Kissed, haven't told yet.
April 29, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Kissed a man who is not my man. What now?

I'm in a relationship of almost 3 years with a wonderful man that I love dearly. In a moment of idiocy, tipsiness, selfishness, and lack of self-control, I kissed another man I had just met with whom I had gone out drinking (we were the last of a group of friends to leave, and things...boiled over.) I've never cheated on a partner before, and I'm a bit shell-shocked and feel like it hasn't really sunk in that this happened. I've woken up in a total panic after even having DREAMS about cheating on my boyfriend. I have absolutely no idea how to handle this.

Why did I do it? Well, there are no good reasons, but for the sake of explanation: I was attracted to the other man, and was really enjoying the attention and feeling of being desired. Having been a little drunk, I didn't control those impulses appropriately. HOWEVER, this seems a little different, because I've been attracted to other men before and not cheated, so it seems like something has changed with me. I've noticed that I've been having mini-fantasies about being with other men (sexually, but not emotionally) over the past few months, and though I never expected that I'd act on those feelings, I've definitely found it appealing in theory. I've never been in a relationship longer than one year prior to this one, so I've never reached the stage before where you realize that while you love your partner and feel grateful and lucky to have the amazing relationship you have, you're still attracted to other people and will miss the excitement of kissing someone for the first time. I've also recently realized that I really do want to be with my boyfriend for the rest of our lives, and the lifetime monogamy worries have kicked in a bit. (I will be speaking to a therapist about this in short order, and if I tell my bf, I will also make an appointment with a couples' counselor.)

I want to do the right thing by my boyfriend (obviously, I haven't succeeded, but going forward...) He's the best man I've ever known, I love and respect him more than anything, and I don't want to lose him. I also want to cause him as little pain as possible in the long run. I'm leaning toward telling him, because we're extremely emotionally connected, and I can't bear the thought of being dishonest with him. I did consider not telling him in order to spare him the hurt, but if a question ever came up about infidelities, I would not be willing or able to lie to his face. I will do whatever it takes to work our relationship through this in the healthiest way possible.

*Of note - my boyfriend and I have casually talked about the concept of occasional non-exclusivity and weren't entirely opposed to it. But since we never made any decisions on it and haven't made any type of agreement, I would still obviously classify any non-exclusivity as cheating. He has had this sort of thing happen to him in past relationships and it did not lead to his breaking off the relationship because of it (but of course, I would respect and abide by any decision he makes in this situation.) He tends to be very calm, positive, and even-keeled in temperament.

Have you ever been on either side of this situation? What did you do? If not, what would you do? What would you want your partner to do? Anonymous email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (61 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One kiss isn't "cheating." Calm down. And watch who you drink with in future.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 9:03 AM on April 29, 2012 [19 favorites]

Tell him. He deserves to choose whether to stay with you or not. If you don't tell him, then he will be in this relationship without informed consent.
posted by jayder at 9:03 AM on April 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you are sure it won't happen again, keep your mouth shut and suffer the guilt. Telling him might be a relief for you but it will bring nothing good for him.
posted by Orchestra at 9:08 AM on April 29, 2012 [27 favorites]

I hope you got that invocation of your past discussion of non-exclusivity out of your system just now, because that is the ONE THING you must not draw upon if you do decide to tell him. Initiating a conversation about the boundaries of your relationship after a cheating incident can be disastrous. It will just immediately conjure the image of you doing this again, with more people. Seriously, don't.

I honestly think you should not tell him. Consider this the warning shot that you fired over your own head. You haven't put anyone's health at risk, and as long as you don't pursue this other fellow, you haven't put your emotional life in any real risk. What you have done is show yourself how easily you can be led down a path that leads to you jeopardizing your amazing relationship, and as far as I'm concerned that's your own carrot patch to tend.

Someday when you have sorted this out for yourself, you may be in a position to pipe up and reveal this to your boyfriend. It will hurt a lot less when he sees that afterward you went on happily together for years -- far better than him hearing about it now and having to wonder if you really love him.
posted by hermitosis at 9:08 AM on April 29, 2012 [30 favorites]

A kiss doesn't always come with doubt as to one's existing relationship. Did yours? If it did, then I can see why it would be a crisis.

But you have to calm down and think clearly. Do you love your boyfriend? If yes, then is your current panic because you believe you have wronged him? Then talk to him and apologize and make this the impetus to talk about monogamy, where you see your lives going and find out whether you're on the same page.

