty of life left.
posted by mornie_alantie at 9:08 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's not your responsibility to talk about this with others, but if you have a parent, sibling, or friend who you completely trust, it will help you to talk about this. What you are feeling is overwhelming guilt and possibly embarrassment, and I think your post is a way of confiding safely to people. But we can't help you move on and feel less guilty and ensure that you don't repeat this.

You certainly don't have to tell future boyfriends, though if you are ever in a long-term, serious relationship, you might want to. However, by then, you will probably have made more peace with the incident.

Anyway, from your description of it, and your clear feelings of guilt, you don't sound like a bad person. You are likely just immature, insecure, lonely, internet-addicted, live in a bit of a fantasy world, etc. These things came together and caused you to hurt someone, but there is nothing irredeemable about any of those qualities. Just work on yourself so you can be a happier, more fulfilled person.
posted by redlines at 9:15 PM on January 22, 2012

Ah, I missed the air miles thing: it would be good to refund him the cost of the tickets, then. It's not "real money" but it is a real flight he could have used. Then I'd say you have discharged your duty there.
posted by Adventurer at 9:37 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you're being overly harsh on yourself here. Sure, it hurt someone but you've owned up to it and hopefully aren't going to repeat the same pattern knowing it will hurt another person.

Pay him back the value of the tickets. That's all that you owe him.

(Prefacing my responses by saying that I have grown up with the internet and one of the things my parents actually encouraged as a safety measure was for me to create false personas online. I routinely would change my age/grade in school, change my location, exaggerate parts of my personality that best suited the social group etc. As such, I don't see developing personas as a bad thing.)

- You do not have to tell anyone about this. Not in a dirty secret kind of way, either. I see this situation as far less malevolent than you seem to think: you created an idealized portrayal of yourself (ok, with fake pictures) and you connected with someone who believed that was you. In a way, this is only an exaggeration of the every day personas we project to our different social groups. And then, because you fell for this guy, you were absolutely petrified of the rejection if your secret got out - that you weren't who you said you were. This, again, is completely normal. The main dishonest part is that you should've flaked out at the buying tickets stage, not after (which you can attempt to make amends for by reimbursing him their value).

- You have no obligation to tell anyone you have chatted with as your persona that you are the same person. However, it would probably be best if you kept information you gathered as your persona to yourself and under wraps lest they divulge it to you again under this persona.

- Again, I think you are being too hard on yourself. You made a mistake, you hurt someone... we all do this. Nobody is perfect. Forgive yourself and do your best to learn from this. Try not to do it again.

- Do not proceed with interacting with this person if you are still holding out hope that you will "get back together". You will only be disappointed. As far as this man is concerned, your persona is not you and now your persona is "dead". He needs time to grieve that and to get over his hurt. He may never be able to interact with you "normally". He is even less likely to want to be romantically involved with you any time soon.

- Do yourself a favour and forgive yourself. That does not mean that what you did was a good thing or that you'll do it again, simply that you do not need to torture yourself over it. I did similar things when I was younger and poking around online: I created different personas and tried to see if people would react differently to them, if they would form attachments to them instead of me, and so on. You got in over your head and didn't know how to backpedal appropriately. You confessed and you're dealing with the aftermath. Don't make this harder for yourself than you have to.

Oh, and try to find something else to focus on than that chat site for a while. It will only bring back bad memories for you and your relationship with it (in terms of how socialization on it impacts your feelings of self-worth) appears unhealthy.
posted by buteo at 9:53 PM on January 22, 2012

You didn't kill someone. You fucked up. Not too badly, but badly enough. Moving on, you gotta love who you are, whatever or whoever that is. The one thing you and others can learn from this is that you get to be whatever you want to be, and what you have chosen to be in the past is not what you want to be anymore.

We've all hurt people in our own fucked up way, and be glad you are well enough to seek help. You don't have enough reason to commit neverending emotional hari-kari over what you did, and I suspect this long tome is none other than you are feeling extremely embarrassed about it. You'll eventually quit feeling like a big ass about this! It will get better from here!

You laid yourself bare, now move on. There is no longer any need to publicly rend yourself.

