How can I make it up to my pal?
February 20, 2008 7:50 AM   Subscribe

I did what I was asking about in this question , and now I've lost one of my friends.

I told all my friends about the fact that I lied to them about my level of sexual experience. Three of them were cool with it, one of them was not.

He said that my lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with. He calls me a pathological liar (on this issue, I was). This guy is one of my best pals, and I've been his friend for 11 years. I don't want to push him, but I also don't want to lose him as a friend.

Is there anything I can do to indicate that I am changing and it won't happen again?

P.S. I know I was wrong for lying. Nothing anyone can say can make me feel worse than I do.
posted by stedman15 to Human Relations (58 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So, your friend gave up on you because you lied about how much you got laid? Sounds like you're better off without him.

He said that my lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with.

Your friend is being a drama queen. Perhaps he'll get over it, perhaps not, but the worst thing you can do at this point is go begging for forgiveness... for lying about getting laid.

EVERYONE LIES ABOUT SEX. Hell, our last president got up on national TV and lied about sex.

Disclaimer: If this strife is due to your lying about a specific person that you both know then... dude, you're screwed. Same advice- leave it alone, give it time- but your ex-friend has a viable point.
posted by mkultra at 7:58 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there anything I can do to indicate that I am changing and it won't happen again?

Don't ever let it happen again. He has every right not to trust you. Unfortunately, that's the risk of breaking someone's trust- they may never trust you again. But I bet with time, your friend will come around. Things may never be the same again, but they could recover.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Your former pal's idea of being "accountable in part" is dropping you like a hot rock? That's not accountability in my book, that's just treating you like a liability. Assuming he really feels the way he claims to, I'd suggest giving him some time to cool down and then asking for his help to keep you on the straight and narrow. He's your friend, right? And he cares enough about you to feel a sort of misplaced responsibility. Well, one of the things friends do is help you when you fuck up.

It's entirely possible that the whole "accountable in part" thing is a ruse, just some way of guilt tripping you. If that turns out to be the case -- and I certainly hope it isn't -- he's not really much of a friend, is he?
posted by majick at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2008

He is not your best pal.
Your lying is not his responsibility.
You have no need to make it up. This is a power play due to his insecurity.
You need to think about how this man has been treating you over the years, clearly this implies that he has been less than good to you in the past.

Move on, when he gets over it (if he does) maybe you can rebuild, otherwise it is a colossal waste of time.
posted by winterhat at 8:03 AM on February 20, 2008

I told you so.

Seriously though, you knew the dangers of reveling this information and now you're shocked and surprised that the results aren't 100% to you liking?

Maybe you can patch it up with your friend or maybe not. Only time will tell. There is no magic silver-bullet-solution that anyone here is going to offer that will instantly fix any of this.

Chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.
posted by wfrgms at 8:03 AM on February 20, 2008

Is there anything I can do to indicate that I am changing and it won't happen again?

Yes. Change, and make sure it doesn't happen again. And don't make a big deal of it. If your friend is worth keeping, he'll notice and appreciate it.

Other than that, for now I'd let it go; it sounds like your friend is feeling betrayed but hasn't broken it off, and pushing the issue right now will probably just annoy him (possibly enough to cause a confrontation). So you might want to pay careful attention to what he says or does if or when the situation ever comes up, for tips on how he wants to approach it.

With any luck, a few years down the road you might talk about it with a chuckle and a headshake and two fingers held up for the waiter.
posted by johnofjack at 8:04 AM on February 20, 2008

A true friend is with you through thick and thin, even when you've made mistakes. That said, I wouldn't have taken the 'truth out' advice, but what's done is done. Either way, if your friend doesn't come around, then sayonara. I know hearing "don't worry about it" is no help, but there is not much that you can do. Again, if he is a true friend he may be angry to begin with but will soon get over it.
posted by magnoliasouth at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: He calls me a pathological liar (on this issue, I was).

You are by no means a pathological liar, unless there's something else you're not telling us (and you seem like a pretty upfront guy). From this page:

"... a key characteristic of pathological lying may be its compulsive nature, with pathological liars "unable to control their lying," although another term they use is "impulsive." In addition, they refer to other accounts that speculate on whether the pathological liar may be unaware that he is lying..."

I hope you can forgive yourself for lying - it's not the major infraction you think it is. You didn't hurt anyone with this lie. What your friend is saying sounds like so much bullshit, and I hate to be harsh, but I wonder if he was looking for a reason to end your friendship. If that's the case, I'm afraid there's probably not much you can do.
posted by Evangeline at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2008

You told a total of four people.
Three of them proved that they were your true friends.
One did not.

