Is it ever ok to lie to your partner?
October 6, 2013 5:01 PM   Subscribe

My job requires me to work away often with female colleagues. My girlfriend gets quite jealous and we argue if she knows I am away with girls. I have in the past confided in detail with one female colleague about problems in my relationship and I think this is where the aggravation comes from. There has never been anything romantic. To avoid an argument while I'm on the road I've started lying to my girlfriend about who is on these trips. So as far as she knows I only go away with men. So my question. Is it okay to lie to your partner if it saves stress and worry for both parties? Examples of similar situations would be useful...
posted by JIMSMITH2000 to Human Relations (66 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you going on work trips with female colleagues is a problem, imagine how much trouble you'll be in when your partner finds out that you've been lying about it. Be honest. If she can't handle you doing your job, that's her problem.

Maybe it would help her fears if she met some of your colleagues at a work function or happy hour or something.
posted by Wulfhere at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [39 favorites]

Moral perspective: no, it's not okay.

Not-exactly-moral perspective: well, it's okay until she finds out, at which point it's very, very bad.
posted by box at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

An obvious reason that one may want to honestly report such business is that, should your girlfriend learn that you've been lying to her, she may not believe that it was for an innocuous purpose.
posted by mr. digits at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [35 favorites]

It's not going to save you any stress when she inevitably finds out the truth by some means you had no way of predicting.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

So my question. Is it okay to lie to your partner if it saves stress and worry for both parties?


However, you are asking the wrong question. If your girlfriend cannot handle you working with other women, you need to find a new girlfriend. This will not get better.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2013 [78 favorites]

I think if she finds out you are lying about going on trips with women things are going to be WAY WORSE than if she just knew about it. WAAAAAAAAY worse.

I think you two should proactively work on your relationship issues. Lying isn't going to help with the jealousy thing, only honesty will. If you aren't willing to give up your work or these trips and she isn't able to calm her jealousy (or you aren't able to behave in a way that calms her jealousy) then maybe you aren't compatible.

So to answer your question, sometimes little white lies are ok just to smooth things over ("yes, I love the scarf you knit me!") but this is not one of those situations.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Skipping the lying part and going straight to confided in detail with one female colleague about problems in my relationship: Always bad. Don't do, ever again.
posted by sageleaf at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2013 [29 favorites]

Yep. If your girlfriend has an issue with this you have bigger problems to worry about.
posted by theichibun at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

A problem that I see is that you've already started lying about this. I'd do what you can to reverse course.
posted by signondiego at 5:13 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the core problem is that your girlfriend doesn't trust you to interact with your female colleagues. The solution is absolutely not for you to lie about working with female colleagues or having to travel with female colleagues; it's for your girlfriend to find a way to work through her irrational jealousy about you doing your job, which just happens to entail working with women. If she's willing to work through this constructively (and you're willing to support her), great. If not... you have more serious questions about your relationship to start thinking about.
posted by scody at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, you need to talk to her about this so you can stop lying. Clear the air, talk about her trust issues, talk about where you are as a couple. If you love each other and want to work this out you can. If there are deeper, bigger problems, you need to get them out in the open so you can deal with them.
posted by vrakatar at 5:16 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think lying to your girlfriend about this is just going to make things worse. Firstly, it makes it seem like you have something to hide. Secondly, it wouldn't be that hard for her to find out who else was on a trip. Thirdly, it means you have to be very careful about how much you talk about work and what you say. One mislaid pronoun and you're busted.

Nthing everyone else who has said that if your girlfriend has an issue with this you have bigger fish to fry.
posted by Sara C. at 5:16 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

agreeing with what everyone has posted so far. lying isn't going to help here. work on the root of the problem - your girlfriend's jealousy, and what seems to be a lack of trust on her part. these problems originate from her but you should try to work on them together - maybe give couples therapy a go.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:17 PM on October 6, 2013

Setting aside what you might be doing to her by lying in this way, you are destroying your relationship by doing it. Which, I don't know, might be what you want to do. But if you can't be honest about stuff like this then what the heck are you in it for? As a strategy for keeping the peace and avoiding conflict, I agree that this isn't likely to work for very long.
posted by jon1270 at 5:21 PM on October 6, 2013

Even if she never finds out, it points to two big problems. (1) you'd rather avoid a relationship problem than deal with it and (2) lying to your girlfriend "for her own good" is incredibly patronizing and demonstrates a lack of respect for her on your part. Both are relationship death knells.
posted by headnsouth at 5:21 PM on October 6, 2013 [16 favorites]

Yes, there are times when it is OK to lie to a partner. Very, very few. Like maybe about remembering to clean the cat litter box or something. This is not a scenario to lie about.
posted by kellyblah at 5:22 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As others have pointed out, this will backfire in the long run.