In the course of your life and your relationship, things far bigger and scarier than one wayward drunken kiss will occur. You need to be prepared to handle them.
posted by theraflu at 9:10 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with hermitosis. Sometimes, an errant kiss should just be let go without comment. You do need to think about the situation that caused it, however, and avoid them (assuming you want to remain in your current relationship).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh Christ, don't tell him.

Three years is long enough to settle into a relationship and sometimes people get bored and antsy. That plus being drunk is enough for people to make poor decisions. Don't maintain contact with this other guy and think long and hard about whether you want to stay in this relationship, and if you do, then try and figure out how you're going to improve it.

If there are problems with your relationship, talk about that with your boyfriend, not kissing some other guy, which is more likely than not going to end the relationship, once you open that can of worms.

Once is a mistake. If this is the kind of thing you're going to do again though, you might as well break it off now.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

As a married guy, I would want my wife to tell me. Definitely not starting the conversation with "Hey, remember how we talked about being able to see other people earlier?" though. More along the lines of "So, I did this really stupid thing and I want you to know about it."

Couples counseling? I think that's a bit much at this stage. After all, you're just dating. If you were married, or even engaged, I could understand that. But if I was your boyfriend and you tried to get me to do that I'd start to freak out a bit and wonder if I was going out with a psycho who would turn stalker. Obviously I'm not your boyfriend so he might react differently.
posted by theichibun at 9:15 AM on April 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I, for one, would be inclined to discuss it with him.

The heavy burden of guilt and shame doesn't seem worth it for one inebriated smooch. Fostering guilt and shame and hiding-ness can actually fuel infidelity, in my experience. It's part of the high.

Also, if this was someone I wanted to be with for the long haul, I'd want to be able to go to them and say "Look, I fucked up," and, beyond whatever their initial emotional reaction was, be able to work it out with them.

I would also be ready to have my revelation open the way for other, possible discomfort-making revalations on the part of my partner. (I wouldn't have been ready for that when I was younger.) And again, beyond some initial emotional reaction and shock, I'd want to work these things out with this person so we could live our fullest lives supporting and appreciating each other; not trying to cram the other into some mold of unspoken relationship perfection we revere in our heads.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:25 AM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh and furthermore if that person flipped their wig and started behaving uncontrollably jelous and untrusting over a minor incident, I'd want to know that at this point too.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Telling him will make you feel better while making him feel worse. You kissed a guy, it happens. Don't do it again and don't put your bf through unnecessary pain to ease your guilt. Just because you feel bad doesn't mean he has to.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

One kiss isn't "cheating." Calm down.

For ordinary people this is completely and utterly false.

Telling him will make you feel better while making him feel worse.

This, on the other hand, is completely true.

Stay quiet and sin no more.
posted by codswallop at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

If one kiss isn't cheating, then what's the harm in telling him?

I would just want to get it out on the table, make it clear how you feel about it in retrospect and what it made you think about for your future with yr guy - which is all good for the relationship. You have the best vantage from which to judge, but generally if you think he can take it, and you think you would want to know, I don't see the harm in being honest here. Like others have said, it's not that huge a misstep. Keeping secrets can be more harmful if you aren't naturally a private type of couple (some couples share everything, some believe certain things are never said).
posted by mdn at 9:49 AM on April 29, 2012

Really, don't say anything. A bunch of people will say "Of course I'd want to know if..." but they don't, not really. You kissed him in a moment of dumb, drunk passion. He didn't impregnate you, you didn't have sex with him, it was just a kiss.

Now, if you didn't feel guilty and this became a habit, that's another ballgame. But suffer your mistake, understand it as a mistake and don't destroy your relationship as a result.
posted by GilloD at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I say do tell him, because it's probably very likely it will come out somehow anyway this being someone you know not a random stranger. Morality aside, you should just own up to it and talk together about your poor impulse control getting more romance into your relationship. Otherwise, it will fester and pop.

I personally would consider this more of a huge sign that you have issues than a dealbreaker, as long as you didn't delay too long on the telling. Every second you wait makes it worse and more of a secret instead of a mistake. Stop reading this and go talk to your man!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were your man, I would not want to know. A drunken kiss is not cheating, exactly, but knowing it had happened would put me in an unpleasant position. Would I leave you for a kiss? No, of course not, but should I just say let you off, saying, "These things happen"? I'd feel like an idiot. So I'd feel obliged to go through some administrative hoops and dreadful talks that would make me feel like a nag, a cuckold and a bore. I don't wanna be any of those things! I can't win, and it was only a kiss! And every time you went out drinking I'd be a little anxious while trying not to come across as a little anxious: "Er, have fun!"