I am sure that you can figure this one out.
For this one person, consider one of the following terms "ex-friend", "acquaintance" or "asshat".

Your call.

You did the right thing, man. Know that and remember that.
posted by willmize at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2008

I think that becoming an honest person and not bullshitting people in the future will be its own reward.

Honestly I hate lies and I tend to be direct and honest. But I have friends who lie or bend the truth or tell you a story and leave out huge details, then ask your opinion. It pisses me off but they are still my friends.

You are the first person to ever lie about your sexual experience, NOT! He sounds like a shmow. Start sticking up for the person you are, it will stand you in good steed. Be honest and forthright and a standup person. I would really avoid feeling bad about this if you can, or thinking yourself weak for fessing up. Just get on with life.
posted by sully75 at 8:07 AM on February 20, 2008

Your friend needs to get over himself. Your lies are only a reflection on him if he's deeply self-centered, which it sounds like he is. Kinda sucks, but really, that's life. If you no longer feel compelled to keep up a tiresome facade, and the only price you had to pay for dumping it was the friendship of this guy, you're doing all right. Dude will either come around or he won't.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2008

my lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with

Holy crap, that's insane. This guy's got a long, lonely, and disappointed life ahead of him if he doesn't let go of that idea.

You apologized sincerely, and you'll tell the truth in the future, which is really all that you can do. Give your friend some time, and maybe he'll get over it. I don't think there's anything else you can do but wait for that to happen, and keep in mind that it might not happen if this guy's really as self-righteous as he seems.
posted by jesourie at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2008

That's a pretty crazy dude right there.
I would recommend that you wean off your friendship with him even if he is just being a drama queen and gets over it in a couple of days, because it's just not worth it to have "friends" who have to do shit like that because of their own insecurities.
Either way, you did the right thing, and the people who realize that for what it is are the ones that are still your friends. Pretty simple. Nothing you can do about the fact that one happened to be a self-absorbed cock.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2008

Yeah, he has every right to be mad that you lied to him but sounds like he over reacted. Presumably you apologized to him, that is all you should be expected to do. If he cannot get over it, get over him. You will be better off.
posted by d4nj450n at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2008

What willmize said.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2008

Let them cool off, and if you still want to be friends in three or four months' time, drop them a line and offer an olive branch. Normally people get over this kind of thing. If they don't get over it, then you're better off without them.
posted by skylar at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: When I was younger, I had a "friend" who I didn't much like, and as much as I tried to break off our friendship, she wouldn't take a hint. I didn't want to just directly say that I didn't want to be her friend (I know, immature, but that's part of my point), but no level of avoidance worked. One day, she mentioned that she was repulsed by the idea of seeing two men kiss. I have a lot of gay friends and I tend to be bothered by homophobia, but if it were a real friend (who I enjoyed being friends with), I might have tried to work on it. Instead, I simply said I couldn't be friends with a homophobe and cut it off right there.

My point, in case it wasn't clear, is that your friend's reaction seems out of proportion to the lie you told him. I wonder if this was an excuse? I'm genuinely sorry to hear that you may have lost a friend, but many friendships end. Sometimes, the reasons aren't transparent. That doesn't make things any easier, of course, but it might help you realize that your friend might have other reasons for ending the friendship. It's possible that it's not you, it's him.
posted by JMOZ at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: He's didn't walk away because you confessed to him, he walked away because he just learned that you've been lying to him for years. YOU may be past it, having had time to accept your flaws and forgive yourself and deal with some fallout, but this is all news to him. The pain is fresh and comes all in one blow. He must re-evaluate and re-think a huge chunk of experience.

Just give him uninterrupted time to think and be pissed. He may come around, he may not. But he needs time to figure it all out. And no words from you are going to make that easier. Also, there's nothing out there that says he's supposed to act like Mr. Manners or Personality Champ. He's never been in this situation and is a flawed human too. He acts like a drama queen...yeah, so?

The data is all there. On some level he'll realize the improvement path you're on by the very fact that all this has come to light. But let him process. Your other friends will help. And try not to bug them about friend #4. They're processing stuff too; they're just less outwardly histrionic about it.

Good luck. You're still doing the right thing. Bigtime ball props to you for talking to your friends about the lying.

Also, just reading into things a guess is that comment of his about actions reflecting on him and blah's probably more about his shock and lack of control in being "duped". Sometimes people get all self-righteous when they think they've pegged a situation one way and it turns out they were WRONG. In this case, his judgment of you was off, and he's trying to put that back onto you. You don't have to own it, or any of his actions/reactions towards you.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think that folks who want to cover whether he should or shouldn't have told should do it in the other thread. The OP has conveniently linked to it for you.