Also, a yes for "is it okay to lie to your partner if it saves stress and worry for both parties" will very likely end up a yes for "is it okay to lie to my partner whenever I think it might save me some hassle."

In a grown up relationship, finding out your partner is lying to you is grounds for a breakup.

I have more sympathy for your girlfriend's position than most other posters. I've seen some very sad damage due to infidelity that started on business trips. There's an intimacy there with two of you off away from everything else. That said, co-ed business trips are a reality these days and your girlfriend is probably going to have to suck it up. But I don't think it's unreasonable for it to bug her.
posted by mattu at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2013 [14 favorites]

Presumably, you've noticed that it's not OK to lie to your partner, but you want to convince yourself that it is OK, so you're hoping we'll make the argument for you. But even if you can manage to be convinced that it's sometimes OK to lie to your partner, it's still a bad idea in this situation. You don't want to date someone under circumstances where the only way to make the relationship work is to significantly, frequently misrepresent what's going on in your life. If she's not OK with your actual life, and is at best OK with a fake version of your life, then you two just aren't a good match, and you should want to find that out sooner rather than later.
posted by John Cohen at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was in your shoes once years ago. My girlfriend at the time was extremely jealous and I tiptoed around trying to mollify her insecurities to the extent that my tiptoeing became a cause of further jealousy.

I lost several years of my social life. I failed to make as many friends as I should have at while at university because half the population was off limits. It got to the point where I couldn't feel comfortable walking down the street. My girlfriend's insecurity became my own and changed me in a very negative way.

Now, I have absolutely zero tolerance for jealousy. Even playful teasing is a no go with me. I find it completely unfunny because I have been through the abusive hell of a jealous partner. If I see someone being jealous with someone else I immediately downgrade them and view them as an abuser.

If your girlfriend is putting you in a situation where you feel you have to lie to her to do your job you may want to ask yourself what you are getting out of the relationship relative to what you are giving up.
posted by srboisvert at 5:25 PM on October 6, 2013 [15 favorites]

It's okay to lie to your significant other about a surprise party, their Christmas presents, and the cards in your hand. About something she has issues with that could damage your relationship? No.
posted by xingcat at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2013 [14 favorites]

You should not be lying to her. Your girlfriend doesn't trust you with your female colleagues, and it's unclear exactly how reasonable that is, but you need to work out the jealous, the inappropriate intimacy, and the lying, not just hope that she never ever figures this out. (Or are you hoping she does figure it out and just breaks up with you?)
posted by jeather at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2013

The problem with lying is, eventually the truth WILL come out.

Also, stop sharing details about your private relationship with your coworkers, male OR female: it's none of their business, and like the lying, it can come back to bite you in the butt.
posted by easily confused at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

You destroyed your girlfriend's trust in you when you betrayed her confidence and told a female colleague intimate details of your relationship. Now, you want to know if you can escape the consequences of that loss of trust by lying to her - i.e., betraying her trust a second time?




You betrayed her and now you're lying to her. The people upthread who are calling her jealousy 'irrational' are completely missing the point. You may not have cheated on your girlfriend, but her instinct not to trust you is spot on. Stop lying, come clean, and go to counseling together. Cripes.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2013 [20 favorites]

No. By lying to her, you're actually justifying her lack of trust in you.

Is her problem that you crossed a boundary by confiding in your female coworker details about your relationship, or is she jealous of any woman, period?
posted by sm1tten at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, it's okay to lie sometimes. It's okay to lie to spare the other person's feelings as long as you've done nothing seriously wrong, for instance. It's not okay to lie when you've done something wrong and you just don't feel like dealing with the consequences of being honest with your partner.

My girlfriend gets quite jealous and we argue if she knows I am away with girls.

I thought you said you were going on work trips with colleagues. Please re-read this sentence and think about how it sounds, out of context.

Perhaps this is simply an innocuous choice of words that has no significance, but calling your female colleagues "girls" says to me that you see them as primarily young females and only secondarily as colleagues. If your girlfriend senses that too, it might make her feel insecure.