Good luck!!!
posted by roboton666 at 10:01 PM on January 22, 2012

I didn't read all the comments, but I just wanted to say that you seem like a good person from the way you write here, and maybe having done this bad thing was what you needed to do to see how much you were struggling before. He's forgiven you, and I think you're right, that going "cold turkey" would be easier. Those people that are looking down on you don't know the real you. Be that person and love and take care of him/her. Those people are irrelevant to that self. They disapprove of lying and so do you; you were just ...ill at the time and couldn't do any better. Now just try to get well and feel better.
posted by salvia at 11:04 PM on January 22, 2012

You know, I did the same exact thing once. I was around 12 and in middle school. The guy was 16 and in high school. I knew a 16 year old guy would never want to have anything to do with a 12 year old like me, at that age a 4 year age difference is practically a lifetime. So I lied to him about my age, and told him all about my fake high school life, my nonexistent car and driver's license, etc. I was freaked out about being caught all the time since I had no clue what went on in high school. It went on for months at least.

As much as anyone else, I can lie there in the dead of night and think about all the things that I regret. When I'm having a bad day I can go over all the reasons in my mind that I am a defective person. But I can honestly tell you, that episode has NEVER come up in my mind at any of those times. If it did I think I would actually laugh at myself and how melodramatic I was being. It just really doesn't rate at all. Crap, it wasn't even in the top 10 of shanannagins that I was up to on the internet at that time.

After reading your post I know about what you did, and I do not think you are an awful person. You know what I did, do you think that I am an awful person?

You did something that was wrong, yes. So, now you've come clean about it, presumably you've apologized, hopefully you've reimbursed the guy for any money he was out. You've taken concrete steps to address the issues that led you to do this, and to make sure you don't do it again. I think you've done what you needed to do.

Yes, I do think you should tell your current friend that you talked to him before under the false identity. No, FFS I don't think you need to tell your future friends and lovers about this!! Don't be silleh.
posted by cairdeas at 11:09 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know I can take this situation and learn from it, and grow from it, and not repeat the same things I did. Can anyone give me hints to do this?

To the extent that you haven't, gain an understanding of what led you to do this.

(I wonder how far the fake photos and age were from the real you.)
posted by ambient2 at 2:19 AM on January 23, 2012

As a tip to getting through it:

Resist the urge to "talk it out." Outside of a therapist's office, resist the urge to confess and self-flagellate. I know this goes against common wisdom but in situations like yours, where there is depression and neurotic shame and guilt, talking about it only leads to co-rumination. This only prolongs the agony and distracts you from moving on and getting better.

It's going to be okay. We all do things we are not proud of. Get some therapy and look up some info on overcoming ruminating thoughts. You will be okay again someday. The way you get there, as is mentioned above, is by taking it one day at a time.
posted by Katine at 7:49 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there is anyone who thinks they are interacting with two people, but both of them are you, you need to let them know - but not in a big deal way. Something along the lines of X was how I signed on when we met but I changed to Y.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:53 AM on January 23, 2012

I was expecting something more horrible, something that cost someone a limb, or huge sums of money or wasted years of their life.

Consider getting out of the chat rooms, if it's causing you this much anxiety. You don't need to tell any one about this episode.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:58 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Part of the reason why people are so upset by stuff like this is because all they ever get is some crap excuse and then a fade, leaving them to look back on deep feelings that were based on nothing.

If you say to the other person "Look, I'm sorry I misrepresented myself and treated you that way. I wish we could go on as friends because I like you enormously, that part of it was 100% true. But because I started the relationship on a basis of deception, I think it's not healthy for us to stay in contact. I really regret this, but I'm seriously trying to change here, and I have to follow through."

I think that's really the kindest thing for both of you.

And no, don't share this story about yourself. If you think it's likely that your new person will find this out from someone else, then I would think about telling them, but it doesn't seem like that's a risk unless I'm missing something. Not every sin actually needs to be confessed to the general public - it can be enough to keep it between you, the sinned-against, and God.
posted by tel3path at 8:35 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yay for you. You're thinking long and hard about how to be a good person, and that's something almost all of us spend pretty much no time on whatsoever. Bad people certainly don't do this. You're not a bad person. You're a good person who was in a bad place and made some poor judgments. Those last two things don't take away from the first thing.

You were dishonest. You've since told the truth to that person, and are doing everything you can to make sure you won't do it again to anybody else. That's pretty much all you're morally obligated to do (and all you can do, really). You don't have to tell anybody else you did this in the future (unless they ask you whether you did it, in which case you should tell the truth, or say you'd rather not answer the question, but don't lie about it.)

You don't have a moral duty to continue a relationship with the guy. Staying with a person because you don't want to hurt them is the same as lying to them because you don't want to hurt them, and that's not a moral way to behave. You have a moral duty to continue to be honest with him. Tell him how you feel.

You should tell the new person that you previously spoke to them under a pseudonym / alter ego.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:51 AM on January 24, 2012

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