Look, he's hurt and angry. He's saying things that reflect his hurt and angry state. Just tell him that you're sorry, that you aren't going to lie about anything else, and that you don't want to lose his friendship. Let him be angry for a little while.

You're having a fight. This doesn't mean that the relationship is necessarily over.
posted by desuetude at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another voice to say you did the right thing, and those three friends are indeed friends. Hopefully number four will come round when he cools off. Sometimes people feel like they've been made a fool of when they've fallen for a lie, so maybe he'll get over it as time passes, but right now he's probably smarting. Give him some space to cool off and feel however he wants to feel about it.

Make sure you've given a sincere apology and made it clear to him that you'd like your friendship to continue - after that the ball's in his court. That's not to say it doesn't hurt if you end up losing a friend of 11 years, but this is now his problem to get over, not yours.

(Just maybe he's been telling some similar lies and doesn't want to get into that conversation right now?!)
posted by penguin pie at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2008

Let him cool off. Explain to him why you did it. Insecurity, wanting to be accepted, etc. Make sure he understands that you didn't just do it for kicks (I don't know why anyone would think that the case). Explain to him how you now feel more secure, and know that true friends will accept you for who you are. True friends will be disappointed that you lied to them in the past, but proud that you were able to overcome the underlying causes of that lying.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:55 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: You know, I'm not so sure that this guy has proved that he's not a 'real' friend. Nor is he a douchebag for the 'accountability' thing.

1) Yeah, friends stick with you through thick and thin. That's fair. But let's look at the other side of the equation: someone has been lying to you for years. Are they a 'real' friend to you? Aren't real friends honest with each other? Isn't this other guy saying, in effect, "You've been lying to me for 11 years, and you expect me to continue being your friend? I don't think so." Depending on the circumstances, deception over that kind of time period would certainly cause me to re-evaluate the friendship.

2) Accountability. There's some saying about laying down with dogs and getting up with fleas. Like it or not, we are judged by the company we keep--and sometimes, we should be.

So.. yeah, you did the right thing. You came clean, and that's good. But sometimes doing the right thing means you have to suffer the consequences of your actions. You are suffering the consequences of deliberately lying to someone for so many years. I'm not judging you here; that's just how the world works. Actions have consequences, and the consequence of deceit is often loss of friendship. Learn from that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

He said that my lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with.

Aw, that's nice of him to turn this whole thing around so that it's about him. You'd think he would be concerned about why you felt you needed to lie, why you wanted to come clean. Nope, just interested in how it reflects on him. I'm not the first to tell you, dude, this is not what a friend does.

He calls me a pathological liar (on this issue, I was).

No. Pathological lying is something else entirely. A liar, maybe. Not pathological. Also very nice of him to try to saddle you with a mental disorder rather than try to find out why you felt you needed to lie. Nope, just easier to avoid the emotional issues and immediately diagnose crazy.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your friend is being an asshole. Hopefully it's just temporary. If not, then be grateful that this experience has brought clarity to your relationship. Really. When I got sick, I learned that a couple of people that I thought would be there for me weren't. It made a bad situation much, much worse, but in the long run I am grateful. I know what's what in my life now. Those people were never really with me, and I just didn't know it.

What you've got going on in your life is a perfect illustration of what's meant by the expression "the truth will out." It all comes out eventually--the truth about your sexual experience, the truth about your friendship with this person. Truth is good. The sooner it comes out, the better.
posted by Enroute at 9:04 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: Three of them proved that they were your true friends.
One did not.

I have to disagree with this type of answer. You spent a large chunk of the last few years lying to your close friends. You broke their trust. Your friends get to react the way they choose to react. 3 guys were okay with it - 1 was not. Sticking by someone who has no problems lying about trivial things does not make someone a "true friend" - it just means that said person has a difference tolerance for certain types of behavior.

Like dirtynumbangelboy said, we are judged by the company we keep. If we weren't, 75% of teen movies wouldn't exist. This kind of judgement doesn't disapear when one grows up - it'll always exist. Some people have a higher tolerance for this kind of existence and others don't. It exists in all social groups and in all aspects of soceity. You just happened to have 1 close friend who doesn't enjoy dealing with the BS associated with a person who is discovered to enjoy llying to his close friends for several long years. From his perspective, he now has to reevaluate everything you said or say and decide if you are lying or not. For some, a close friend is someone you don't have to do that with.