It could be the case that her jealousy is totally inappropriate. But if that's so, it's because she has nothing to worry about, not because it isn't her business how you feel about people you go on business trips with.

Try doing some introspection on this issue. How do you really feel about these women and having personal contact with them? Do you have female friends, or do you tend to feel romantic attraction for any woman that you like? The important thing here is to determine for yourself if your feelings for your colleagues are actually problematic, in the sense of going beyond what's appropriate for two professionals who happen to be of different sexes. If you figure out that you really do like these women, or that you really like the attention of certain women who aren't your girlfriend but aren't firmly in the friend category, then you need to be honest with yourself and your gf about this serious problem in your relationship.
posted by clockzero at 5:35 PM on October 6, 2013 [23 favorites]

If you lie to her about your business trips you will have two relationship issues to resolve instead of just one. First, your girlfriend's jealousy, and second, that you lied a bunch of times. How about you don't add to your problems?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:36 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know the answer to this question isn't really what you're looking for, right? I mean, you're kind of hoping that someone will give you the magical formula, but really what you're asking here is "How insane is my girlfriend being, and how can I get around it, because I don't want to end the relationship?"

If she has a problem with this, she is going to have a problem with something else, even if you don't ever talk to another female human being. This is not about whether you're going to cheat, it is about her own need to be in control, and that is not what you appear to be looking for.

The answer to your stated question is "No, not like this." The answer to the question you're actually asking is, "Dump her; this will never get better."
posted by Etrigan at 5:39 PM on October 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

If she's got a problem with jealousy, that needs to be fixed. Lying to avoid arguments driven by jealousy issues is a short-term solution that will lead to much bigger problems. You are not in white lie territory.

So you shared private relationship information with a coworker. Not a great idea, but if you've realized that, apologized, and aren't doing it anymore, I'd consider it a closed issue. If it's still an issue despite apologies, an end to the inappropriate sharing and your gf won't let it go and it fuels more jealousy - you have a *big* problem in the relationship.

It's not ok for your gf's jealousy to get in the way of your work responsibilities.
posted by quince at 5:41 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The alternative is to communicate with her about your frustration with her jealousy. I imagine it must be hurtful that she doesn't trust you. Have you communicated that to her?

Why did you confide in detail to your colleagues about your relationship problems? Did you talk to your girlfriend about the problems beforehand? She probably felt like you breached her trust by sharing very personal information with a (female) third party. Have you apologized to her for this?
posted by mermily at 5:49 PM on October 6, 2013

I disagree with the notion that it was a betrayal when you talked to a colleague about your relationship. You are in a relationship, that's not a covenant that you won't make female friends at work.

But it is a bad idea to lie about who you're going on trips with. You should tell your partner if she asks. The bottom line is you have to be able to do your job. Your partner needs to adjust to that, or you need to get out of the relationship.
posted by graymouser at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Maybe you can make it less about you and more about your colleagues. She might not appreciate that being denied the opportunity to travel and socialize with married or otherwise partnered men was one of the many ways that women's careers were traditionally thwarted, and that disincentivizing you from traveling with them can hurt them.
posted by MattD at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

No, it's not okay to lie about this and it will just make things worse if she finds out. You need to talk to your girlfriend and find out why this is a problem. For example, I used to have a partner who would go away with opposite sex colleagues, in whom he was very interested, and then arrange to have daytrips and even overnight trips with them. I was not okay with it for a variety of reasons, ranging from fidelity to risk of sexual harassment charges, as he was their boss. I think those were reasonable concerns - and I wasn't against the business trips, just the non-business activities. I would have been fine with normal work socializing. You should talk to her about what's going on.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are lying to her because you don't trust her to manage her own emotions. AND you don't want to deal with the outcome of her emotions.

Emotions, I might add, that you had a hand in shaping when you divulged seriously personal and private information about her to a person she does not even know. You are able to acknowledge that these events are all somehow connected, but you aren't owning your own role in this.

This is not the same as lying to her to spare her feelings in a "does this dress make my butt look fat?" situation.

My vote is dump her because she deserves someone who trusts her, that she can trust not to spill the details of her love life, and won't lie to her about what is going on in 20 to 40% of life, depending on what your work schedule is like.
posted by bilabial at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend's insecurity has two roots: your having betrayed her by confiding in a female workmate about your relationship, and the fact (yes it is a fact) that work travel is a super extremely common scenario leading to sexual infidelity.