You sound like you have sufficient guilt to serve as punishment and as an incentive not to do it again. Forget it, and do better next time. Don't put a little spoiler in your relationship on account of something that meant very little at all.
posted by cincinnatus c at 10:03 AM on April 29, 2012 [19 favorites]

I don't know whether or not you should tell him—you know your relationship and your boyfriend better than the internet does, so you'll need to weigh the pros and cons of disclosure. If it were me, I would tell my wife because I know that that extent of honesty is important to her, but if it were my wife kissing another person, I don't know that I'd necessarily want to know. Every relationship is different.

You mention that you feel like something has changed in your perspective on the relationship and exclusivity. That is what you really need to address. What has changed? Of course, by the 3 year mark, the relationship isn't new and exciting anymore, but try to think about ways that you can make it more exciting and less mundane in your everyday interactions. Take him on a surprise date, play a game together instead of just sitting on the couch reading separate books, go on a road trip, take up a new hobby together, etc. You won't be able to restore the new relationship excitement, but if you can't create a new sort of excitement and draw for this relationship, you're likely to continue sabotaging it.
posted by cheerwine at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

This happened to me. I came home and said "Oh god, I have to tell you something" and he said "Ok..." and I said "I was out with these colleagues and at the end of the night I went to kiss [guy] goodnight and it turned into a real kiss and I feel horrible and I wanted you to know and...." and he said "Ok" and I said "Ok? Aren't you upset?" and he said "Well, I'm not thrilled about it, but it's sort of amusing to see how upset and guilty you feel about it, and I'm pretty sure you're not going to do it again, right?" And I said "NO! I feel terrible!" and that was the end of that.
posted by judith at 10:13 AM on April 29, 2012 [20 favorites]

All it means - at the moment - is that you two are over-due for a conversation about the boundaries of your relationship. You think you crossed one. Was it one of yours? One if his? Or do you know?

We are late marrieds and old enough to have pasts. Neither of us is threatened by that fact; those are just the paths we took to get where we are today, even though many of our exes are still in our lives, just not in the same ways. Neither of us tends to jealousy (and we've talked about these things, is why I can say it in the plural). I kiss my women friends - exes and new friends, both - hello and goodbye; she does likewise. It feels good when someone is attracted to you. Neither of us would even consider taking anything further nor attaching any more significance to it than that. Our boundaries are clear to both of us and we're comfortable with them.

That's where you want to get to - understanding each others' attitudes and comfort levels, and agreeing on what your boundaries you are going to observe. You two may want more conservative boundaries than someone else, or you might want some very open ones. When you know what they are, you'll be in a much better position to make decisions whose consequences you're comfortable with, and have less need to panic over what your SO might think them afterward.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

One kiss isn't "cheating" and you shouldn't kick yourself thinking that it is. However, one kiss is disrespecting your relationship and your SO, so I'd suggest not making a habit of it.

Personally, I'd ask myself "is there any chance at all that my SO will ever find this out if I don't tell him?" If there was, I'd come clean and apologize. If not, I'd keep my mouth shut and consider it a lesson learned about getting drunk with people you're attracted to who are not your partner.
posted by tyllwin at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to your grave with this secret. Seriously.

It will cause him more pain and distress than it is worth, and also if you bring it up, it might plan the seed in his mind that there is something "wrong," when, in reality, you just had a moment of being human.

Having said that, I would also go on to say that if there are any more occasions like this, then some disclosure/talk would be appropriate.
posted by Danf at 10:31 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you should make this decision on your own. You are leaning toward telling him, and that may be the right one for you. This is one of those things where how you handle it says a lot about you (not "are you good or bad" but a lot about your philosophies, values, priorities). Be who you are, analyze this how you would analyze this, not how the internet says you should.

How will you feel if he finds out a year from now that this happened, and breaks up with you saying "I could've handled it if you'd just been honest with me. It's deceit I can't tolerate?" Are you going to feel good saying "I was going to, but the internet told me not to?" Or would you regret listening to us and going against your instinct? Do what YOU truly believe is the right thing to do.