You broke your friend's trust - he's reacted defensively and in away that you didn't want. Give it time. He might come back but he might not. That's your ex-friend's choice to make; not yours.
posted by Stynxno at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The "he's not your real friend" responses here are too quick to judge. I agree with those saying give him time to process it. Do what you can to convince him you're sincere. Maybe he'll come around, maybe he won't, but if he does (especially if it's just a few days, or even weeks), let it go as water under the bridge.

I would recommend that you wean off your friendship with him even if he is just being a drama queen and gets over it in a couple of days,

Ah, yes. "This person isn't your true friend, because true friends forgive each other for mistakes. Also, if he changes his mind in a few days and decides his initial response was a mistake, don't forgive him."

If the friend eventually decides he can forgive stedman15 for seven years of lying, surely stedman15 can forgive the friend for a few days or weeks of being angry.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Does no one remember one of his followups where he states:

At least one of these friends has gotten tons of advice from me about girls based on the thought that I'm a big time player.

Is this the guy that cut you off, stedman15? If so, I feel a lot of the answers here are off base.
posted by spec80 at 9:12 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not being able to forgive a friend who earnestly apologizes is worse than (or at least as bad as) lying in the first place, IMO. A true friend is, by definition, one who desires the best for the other person, knowing that we sometimes bring pain to the relationship; sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Without forgiveness, deep and abiding relationships simply aren't possible. Your friend's pain is understandable, and you should let him have his reaction without judgment. But a friend's obligations toward you don't end simply because feelings were hurt.

There are limits to this I suppose, but I'd be surprised if your friend has never told a lie that he'd be somewhat embarrassed to have come to light.

Know that you did the right thing, and if your friend can't, it's appropriate to grieve the loss of a friend. But his decision on whether or not to do the right thing towards you is similar to your decision to confess: it lies entirely with him to do right by you, and it can't be forced.

Do realize that forgiveness takes time, however. So if he's inclined to do so, he may need the space to work his feelings out.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:23 AM on February 20, 2008

Your friend is being an asshole.

How? People keep saying this as if it were self-evidently true, but I for one don't see it.

Lying to your friends for years is assholish behaviour. Predicating advice to those friends on those lies is assholish behaviour.

Being pissed off at a so-called friend for doing these things, and subsequently deciding that you don't need those things in your life? Not assholish.

Yes, I will agree that the friend in question should make an effort to understand why it happened. But that doesn't automatically translate to forgiveness. And even if the friend forgives the original poster, that doesn't automatically translate to continuation of the friendship. I know that I have forgiven a couple of people in my past for actions they took, because I understood why the actions occurred. I did not, however, retain the friendship; the hurt was too much to get past. I don't think it makes you a small person to say "I forgive you for what you've done because I understand why you did it. Bottom line, however, is this: you said you were my friend, and you lied to me for a long time. Those are not the actions of a friend, and I don't wish to continue this friendship. All the best, bye."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2008

" lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with."

This isn't true. How is an adult accountable for the actions of another adult? This is a hurtful and uncalled-for thing to say.

Sometimes pushing people and losing friends can't be avoided. You know more about this situation than we do. Maybe this friend is hot tempered and it's worthwhile to be understanding of their temper. It might also be possible that this friend is a hurtful person and it's better that you drift apart.

The answer might be clear now or might not be clear for a while. Eventually you'll know. You deserve to be forgiven for your mistakes, and you deserve to be commended for trying to be a better person. I commend you. I really respect what you're doing here.

And what SpacemanStix said. :)
posted by halonine at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2008

Response by poster: @spec80,

The friend who I've lost is not the one I gave sex advice. That friend chuckled about the situation.
posted by stedman15 at 9:32 AM on February 20, 2008

Response by poster: The friend who cut me off is a very conservative, religious person. He can be a bit blunt and harsh.

We hung out last Friday, and you could cut the tension with a knife. One of my other pals was with us. The friend I lost asked me point blank why I decided to come out with the truth now. I said it was because of a recent break-up and the fact that I wanted to atone for my past mistakes.

He then asked me about a situation with a girl I honestly couldn't remember. I said as much.

When we got back to my friend's place, my lost friend said all of what I have put in the initial post.
posted by stedman15 at 9:37 AM on February 20, 2008

I'm a little bit surprised by the large quantity of "He's not you're *real* friend, you're better off without that jerk anyway"-type responses.

Look, everyone has different levels of tolerance for being lied to, regardless of whether or not some might think the lie itself was a trivial, inconsequential one. When it is discovered that someone has lied to you about one thing (again, even if that one thing wasn't something of earth-shattering importance), it's easy to start to become suspicious of everything that has ever come out of that person's mouth. If it's easy for the person to lie about this, it isn't such a stretch to imagine he's also lied about that. Not exactly the most endearing qualities in a friendship.