So what you need to do is not lie to her (which she WILL find out about and break up with you for) but address the root causes of her understandable insecurity. Let her know that on this next trip, Phyllis is coming; and that you've been thinking about how uncomfortable she is with that. Acknowledge that you know her fears aren't crazy; but that you have a plan for never abusing her trust again, because you love her.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Whether it is EVER okay or not to lie about your partner about anything, it is in no way okay in this case. You're asking her to end the relationship when she finds out.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2013

Like, how long do you see this going on? Are you going to be going on business trips with women for the rest of your career? Are in this relationship for the long term? If so, are you comfortable lying about this indefinitely? Because that is going to get SO OLD.

Honestly, you sound like you're deliberately sabotaging the relationship. Maybe you should take a good hard look and think about if you really want to be with this woman.
posted by mskyle at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2013

I am sorry to post again, is this the same game player who was the topic of a previous AskMe of yours? Things are already getting worse.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:57 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Taking her with you a few times to show that there's nothing wrong with these trips, and she'll be less worried about them. Do it.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:01 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is one of those situations where you knew the answer before you asked.

Seriously, NO this is not OKAY. Let's say your girlfriend flies out to surprise you on one of these trips. What then? What happens when you slip up while telling a work story? You're completely fucked is what.

The fact that you're going out of your way to obfuscate the situation and referring to these people as GIRLS and that you've confided in at least one of them in the past leads me to believe that maybe you are trying to set yourself up for failure here. (I'm not moralizing...shit can be tricky, yo - it's your situation to deal with - I just think you need to be aware of what your actions are trying to tell you in this situation.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:08 PM on October 6, 2013

My personal feeling is that if you are going to lie to your significant other about something for what you think is a good reason you can basically only do that if no one else knows you are doing that. So maybe you lie to everyone, but you don't only just lie to your partner. Making it known that you are a person who is lying to their partner just to make something easier on yourself, now that it's out in the open and known, is not an okay thing. Lying through omission ( well I didn't say they were women, I just didn't say they weren't) is also not okay.

There are a lot of mature adult women in the world who understand that there are reasons that someone might need to go away for business with members of the opposite sex. And, to turn it around, there are many men in the world who wouldn't lie to a loved one about the nature of their work situations. You two are a bad fit. This is a situation that is not going to end well.
posted by jessamyn at 6:09 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I travel for work, and because of my field, I often travel with male coworkers. We're all married, and we're all very, very careful to maintain strong professional boundaries. Are we friendly? Yes. But we're all very aware of, and work hard to avoid, the cheesy cliche of the work-travel-coworker fling.

That said, I find it hard to believe that she really believes that you've suddenly started traveling only with men. It's just so rare in my experience, it just sounds far fetched. You're not helping yourself here. You're adding to her reasons to distrust you.

I help my husband to be more comfortable with my travel by being very open about who I'm traveling with, when, why, and he hears about my coworkers all the time. He knows that so-and-so just had a baby, and XYZ's kid just graduated college, and he knows how I feel about each of my coworkers. I also text him fairly frequently (in the morning, at lunch, before dinner) and we talk each night before I go to sleep. He hasn't ever mentioned being jealous, and when I just checked, he said the only thing he was jealous of was the fact that I saw the Georgia Aquarium on my last trip. We do work hard to feel comfortable enough with one another to talk through and figure out issues as they occur; it wouldn't occur to me to lie to him about my traveling companions.

I wish you luck. I hope this doesn't blow up in your face.
posted by RogueTech at 6:14 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My love dislikes many aspects of the industry I work in - including the fact that I have had to go to the Playboy Mansion on more than one occasion.

Never once did I consider lying to her in order to make it less of an issue.

You're lying to make life easier but ultimately it will come back to bite you.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:17 PM on October 6, 2013

If she literally cannot handle your ever being around females at all, how does she expect for you to solve this problem for her? Get locked up in a tower? Because you literally cannot avoid never, ever dealing with females on work trips, and it's unreasonable for her to think you could. (This reminds me of my friend in college with an abusive husband not wanting her to partner with guys in class. She was an engineering major and literally COULD NOT AVOID having to partner with guys in class!)