I think you explain yourself quite well above. You almost considered not telling him, to spare him the hurt, but you prioritize your emotional closeness with him and don't want a secret coming between you.
posted by salvia at 10:32 AM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

A bunch of people will say "Of course I'd want to know if..." but they don't, not really.

Not true. I've been told this more than once (as well as with more-serious things than stray kisses), and the act of telling me was what made it ok; but I value honesty in a partner more than flawless behavior, and people differ.

I agree with TruncatedTiller and Rube R. Necker. There's stuff to discuss here, if you're the sort who prefers diving into likely-painful topics to learn what's in there. I am, but you (and your bf) are your own people.
posted by ead at 10:58 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you want to tell him. I agree with framing it as "I did something stupid and I'm panicking and want to tell you."

Agree that this should not enter into any conversations about opening up the relationship. In fact, maybe this kiss could have been a wee bit of self-sabotage on that front?
posted by desuetude at 11:23 AM on April 29, 2012

Weighing in as a person who did kiss, and did tell, in the context of a relationship that had already been labeled as "open": CATASTROPHE! However, my relationship (in retrospect, obviously), was already very tenuous for a variety of other factors. Plus, the other person in the relationship did not want to keep it going, and my actions provided a very convenient "out" for this person.

Ask yourself this (because obviously you are in a different relationship than I was):

Do you ever want to do this again? Do you want to end your relationship?

If yes to the first question, you need to talk to your significant other.

If no to both questions, keep it to yourself. I think the person who gave the advice above about waiting a long time, then telling later had a good idea.

Very much seconding the people who said that if you do decide to "confess", that you do NOT under ANY circumstances associate your actions with trying to now open up your relationship.
posted by Temeraria at 11:39 AM on April 29, 2012

Seconding salvia. So much of this depends on you, and your boyfriend, that any and all advice given here has an equal chance of being perfectly applicable to your situation or totally and utterly wrong.

I was the person whose SO kissed another person, they told me and I ultimately forgave them and we're still together and happy. If they had never told me and revealed it years later as a "Oh I did this shitty thing once" it would kind of destroy my trust in them. What else had they decided it wasn't my business to know, even though it related to our relationship? Why didn't they trust me to deal with something like that? But I believe in honesty before anything else in relationships; your mileage may vary, although it sounds like you're leaning in that direction.
posted by MadamM at 11:49 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a bizarre discussion to me, but I grew up in a more relaxed time, I guess. People are treating a drunken kiss as if it were a life- and relationship-changing experience, which makes me feel like a visitor from another planet. I have no idea how many people I've kissed drunkenly; it hasn't happened for a long time, because I don't get drunk any more, but it's something that happens when you're drinking with people and there's mutual attraction with at least one of them. What harm is done? Two people have affirmed that they found each other attractive and have shared a moment of stolen intimacy. To treat it as if they had gone to bed is just ridiculous.

Mind you, if you feel that bad about it, you need to deal with that, and if you have to tell him you have to tell him, but I would definitely frame it as (in desuetude's words) "I did something stupid and I'm panicking and want to tell you." Then let him tell you you're making a big deal over nothing and let yourself be reassured. But really, it's not a big deal unless you use it as a first step towards entering a sexual relationship with the other guy, which it doesn't sound like you're going to do. Chalk it up to "perils of drinking," let it be a warning to you, and let it go.
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think there's a lot of bad advice in this thread. Anecdotally, I would imagine that if you were a man, people would be pressing you to confess. I imagine if you were your boyfriend posting this thread, and he had found out you cheated on him, people would be telling him to run. You know this is a bigger deal than just a kiss.

Before you tell him, I would figure out what you want to do with the relationship. That might include going to see a therapist on your own. I had to re-read your OP a couple of times to realize you are confused about what you want. You are doing the "oops! I got drunk! and now im having sex dreams!" thing where it sounds like you're not fully taking responsibility for your actions, and that you might not want to be in a long-term relationship.

If that's the case, then that is what you need to talk to your boyfriend about. If you want to break up, then you can skip telling him the really hurtful stuff.