Beyond a base-level, nosy curiosity, I could care less about the sexual history of any of my friends. But I could see why your friend might react as he has: You've been continuously lying to him about something for years and now he has to question everything that's ever come out of your mouth because he can no longer go on the assumption that telling the truth is your default position. You, of course, know that your lies were limited to this one subject and have made the decision to change your ways, which is great. But I think your friend deserves time to process this information you've sprung on him and it's up to you to prove that your desire to be more honest in all aspects of your communication is genuine. It's not his responsibility to immediately forgive and forget.

Many of the reactions here seem oddly harsh: It seems weird to me to judge someone negatively for not immediately forgiving years and years of being lied to. I don't see why "This person has a higher standard for honesty than I do" has to immediately = "That guy's just an asshole".
posted by The Gooch at 9:50 AM on February 20, 2008

The friend who cut me off is a very conservative, religious person.

I'm going to make an assumption here about his religious background, but assuming that very conservative means Christian conservative, your friend may be interested in upholding a tenet of his faith that encourages one to forgive those who have asked for it. Forgiving "seventy times seven" times is intended to convey a rather repetitive number of wrongs against someone who genuinely asks for it. Now, you can't force this fact down his throat (forgiveness doesn't work that way), but possibly you can derive some comfort in knowing that he may be mulling this over. Or even suggest to him that you approached him in an way concordant with his religious beliefs, and all that you ask in return is that he considers an appropriate response to you, based on his belief system.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:51 AM on February 20, 2008

Or, what Stynxno said.
posted by The Gooch at 9:52 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: I don't understand a lot of the people here who are calling your friend an asshole or a drama queen or whichever other adjective. I think it's very reasonable to expect a less than positive reaction from a friend, when you've told him you've been lying to him for years. Ok, yes, maybe he's overreacting by saying that "he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with", but what does he even mean by that?

I can remember a LOT of times when I've responded to disillusionment, frustration and feelings of betrayal with less than reasonable words or actions. This doesn't make me an asshole or a bitch or a drama queen, it makes me human. No one ever gave me an instruction manual on how to respond to life's negative aspects.

I don't think your friend has any practice with being told he's been lied to for years and years. Feeling betrayed sucks. And yes, we do betray people's trust when we lie to them, even when it's about something personal.

So, I'm not saying your friend is right or wrong. And I don't know you or him or your friendship enough. But I do know some people are better at reacting than others, some recover quickly, some never do, some just don't know how.

I hope things get better for you and your friend. Give it time, don't force it.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2008

I should also add, though, that the steps between forgiveness and full restoration of a friendship can be rather long, and I've seen hurt go deeply enough that it never quite gets there. But I do have the conviction that it can't even begin to go in that direction without one person being able to set aside hurt feelings for the sake of the relationship.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2008

I'm trying to put myself in the friend's shoes, but I really think that if I found out that a friend had been lying to me for years, I'd be shocked, of course, but then when I found out the reason behind the lie - the low self-esteem, the insecurity - I would get over my bad self and realize that more than anything this person needs supportive, accepting people in his life.

You broke someone's trust by lying, yes. However, your lie didn't ruin a marriage, cost someone their job, cause physical injury, etc. I just don't think it's enough to justify your friends behavior.
posted by Evangeline at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: Young guys exaggerate their sexual prowess and experience all the time, unless I've been living with my head wrapped in a sack for the last thirty-five years. Most people know it's all harmless BS while they're politely nodding and smiling - people who are secure don't feel the need to relentlessly prove themselves and most of us know this after a certain age and level of experience.

Your friend is being really hard on you because he feels like a fool for buying your line of crap. He's also judging you because of it - that's not terribly charitable or forgiving or turning the other cheek, etc., but that's a whole separate issue you may wish to get into if you find it necessary to have a long, protracted to-do over this, in my opinion, benign issue. Give him space and let him come to the realization that you, unlike most of us, actually copped to telling an extended lie and apologized for it. This speaks much more to your depth of character than your lying about getting laid all the time detracts from it.