Honestly, you need to break up with her. She'll never be happy with you, the lies will be found out easily, and she believes you are cheating on her no matter what you do already!
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:35 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

it could be ok if it ends up as an arragment between the two of you that you don't flaunt the fact that you're going on work trips with co-workers who are women, and she pretends you don't co on work trips with co-workers who are women.

the next time she she asks who you're going with, i'd reply with something like "do you really want to know? you always get angry when we talk about this" and then you can have the argument you need to have with her.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:58 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

For what its worth, I rarely discuss the composition of groups on my work trips - it matters little to me, and even less to my husband. I mostly focus on the awesome things I'm doing in boring/very boring/marginally interesting city without him. Sometimes he is able to come, then we do the awesome things together.

Rather than making a moral decision about lying/being truthful to your partner (note: I endorse truthfulness, but not complete candor, which is unnecessary and will be boring, tedious and probably hurtful to your partner) I'd suggest you think seriously about the level of trust you have in your relationship - and have some open conversations about it. It will take mindfulness to ratchet back the jealousy feelings, once they are present - it can only stop if she is deliberate and you support her in doing it (e.g. you might go on work trips with women and may go to dinner as a group, but you don't go out one on one and don't go drinking with women).

Here's an example of the truthful vs. candor. Am I glad for you that you're wearing your favorite grey heather plaid shirt? Truth: Yes! I am so glad you're happy and wearing your favorite plaid shirt. Your happiness makes my heart sing and you a joy to be with. I'm so glad you're comfortable and happy.
Candor: That plaid shirt stopped looking good in the two thousands, and it stopped being fashionable in the 90s. I'm glad you're happy, but man, that thing is fugly.
posted by arnicae at 6:59 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also - I find jealousy annoying in basically all relationship contexts, unless there is a clear cheating precedent. My partner works with some of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (Entertainment business) and I never feel jealousy because I trust him, and his devotion to me, inherently - but that is a choice on my part. I have felt that niggling temptation to give into jealousy, and resisted. Your girlfriend can resist too, if she makes that choice.
posted by arnicae at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't lie. Let her know what's up as you normally would with anyone else. If her issue is with trust, and you love her and want to help her, lying will never be the answer. It's probably what she fears most. No matter how uncomfortable it might be, the most respectful thing to do for both of you is to let her know your work arrangements and let the chips fall where they may. If she gets upset, then you can address that as an issue. But whatever her reaction may be, you can't be supportive to a person while you are lying to them.
posted by marimeko at 7:05 PM on October 6, 2013

I'd say it's fine to lie to your partner, if you assume from the very first moment that she is going to find out and you're somehow still okay with doing it. Like, hypothetically, imagine you hate your partner's mother's signature dish. But you really like your partner's mother and it's important to her and you grin and bear it. You have an inkling they may pick up on the fact that you're not really thrilled, but while they'll be disappointed, it will probably not be the end of the world. I wouldn't necessarily say one should lie about that, but if you decided to I wouldn't blame you.

This? This? Your girlfriend is going to totally flip out about this when she finds out about it. And while I don't think her jealousy is justified or anything, I think if she were writing an AskMe about how she just found out her boyfriend was lying to her about taking trips with a female coworker, we would all roundly tell her that he was probably at least interested in that coworker and to DTMFA. I'm not saying that's true, but I'm saying it's how the lie will be perceived. This is not a little white lie to smooth things over socially, this is a giant flashing relationship warning sign, both that you cannot tell her and that you think this could end well.
posted by Sequence at 7:22 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know anything about your relationship, but if she's nervous because in the past you've confessed issues with your relationship to female coworkers, that is a violation of trust. I'm sure she trusted you not to do that, and you did it, and she found out, and felt hurt and betrayed.

So, she has a pretty good reason to not enjoy you spending time with female coworkers. I'm sure you would both like to fix the problem, and not lie or keep having the same fight-- but you're going to have to have a very honest conversation to make that happen. Ask her what you could do to make it OK for her. Texting on occasion? Paying attention to her while you're away so she knows you're not trying to sneak off with ladies? Etc., etc. If you find it unreasonable it's your right to refuse, but I feel like it would help just to know what would make her feel safe and respected. If she wants you to text her back and forth all day while you're busy working, that would be unreasonable-- if she wants to call you every day and you have time in the evening for a phone call, some people would be fine with that.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:38 PM on October 6, 2013

I think the only way to make this work would be not only to not lie, but to stop lying henceforth and come clean and apologize for what you have done thus far. I mean, I am willing to say that your partner is being somewhat unsane about all this. After all, it's not like people can't have affairs with people they work with regardless of whether travel is involved, so if the jealousy was going to crop up, perhaps it was going to crop up anyway. It's not necessarily a very rational thing, as it can spring from insecurity equally as well as evidence.