I want to also suggest that really healthy relationships can be full of pressure - if you're afraid of being a wife, or a mother. The kiss is not as big of a deal as this. If your guy is the right one for you he will stick around.
posted by phaedon at 12:00 PM on April 29, 2012

Wow. Why are people telling you NOT to tell him? Gosh, I hope I never end up in a relationship with any of you. It isn't a big deal, but it will become one if you don't tell him! Mistakes happen. They really, truly do. He needs to know about this. That's what relationships are all about. Being non-exclusive takes a lot of trust. If you hide this small incident from him, you aren't mature enough to have an open relationship.
posted by 200burritos at 12:06 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Huh, I literally just had a conversation with my girlfriend last night where I told her that if she ever did that I didn't want to hear about it. So, I guess count me as a vote for not telling him and also not doing it again.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:16 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Having just discussed this with my husband (married 2 years, but together for 14), we'd both absolutely want the other to tell us. The guilt and stress of not telling could eat you alive inside.

It sounds to me that a lot of your panicky feelings right now are basically par for the course. Transitioning from "very good, long term dating" to "The Rest of Your Life" is a weird thing. There's a million things you have to get sorted emotionally, mentally, and between you. I don't have a problem at all with having sexual crushes on other people, but them, I have a lot of experience dealing with them by now (at best, they can add a little mental spice to my marital sexytimes ;) But obviously, this can't happen every time, so healthy crush coping skills are a thing you need practice at, which is totally normal.

To me, this is an upsetting but, in the context of spending your lives together, pretty small mistake. If you stay together, you'll hurt one another in lots of ways, even unintentionally, and you have to develop the relationship skills to handle it when you do. I think think telling the truth, taking responsibility, and working out with your boyfriend how to learn and forgive in the aftermath could be good practice for your future together. And if he can't, with time and truth telling, forgive something this relatively minor, how would he handle the inevitable, much bigger crises that marriage brings?
posted by mostlymartha at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Why are people telling you NOT to tell him?

Because kissing, though it is presumably a breaking of their agreements, is not a risky behavior in terms of sexually transmitted infections and so the obligation to tell is primarily to salve the agreement-breaker's conscience.

That said, I'd tell, and I'd want my husband to tell, because that's our agreement. But I can certainly imagine relationships in which telling would do more harm than good.

OP, kisses never "just happen." Things don't "boil over." You chose to kiss this guy. Who knows why? We don't, but maybe you can figure it out with some introspection.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to get up on my soapbox a bit about something, too. This is the third or fourth question in the past few weeks where someone has said "Oh, my partner and I are monogamous, but we talked about how a failure to keep monogamy agreements wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker" in relation to their failure to keep their monogamy agreements.

From my perspective, monogamy isn't a default, it's an active choice. It's something that needs to be negotiated, and the agreements about what's okay and what isn't okay from each party's perspective need to be spelled out. If you were my friend and I were asking you for advice, I would say to tell your partner what happened, deal with his (understandable) frustration/anger/disappointment/sadness in response, and then make an active monogamy agreement that talks about your boundaries in detail, rather than just taking anything for granted.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

He needs to know about this. That's what relationships are all about.

I think this promotes a really unhealthy and unattainable view of relationships as a sort of gladiatorial chamber of honesty where all is shared and nothing held back, come what may -- ONLY THE STRONG SHALL SURVIVE.

Relationships should be carefully curated -- of course honesty is key, but it is not a panacea. You can use honesty to hurt people very deeply whether you want to or not. Hard and fast rules about honesty are for children and simpletons.

Why does he "need" to know about this? All he will learn is that he is in a relationship with someone who has the capacity to make a dumb, regrettable (fortunately not seriously threatening in this case, it seems) mistake. Well, they've been together three years, so he probably already knows she's not perfect. Being the best partner you can be isn't about inviting someone to wallow in all your minor crises with you -- it's about constantly putting your best foot forward. Indeed, loving someone is an amazing incentive to do so, it can teach us how to be people worthy of trusting.

PS: Anticipating how the advice might be different if the genders reversed is the exact opposite of helpful (I don't even agree with the assumption posted upthread).
posted by hermitosis at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

That said, I am definitely in favor of building relationships where revelations like this one aren't considered scandalous or hurt-making.
posted by hermitosis at 1:18 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd want to know. I get the argument for taking it to your grave, I do, and I know the people advising that are probably all wiser and more experienced than myself. But I think your instincts to tell him are right.

It may cause him pain, and it's appropriate for you to feel a little bad about that. But there are bigger things at play here. Do you want an honest relationship where you can share all of yourself with your partner, or do you want one where you keep polite little secrets from each other? If the latter, then yes, start lying to him now.

Do you want an infallible partner, or a relationship where the two of you, together, can navigate the obstacles and difficulties that come your way? If the latter, then as a couple now is a good opportunity to practice those difficult conversations, because there will be other difficulties--there always are. Communication and honesty means the most when it isn't easy; owning this and moving past it together is good practice and good precedent.