Now go have a sandwich and a couple of beers with your friends who don't take themselves so seriously. Ask your angry friend if he'd like to come along and be nice when he declines. Repeat as necessary until he gets off his high horse and gets a sense of humor. Don't lie anymore. Be nice to babies and small animals. Tip your server, try the veal.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:06 AM on February 20, 2008

I have to wonder if this friend is extra-resentful because he may have compromised his morality in order to compete with your phantom studliness. Now it comes out that YOU'RE the one who's pure as the driven snow and he's stuck outside the pearly gates with all the heathens. Or something like that, I obviously didn't go to Sunday school. There's something Christian in his overreaction though, whether it be him wielding the Bible over your head or not being able to forgive.
posted by rhizome at 10:43 AM on February 20, 2008

Your "friend" sounds like a douche.

He feels accountable for the actions of those around him? Unless you're best friends with your dad and you're 12, that's not a real sound line of logic.

Now on the other hand if your lying about being a super sexual stud led him to try and keep up by banging a hooker and getting HIV, you've got some apologizing to do.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2008

He then asked me about a situation with a girl I honestly couldn't remember. I said as much.

I'm curious about why he asked about that one particular situation. We assume he's overreacting because we're assuming this lie of yours didn't really affect him in any way. However, is it possible that he thought/ said/ did something to/about this particular girl based on what he thought he knew of you and now it turns out he was completely in the wrong?

I might overreact too if I just realized not only that a dear friend had been lying to me for years but also that I may have wronged other people because of that lie. When he says your "lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with," is he really saying that you are accountable for the actions of those you associate with, and when you lie, those people base their actions on a lie and may end up hurting other people because of it, or at the very least, being completely wrong about something they were sure was true.

How do you make it right? My suggestion might be to acknowledge to him that you recognize that the lies you told may have impacted others, including him, in unintended ways, and that you apologize for putting him in a situation where he had to base his actions on something that you knew to be untrue. It was unconscionable thing to do to a friend. It will never, ever happen again.
posted by platinum at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

your friend is being unreasonable. it's one thing to lie about, say, being a nazi. it's quite another to lie about being a virgin. he's obviously got other issues that he's not expressing to you.

i'm sorry. it sucks. but it sounds like you're better off without him.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2008

He said that my lying reflects badly on him because he is accountable in part for the actions of those he associates with.

That's as big of a piece of bullshit as any tall tale. Your friends have a right to be upset and feel betrayed for the way you lied to them. In fact, everyone has the right of two feet to walk away and choose acquantances that they can trust. There are very legitimate reasons why your original trespass could lead to someone making the decision to walk away and the ethical thing to do in that situation is to let them.

Nevertheless, no one has the right or responsiblity to take accountability for someone else's actions. That's bullshit. That's a serious philosophical infringement on other peoples' rights to make their own decisions and suffer their own consequences. Taking on responsibility for peers invalidates others' self-determination and causes undue stress in both parties. Not good.

You need to give your friend the benefit of a doubt in this, however, because you initiated this situation. It is likely that your friend said what they said because they don't have any other language to describe the betrayal that they're feeling. It's also possible that there is some other reason for them to feel above-average betrayed in this situation that they're unwilling or unable to disclose. For instance, maybe they've been betrayed in the past in a way that is similar.

As a society, we don't have a robust, common language for friendship. It's not like back in the day when platonic same sex friends would practically write love letters to each other. That is to say, "I'm accountable for the actions of blahblahblah," is something of a cliche, especially in a western culture workplace context. Your friend might not fully understand or have words to describe their feelings and might have fallen back on a cliche from another sphere of their life. Other cultures have a stronger sense of communal peer responsibility outside the wordplace, so you need to take their own cultural context into account.

If I were in a similar situation, I would follow up such a overwrought declaration with open ended questions like, "I'm hearing that you feel betrayed and I think you're right to feel that way. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by accountability? What does that mean to you?" These kinds of discussion work better in-person, because people are more likely to continue logical instead of emotional discourse in email.

It's important that open ended questions are questions that can not be answered with yes/no or other one word responses. Usually a prolonged series of non-judgemental, non-leading open ended questions will get to the real meat of any issue. It takes some tenacity, like asking 5 or 6 different questions, worded different ways. If your friend is still likely to respond to future correspondence, you might open up with, "I really value you as a friend and I know that I have not been a good friend in the past. I understand that you're upset and you have a right to be. At the same time, I'm not quite sure I understand somethings you said and its been really bothering me. Are you open to talking about this again?"

If your friend is not open to future correspondence, then let them be.
posted by Skwirl at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2008

I'm going to side with the "your friend is being an unreasonable, priggish drama queen" here. As lies go, lying about being more sexually experienced than you are is pretty much a little white lie - as well as something just about all young guys do! If your friend feels "accountable" for hanging out with guys who BS about their sexual experience...he's going to narrow his circle of friends considerably. It would be like me going all Judgy Judgerton on a woman friend who lied about her weight.