Unfortunately, besides her being insecure, you've put yourself in the business of manufacturing evidence that supports her jealousy. To fix this (if you really are willing to), you need to address both of those fronts. First you need to have a come to Jesus talk, and explain that because it bothered her so much to hear about you traveling with WOMEN (ahem), you had started fibbing about that, but you have realized that was a terrible idea and that you need to stop it and apologize. Reassure her verbally that she has nothing to worry about, but make it clear that you won't be able to change your job duties to assuage her worries.

Then you can start working on the insecurity part. Luckily this doesn't take work on your part so much as patience. Because the thing is, what cures insecurity (if anything does, and mind you the insecure person has to allow it) is time. Time when things are secure, when you don't lie, when you do still go on trips with female colleagues and nothing happens, and you come home and tell her in detail about what was cool about it and what was boring and it's mundanely clear that nothing happened. It takes a lot of instances of nothing happening to extinguish the insecure/jealous response, and it isn't guaranteed to work. But that's what it takes.

So. Do you want to do that for her? If you can't, you both deserve for you to cut her loose.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 7:40 PM on October 6, 2013

I find it baffling how much crap the OP is getting for talking to a friend at work about his relationship problems. Every woman I've known ever has confided in her friends about her relationship issues, and I've never thought of it as some huge betrayal for them to do so. Unless that confiding happened within the context of a flirtation or an affair that the OP is not admitting to, it doesn't seem like a horrible thing for him to have done.

I don't think lying to your girlfriend about this situation is an appropriate thing to be doing, but I don't think her reaction to you traveling with your female colleagues is your problem either (see above re: caveats about whether there's something you're not admitting here that would give her reason to not trust you with your female colleagues). If she's just immature and jealous, the right answer, the ethical answer, the only practical answer, is to break up with her, because she's not adult enough to be in a real relationship.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:55 PM on October 6, 2013 [20 favorites]

jacquilynne: If the OP was talking like that to a man, nobody would care either. But unfortunately with heterosexuals....there may very well be the implied message of "My girlfriend doesn't understand me...but you do!" going on for somebody, even if the OP isn't intending on chasing a coworker. And finding someone else to emotionally depend on and rely on is usually one of those relationship-eroding activities.

I don't know if the OP is genuinely doing anything problematic to erode the relationship or if this was a one-off rant session to someone who just happened to own a vagina, but the fact that he did so while in possession of an unreasonably jealous girlfriend is only gonna make things worse.

OP, I wish you luck, but I honestly don't think your relationship can last unless she gets reasonable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:14 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I was your girlfriend, it would not be OK with me.
posted by latkes at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2013

It is okay to tell white lies to save your partner stress.

However, if your being around other women causes her stress, she doesn't need white lies. She needs to be out of this relationship. This is not reasonable on her part.
posted by RainyJay at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, going by the previous question as well, your girlfriend doesn't really feel like you support her. As you said, you aren't the one to talk to about emotions...except to talk to a female coworker, apparently.

That's quite possibly part of the problem, part of her reaction.

I say this because I have no issues with my partner travelling for work with women, or staying in hotel rooms with them, or talking with them about problems* he has, or even sleeping in the same bed if necessary. That's because I can trust him because his behaviour doesn't change. He doesn't tell me he's 'poor at talking about emotions' and thus unable to help me work through my issues while also being able to talk to a coworker (someone presumably less emotionally intimate than me) about our own relationship problems. That would...irk me. To say the least.

If he then lied about it? Not terribly helpful. Because that's not 'unreasonably jealous' that's 'reading some warning signs'. A man who refuses to talk to his partner because of his self-perception around emotional sharing who then talks to another woman about it (one who presumably engages in this 'high risk' factors like work travel) is not engaging in behaviours that are supportive or terribly trustworthy. You may well be trustworthy, but not acting in line with what you say, while doing things that are more likely to provoke infidelity, is going to raise some hackles.