And for, what it's worth, learning that my partner was so unwilling to deceive that she was compelled to tell me about something like this? I'd trust her more, not less. As a disclaimer, though, I probably care about honesty a lot more (and exclusivity a lot less) than most guys. YBFMMV.
posted by kprincehouse at 1:28 PM on April 29, 2012

Relationships should be carefully curated

Everything seems to be "curated" these days, "curation" is so hot. But I would propose that retooling hiding the truth as curating your relationship is just a big fancy way of lying to yourself and your boyfriend.
posted by jayder at 1:29 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cincinnatus has given, in my view, the most plausible reason not to tell.

As for the others of you saying "don't tell/why so uptight/it's not a big deal" ... You're sort of contradicting yourselves. If it's not a big deal, there's no reason not to tell ... because it's not a big deal, right?

I'm counseling telling on the chance that, for him, it's a big deal. Many people want to be with someone for whom a stolen moment of intimacy is not an option, just outside the realm of their character. IF you think telling might cause the BF to dump you, isn't that all the more reason to tell him, painful as it is? The fact that it's a deal breaker for him pretty much means not telling him is keeping him there under false pretenses -- no informed consent.
posted by jayder at 1:35 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my relationship, I would tell. When similar boundary-crossings have happened, we have told each other. Trust and honesty are the cornerstones of a lifetime commitment IMO. From my POV, we are always making the choice to stay together, every day, and so we always deserve to know the truth of each other, to know exactly what we are dealing with. Specifically in a marriage, you are yielding up a portion of your individuality to a unification; to be less than honest with each other creates a false foundation - one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. I would be devastated to know my partner had the capacity to lie to me or hide the truth from me for a long time - even something relatively small - it would make me constantly question "what else has s/he been hiding from me?"

If there is an issue, it needs to be discussed. If there is a dealbreaker, then it needs to be honestly out in front and shared, because I do not want to be in a relationship while hiding the truth of myself; nor do I want to be deeply committed to an illusion. In the past few years my take on long-term relationships has pretty much become - it is not worth being in a relationship with someone who is not as committed to you as you are to them; you are worth more than that - why would you want to stay? And it is not worth being in a relationship with someone who is more committed to you than you are to them; it is cruel to both of you. If there is a dealbreaker, then it's going to screw up the relationship sooner or later somehow, and it is better to get that over with sooner and get on with your lives.

If I am going to tie myself to someone in a life-long team, then I want to be with someone who truly accepts me just as I am, warts and all - as I accept them; and they cannot truly accept me if I am not giving them the truth of me. It is a profound security to know you are with a partner who knows you as fully as any one person can - and they love you, and choose to continue to be with you. From where I sit, I don't quite know how you would achieve that security without trust and honesty foremost. (Of course, my relationship is not anyone else's relationship, and other people have different covenants and negotiations.)
posted by flex at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't want to impose my views on you, but perhaps reframing the question may make it easier for you to figure out what you want to do.

If you tell your boyfriend, it's entirely possible he may ask you never to hang out on your own again with the friend you kissed (and he's entirely justified in doing so). Are you prepared to accept that?

On the other hand, if you DON'T tell your boyfriend, and he finds out through third parties, it's entirely possible he may end the relationship (and he's entirely justified in doing that, too, since you breached trust twice). Is that a risk you're prepared to accept?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2012

It doesn't really matter if you tell or not because if it's a strong relationship, it'll be fine either way. Seriously. It is hard to break a great, close relationship. Tell him, don't, it'll be fine. You'll both be fine.

If I were you though I'd only keep it a secret if I knew I were going to be able to keep it a secret forever because, as Potomac Avenue pointed out, the longer you keep it a secret the more the secret-keeping becomes a thing. So do it now or forever hold your peace.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:32 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a guy who would consider this cheating and who is willing to be completely honest about his emotions...

I am probably better off not knowing (unless this is part of something bigger or more frequent).
I will be pissed to no end when you tell me. I will likely forgive you after awhile, but I will wonder how much I can trust you thereafter.
If I find out through someone else, I will break up with you.

Also seconding Sidhedevil
OP, kisses never "just happen." Things don't "boil over." You chose to kiss this guy.

posted by jander03 at 4:28 PM on April 29, 2012

I would tell him. I feel that keeping it to myself would create a wedge that won't go away. If I told, there would be a wedge, but the possibility of it going away is there.