Sure, being lied to sucks...but your friend is way overblowing the magnitude of your "betrayal" here. You didn't lie about being a registered sex offender, you didn't lie about your background or experience in order to get a job lead from him - unless your friend offered you a job at an escort service based upon your presumed sexual prowess, he needs to lighten up a bit.

The fact that your other friends are being perfectly nice about your coming clean with them further emphasizes that your angry friend needs to stop being such a frickin' prig. People screw up! Unless someone was seriously harmed by your lie, or his reputation compromised, he's making an awfully big deal out of very little.

I would lie low and let your friend calm down for a while, then make overtures to him (assuming you still want to keep the friendship). Hopefully, he'll remember that Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven, turn the other cheek, judge not lest ye be judged, and so on.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2008

Not much time has gone by. You told the guy you'd been lying... and then did he immediately make his negative comments? Or did he wait a few days? I'm thinking that if it was just his first response, then he might come around.

As for the "accountability" comments, I wouldn't put too much stock in that explanation. Basically, he didn't like what he was hearing, and he came up with a reason that he thought sounded logical. The truth was probably that he felt like a fool, or that he hates lies, especially from people he trusts.

Your best chance for a relationship with him in the future is to tell him that in his position you would have similar difficulty coming to terms with the lying, and that you hope he'll be able to forgive you some day. Then wait a few months, and see if he's willing to see you.

Some people (I'm one of them) have a visceral reaction when they find out someone's lied, especially if they themselves are very averse to lying. You might just have to accept that this can't be smoothed out -- but you don't need to accept it just yet.
posted by wryly at 12:29 PM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: I found out my best friend had been lying to me for years about not having a relationship with one of my exes. I was hurt and angry because, as many have said here, it calls into question our entire friendship. Call that drama queen behavior if you like, but I feel it was an appropriate response to her deception.
It took me a while to get past it. A while. I felt like such an idiot for being duped.
We are not best friends now, but I would say we are friendly.

The friend in Stedman15s case isn't being a jerk; He's taking time to process and he has a right to take that time. Don't rush him; Don't get all holier-than-thou on him and throw scripture in his face.

Something about glass houses...

I found out my friend had been lying in much the same way Stedman15 did; she told me. No, she did not have to and now I can appreciate the fact that she owned up to it, but that doesn't change what she did or erase the years of lies.

Give it time.
posted by PinkButterfly at 1:06 PM on February 20, 2008

Is there anything I can do to indicate that I am changing and it won't happen again?

No, not really. It takes time to show that you are trustworthy. Years even. You can't control people or make them do what you want. If you value this friend, I recommend you don't consider him a drama queen (etc as suggested in this friend) but treat him with consideration and respect. He's dealing with something really difficult. Someone he trusted completely let him down and even if he can't articulate his feelings about this in a way the metafilter population can understand, these are his feelings and he's entitled to them.

Do the best you can, be the best friend you can, and all you can do is hope. There is no guarantee either way of what your friend will do. Only time can sort this one out. It's a hard lesson to learn, I know, and you must be feeling pretty miserable about the whole thing. You have my sympathies.
posted by b33j at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2008

Response by poster: I never lied to him about being with any women he was interested in. I also didn't offer him sex advice.
posted by stedman15 at 2:17 PM on February 20, 2008

I found out my best friend had been lying to me for years about not having a relationship with one of my exes.

Okay, this is something that directly affects your life. Can you see the difference? The transgression in the original poster's case is just the lie. In your case, it's two things: the lie and the fact that she had been seeing one of your exes, which is a different kind of breach of trust.

If you had an unattractive friend, and you found out after several years that she'd been lying about her sexual experience because she was ashamed and wanted to fit in, how would you react to her?
posted by Evangeline at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2008

The transgression in the original poster's case is just the lie.

That's just it, though. The problem is that he lied, not necessarily what he lied about. Same for me; I wasn't upset with my friend because she was dating my ex when I wanted him too. I was upset because she lied to me, purposely. She wasn't presenting herself honestly to me. That's not insignificant.
posted by PinkButterfly at 2:51 PM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: To answer your question:

If you had an unattractive friend, and you found out after several years that she'd been lying about her sexual experience because she was ashamed and wanted to fit in, how would you react to her?

My reaction would have two parts:
-Dealing with the fact that I had been lied to
-Trying to understand my friend's motivation and dealing with that

I'd be more inclined to be work with the friend on the second part, but only after I had gone through step 1 of my reaction.