*We've agreed it sort of feels weird to talk about relationship problems with friends in general though, particularly opposite sex heterosexual ones, primarily because it does set up a dynamic whereby support can become that highly problematic "oh you understand me so much better than my partner" and that said friend, when giving support, is likely to be less than flattering about your partner. Luckily we can talk to each other though. And are close with his brother and partner, so can rant to someone who really really gets it (since he and his brother are very similar, and me and his brother's partner are pretty similar).
posted by geek anachronism at 8:47 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm going to ignore for a moment the moral question of whether or not lying to a romantic partner is ever ok or if a relationship where one partner consistently lies to the other in order to avoid conflict is even worth staying in and just deal with the practical reality that this arrangement is simply not sustainable. In this day and age, given current technology, you will eventually be caught.

My job requires frequent travel, sometimes alongside opposite sex colleagues. More than once, photos of me at work-related events have shown up on social networks I am visible to my spouse on. I know there are probably ways to minimize this risk, but it seems to me your entire plan could be thwarted by one errant Facebook photo.
posted by The Gooch at 11:33 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've got more than one problem.

One is that your working conditions are unacceptable to your girlfriend.

The other is that she has a boyfriend who lies to her.

The first problem can be solved easily in either of two ways. Get a new job or get a new girlfriend. (Well, that's more like sweeping it under the rug, but it gets you off that particular hook.)

The second problem has all kinds of ways it won't come out well, but only a few that look good. Changing jobs or girlfriends doesn't deal with it.

As for good intentions, though, I think you were lying to ease your own mind, not hers. I won't even try to guess whether she's insecure because of her own underlying issues, or because she senses duplicity on your part. It doesn't really matter now, because you've already fed the wrong dog, and you already see that it's going to bite you on the ass. You've got your work cut out for you.

It may be possible to salvage this situation by taking a few days off and having a long, frank discussion with your girlfriend. You will need to be sincere, a tactic that you've already more or less poisoned, but sometimes abject misery can be a good feature to present when you've lied to someone, and want to make amends. If you can convince her that you were doing it because you love her and were frantic at the thought of losing her, you may be able to divert her attention from the idea that your opinion of her is that she's too insecure to deal with the reality of your job. I wouldn't count on it, though. Once you convince her of that, then she's going realize what a ditz you think she is, and you'll probably in worse shape than you are now.

Now, you two may also come out of the discussion with a whole new understanding, both of each other and your relationship. That's entirely possible, but the details of that discussion are what you and she will have to work out on the fly. Don't try to do it in one sitting, and be prepared to eat some crow while you are about it. The operative term here is reality check.

Also, you may have some coworkers who know that you lie to your girlfriend, so, there's that, too. Anyhow, one thing at a time.
posted by mule98J at 2:13 AM on October 7, 2013

no, and you will eventually forget to completely cover your tracks and get caught. seems like in general it would just be easier to be with someone to whom you could tell the truth.
posted by zdravo at 4:49 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nope, it's not okay. If your girlfriend doesn't trust you, then this won't help. She will find out eventually and it will be worse.

People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Be transparent.

If your girlfriend starts up with you, simply say, "This is part of my job. I am working. What do you need to see from me to feel comfortable when I'm away?"

She may just want to hear from you at a particular time, or something, in which case, okay, go for it. If she can't articulate what you can do to make her secure, then say, "This will be part of my working life for the foreseeable future, and since there's nothing I can do to make you comfortable with it, you need to decide if you want to be in a relationship with someone who travels with people of the opposite sex for work. What I'm not willing to do is to have stress and arguments and other grief because of your insecurity."

Sounds harsh, but dude, really?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have in the past confided in detail with one female colleague about problems in my relationship and I think this is where the aggravation comes from.

How did your girlfriend find this out? Did you report the conversation to her thinking there would be no issue? Or was there a more problematic context? For instance if you have "mentionitis" about that colleague she may think you have an office romance going on, and she may be right.

My (straight male) partner has a lot of female coworkers and friends and they have a lot of off-site work and functions. He tells me about some conversations that I think are borderline inappropriate on the part of the other person, spilling about their relationships and such. In some cases, I would be upset if I were that other person's partner, just by virtue of the type of stuff being said. (Do they really feel that way and why are they are the talking to this other persona and not to me?) I am also pretty sure that at least a few of those people are interested in having a relationship with my partner and are testing the waters. So, while I have no difficulty with my partner's behavior, I can see how the whole dynamic might be threatening to someone whose relationship is shaky. It makes me impatient when people act like it should be obvious that whatever goes on is OK because it's work and the jealous person must be making stuff up.