I would tell him in the context of the issue of the problems you have been having lately with the idea of only being with one person, missing the idea of a first kiss, etc.

I have never cheated on an SO, except I did kiss someone once. For me it was imperative that I told my boyfriend at the time, because it was such a clear signal to me that there was a problem in the relationship that needed to be addressed.

Also, I think my current SO kissed someone. But I'm not sure. Why don't I remember this very clearly? Well, if he did it was a long time ago, and really, it wasn't so important, so I really don't remember, but do have a recollection of being happy that he felt he could be so honest with me. But I am fuzzy, on it, because it wasn't some dramatic thing. (damn, now I have to call him and ask.) I would feel like a patsy if someone didn't tell me and I found out later. I would feel that timeline from the event to when I found out would be a betrayal of honesty. A long lie of omission.

And, I just find it creepy and disrepectful to withhold this information from someone you are so intimate with.
posted by Vaike at 4:37 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oops, sorry, not my current SO, I meant just before my current SO.
posted by Vaike at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2012

One kiss? Probably safe to keep to yourself. It's the second and third you have to worry about. But one seems harmless.

I don't agree with the full couples disclosure process -- that takes it from a relationship between two people into some kind of a dump, of sorts. It's really about boundaries. You kissed someone. You feel guilty. Don't do it again. That doesn't mean you have to go shout that shit from a balcony. If it happened again, then, fine, you have a pattern, something is amiss, deal with it then.

There's also very tactical ways to handle it. You can say, "I was drinking and there was this guy, and he hit on me, and we were chatting and maybe I was a bit flirty. It got awkward and I left." If he goes all Hulk Agro on you, well, that's your man. Chances are he'll think "wow, she does look good" and may want to have a romp.
posted by nickrussell at 5:18 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't say for sure how your boyfriend will react when you have this conversation.

I can be certain how he will feel if you don't tell him and someone else does.

Personally, a drunken kiss wouldn't be a big deal. But not telling me about breaking the terms of our relationship just escalated a little kiss to cause for breaking up.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2012

It doesn't really matter if you tell or not because if it's a strong relationship, it'll be fine either way. Seriously. It is hard to break a great, close relationship. Tell him, don't, it'll be fine. You'll both be fine.

I have to second this.
posted by side effect at 5:35 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was on the other side of this, once. And from your one-sentence description I believe my temperament is similar to your SO's. My wife didn't tell me because she didn't want to hurt me, but I found out later. While I understood her motives for not telling me, I felt a huge breach of trust that was extremely difficult to get over.

I believe that if, right afterwards, she'd told me we could have discussed it and I would have felt much better in the long run.

So, for what it's worth, if you think you're EVER likely to tell him, I think you should tell him now.
posted by mathtime! at 8:42 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just want to point out that we have people saying "it's nothing," people saying "it'd make me very angry," people saying "don't tell me," and people saying "if you didn't tell me, that'd be a dealbreaker."

There's no One Right Answer here. Different actions have different repercussions with different people, and there's a chance that you'll have to stand behind and explain your decision no matter which way you go.

This brings me back to my earlier advice that you should let your own earnest reasons drive your behavior. You'll want to truly own both the action that you take and the reasons behind it. That way, if something goes right, it'll be for all the right reasons, and if something goes wrong, you'll still believe you handled it the best (or only) way that you could.
posted by salvia at 8:42 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The dreams about cheating on your boyfriend might be significant. When I was with someone that I didn't truly want to be with, I dreamed about cheating on him almost every night. My subconscious was trying to send me a message.

Even taking the alcohol into account, you made a series of small decisions that put you in the situation where something like this could happen. I say that not to make you feel even more guilty (please don't -- it is a relatively small thing, in my opinion, and something almost everyone does at one time or another) but to point out that maybe you are not in touch with what you really want or how unsatisfied you might be in your current relationship, even though current boyfriend is a nice guy, etc. Sometimes that's not enough and this is one of the ways that the deeper parts of ourselves let us know that.
posted by gentian at 9:52 PM on April 29, 2012

I wouldn't panic (or tell, for that matter) about the kiss, but I would address the underlying issue. It's been three years, and you're starting to panic about monogamy. That's the conversation you need to have.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also want to cause him as little pain as possible in the long run.