Stedman15's friend seems to be on Step 1 right now. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by PinkButterfly at 2:53 PM on February 20, 2008

I never lied to him about being with any women he was interested in.

Yeah, but if he is very Christian he may find it awful that you lied about being with any women. He might see it as tarnishing their good name in a way that someone who was less Christian might not.

I don't blame him for not wanting to associate with someone who lies a lot. Who you associate with is who you are, to a large degree.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:54 PM on February 20, 2008

I agree with the posters above who advise that the best thing to do is give him time to absorb this revelation and hope that things settle down. You've thought about this for a while but he was just hit out of nowhere by it.

In his shoes, I might be freaking out not about my friend exaggerating sexual experience but about my friend spinning lies to me about his life for a while. I would wonder, What else has he lied about? Does he lie about _me_ to others? Especially when you mentioned this in your original question:

I've also told others that I was once engaged, when in fact, I never was.

Honestly, that jumped out at me far more than the sex boasting. I can see coming up with tall tales about sex to match up with the guys, but making up solid personal history feels like a different ballpark to me entirely.
posted by cadge at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2008

Best answer: I'm surprised at how little sympathy some people would have for the poster, but I suppose everyone's angered by different things. When I was in my mid-20's my father took me aside and told me that he had been married before he met my mother and that I had a half-sister. He was crying when he told me - his first wife had cheated on him and he initially didn't believe the child was his. After 40 years he had finally come to terms with it and was trying to establish a relationship with her. I wasn't angry at all. I understood how painful the situation was for him. Now if I were HER, I would have been angry.

I'm adopted, and around the same time I discovered that my parents had adopted a baby girl before me, but after a few months the natural mother had changed her mind and taken back the baby. They adopted me later, and gave me the same name. I was reeling when I found out the news, and hurt, but not angry. My mother had two miscarriages before they adopted the first baby. All she wanted in the world was a baby girl. She'd already picked out her favorite name, she finally got her daughter, then it all fell apart. How could I be angry at her?

Now if a friend continually lets me down and doesn't follow up on his promises, THEN I get angry. Follow-through is very important to me. Eventually there will probably be a rift, but it's impossible for me to hold a grudge, so I'd get over it.
posted by Evangeline at 4:20 AM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]'s impossible for me to hold a grudge, so I'd get over it.

And it's entirely possible that stedman15's friend will get over it too. It's important to note here that stedman15's original post asking if he should make this confession was dated 2/13. This post is dated 2/20 so it stands to reason that the confession occurred (and the friend's reaction occurred) sometime between these two dates. So stedman15's friend, at the time of this posting, had less than a week to process the fact his good friend has been continually spinning yarns to him for years.

As the varied reactions in this thread indicate, different people have varying levels of tolerance for being lied to. Some think it is situational (as in, if the lie is a small white one such as this that has no direct negative effect on anyone, it's not worth getting upset over), while others think being lied to in general is incredibly disrespectful (a camp I admittedly fall into), regardless of whether or not the lie has any direct effect on the person being lied to. One of stedman15's friends obviously falls into the 2nd category. I have a hard time imagining anyone could really hold a lifelong grudge over a relatively benign lie such as this, so I'm hopeful that given time the friend could very well come around and let bygones be bygones. But I don't think he should be crucified simply for having a lower level of tolerance for being lied to than some other people may have. That he cannot forgive stedman15 IMMEDIATELY for years and years of dishonestly does not make the friend a jerk, even if his reaction did seem a bit overdramatic.

This thread has been interesting as a study of human nature in that the theme of many responses tends to be "Anyone who has a different level of tolerance for lying than I do is wrong. Not different, but wrong".
posted by The Gooch at 8:54 AM on February 21, 2008

... others think being lied to in general is incredibly disrespectful (a camp I admittedly fall into), regardless of whether or not the lie has any direct effect on the person being lied to.

Like I said, everyone's angered by different things. It seems that some people would be angered by any breach of trust no matter how big or small the lie, which is just hard for me to wrap my head around.

Here's a hypothetical situation:

Friend A: I have to confess something. I've been lying about my weight for 15 years. I really weigh 150 pounds, not 135. I've been embarrassed about my weight for a long time. I'm sorry I lied.

Friend B: That's it! You've really hurt me, and I don't know if I can associate with a liar.

Really? I mean, if all someone is concerned about is the fact that a friend lied, not what the lie was about, then I guess that's how the situation might play out.

At any rate, I do hope his friend comes around.
posted by Evangeline at 11:14 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to give people an update, my friend called me last night, and everything appears to be cool now.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in!
posted by stedman15 at 6:23 AM on February 29, 2008

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