I also feel from your previous question-- that's the same person, no?-- that you are in a bit of a one up/one down relationship and basically your girlfriend cannot do anything right here. Is that the kind of relationship you want? If so, carry on but expect more of this stuff in the future.
posted by BibiRose at 7:43 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Echoing everything The Gooch just said. Even if this WERE ethically ok, it is beyond dumb to lie about something where there are so many paths to discovering the truth, and so many of them are out of your hands. Are you never going to take her to a work function? Never going to introduce her to any of your colleagues? Never going to have your work and non-work lives overlap or even intersect in any way?

You go on trips with opposite-gender colleagues. The problem isn't that she knows, the problem is that she doesn't trust you. That's the problem you need to solve.
posted by KathrynT at 8:08 AM on October 7, 2013

There are times where it's okay to lie, this does not sound like one of them.
posted by spaltavian at 8:14 AM on October 7, 2013

You've had lots of answers above telling you why this isnt OK so I won't rehash. You asked for examples of similar situations - I travel a lot for work, and most of my traveling colleagues are of the opposite gender.

Here's how I approached it early on in my relationship (we've been married for 7 years now, and while I don't do all this deliberately now, it's become part of our pattern for communication when I'm away):

- Make sure your girlfriend knows your colleagues as people. Even if she can't meet them, flesh them out for her. I find it's easier to be irrationally jealous of the vague unknown, than of someone who you know or know about. (rational jealousy is a whole different thing) A couple recent examples: "person X is going to be at the client site with me, they're from Cameroon! I've never met anyone from Cameroon, I am going to pepper them with questions over lunch" OR
remember I told you about Joe, the guy from New Zealand? His sister is going to Kenya for vacation, he was asking for recommendations.

- touch base at the end of the day. Not the end of the work day, but just before you go to bed. A 60 second phone call or even text "had gross chicken for dinner, going to wake up hungry. g'night"

- talk about your trip when you get home - did you eat somewhere nice as a team, or have a terrible meeting, or have a glass of wine that you think she would love? tell her about it. It'll make her feel more involved in your life even when you're out of town, and make it seem less as if you're hiding what happens when you're away.

Then it becomes more about the experience, and less about who you experienced it with.
posted by darsh at 9:39 AM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Forget about whether it's ethically OK or not and learn to accept on a deep level that you are better served by not trying to manage your partner's emotions and anxieties with various forms of dishonesty. Her jealousy is not your responsibility. You do not have to argue about it. Live honestly, set some boundaries, and let her deal with it. If she cannot, you are better off without her. If she can, you are better off having it out in the open.
posted by callmejay at 12:42 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Awww, don't listen to those no-no-noesters!

Look, SOMEONE has to liven up the company Christmas party, otherwise it's oh-so dull!

When one of your coworkers makes an innocent comment to you in front of your girlfriend about some very dull aspect of some very dull trip, that can be your girlfriend! It is sure to be a lively discussion that everyone involved will remember for years!

Is it okay to lie to your partner if it saves stress and worry for both parties?

I'm not seeing how this is relevant to your situation, lying to her about this only saves stress and worry for her now. It doesn't save stress and worry for you now, or you wouldn't have asked the question, and it won't save you stress and worry when you have to keep covering the lie up, or when you are worried she will find out the truth.

It won't save stress and worry for you if she does find out, in fact she will probably be even more upset, and any explanations of how innocent these trips were will seem very suspicious at that point.

It won't save any stress and worry for you if your girlfriend ends up meeting someone from your work, since these are innocent trips that it would be very unusual for someone to try to conceal from their partner, no one at work will have any idea that you would care if they spilled the beans, or even if there were any beans to spill. Trying to explain that to someone at work would be very awkward.

But yes, to answer your question, it is possible that lying to your partner MIGHT be OK if it saved stress and worry for both parties, depending on what the situation is.
posted by yohko at 1:33 PM on October 7, 2013

I've not read all the previous replies, but consider this... By lying to your GF about who you're traveling with for work, you are simply validating her concerns. You say she doesn't trust you traveling with them. Well, by hiding the fact that they're where you are when you go off on a business trip, you're acting fairly untrustworthy!

Come clean with her and tell her what's been going on and how things will be in the future. If she can't deal with it, then it's HER choice to move on or not.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 1:25 PM on October 8, 2013

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