There's your key concept, right there. Telling him will very likely cause him pain in the short run and quite possibly in the long run as well. Not telling him is only going to make you feel uncomfortable.

The problem with telling him is that no matter what you say or how you describe it, he's going to have to imagine what the situation was really like, and imagination is a very powerful force. That means he's going to create a whole drama around this incident inside his head. You can't know what that drama will include, or when he's thinking about it, so you won't be able to correct his mistaken impressions. There is a possibility he may shrug it off, or there is the possibility he will attach enormous importance to this incident, and he's handicapped by not having anything real to put his hands on: all he knows is what he extrapolates from what you've told him.

You, on the other hand, are in possession of the facts: you know, for example, that it happened in a "moment of idiocy, tipsiness, selfishness, and lack of self-control," i.e., you had no serious interest in Mr. Kissyface. So you have the necessary information to take control of the situation next time something like this heads your way: you stop drinking, you make sure you're not alone with a guy you're attracted to, or at the very least you remind yourself of the hell you're putting yourself through right now, and consider whether the kiss is a fair tradeoff.

Honesty is not particularly virtuous unless it's coupled with utility; that is, it makes no sense to tell someone the truth unless that statement is also helpful. Telling your boyfriend you kissed another guy isn't helpful, not to him or even to you.
posted by La Cieca at 11:26 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If one kiss isn't cheating, then there's no harm in telling him, is there? Except the people who are giving you this advice also note that he'll be really hurt if you tell him, so that's another reason not to tell him.

Just think about that for a second - not cheating, harmless really, but Christ, don't tell him.

You should tell him. How you feel or how he'll feel are poor criteria for decision-making, because the the former makes it about you, not the wronged party, and the latter lends itself to basing a moral decision convenience. Both rely on your imperfect knowledge of unknowable outcomes.

Tell him because it's the right thing to do.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:11 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Moral decision on convenience, even.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:12 AM on April 30, 2012

Not telling someone because it might hurt them seems very wrong to me. It's a lie that has the potential to fester and become something bigger. In your mind and between both of you if he were to find out later (say, after you're married/committed).

I don't think keeping a secret to protect your relationship is very respectful towards him. Lies and secrets can sometimes lead to more lies and more secrets.

Then again, I'm just some guy on the internet in his second marriage.
posted by melt away at 3:54 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

What does "kissed" mean?

That's pretty important here. One three-second kiss? A huge makeout and petting session at a home location?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2012

One other point. There is the kissing, and then there is the not disclosing. Assuming this was just a real kiss that you gave at the end of the night (and not something more), it would be a bad sign if he really blew his top.

But this is the sort of thing people do find out. They are designed to find this out. If you kissed and did not tell, then I could see him being super upset. Because he would not know if that was the only thing. He would have no reason to believe your protestations that nothing happened. You would be in real trouble at moment one of discovery.

So I advise telling him sooner, rather than later.

I don't think this means the end of the world, relationship-wise. I do agree that discussing boundaries as a part of all of this is a very, very bad idea. You do not have an open relationship.

If this were more than a kiss, (sometimes we obscure the less good things we've done), then you have to tell no matter what.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:07 PM on April 30, 2012

I'm gathering that this was a long, passionate kiss, with tongue, the works.
posted by jayder at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2012

What you have in this thread is a fairly broad spectrum of responses "I would want to be told" / "I would not want to be told", with each response accompanied by a little glimpse of the values and priorities of the person who feels that way.

You should review this thread with an eye to whether your SO is, on the whole, more similar to the people who would want to be told, or more similar to the people who would not want to be told. Then you should respect what you conclude his wishes would be.
posted by foursentences at 6:27 PM on April 30, 2012

Or you could, you know, tell him and find out his actual wishes instead of speculating.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on May 1, 2012

You have to tell him. The same thing happened to me, and out of guilt and trying to perfect I kept it a secret for a long time, which only made it worse. We are all human, its natural to be attracted to other men, maybe you made a mistake, forgive yourself, and tell him, in my opinion lying is a worse behavior than a moment of passion, although I should follow my own advice, I learned the hard way. I think the pressure to be monogamous is so strong in our culture we forget we are wired biologically to procreate, we have will and can make conscious decisns to be monogamous or not, but be easy on yourself, it was only a kiss, it sounds like he will understand, so tell him. trust and honesty are the foundation of a healthy relationship. He will trust you more if you honest. good luck.
posted by bribri at 1:52 PM on May 21, 2012

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