A question was posed on another blog late last night, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since the implied situation resonated so strongly with what I went through. Instead of responding as a comment I decided to write a post of my own, since it could be lengthy and I haven’t really tackled this topic before.
What should be expected when you are already in a deceitful relationship? Honor among thieves, as it were?
I can only speak from my own experience. As many of you know, when I first embarked on a relationship outside my marriage, it was with my husband’s explicit consent. But while we agreed to an open marriage, it was a total don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. So yes, not quite “open”. But I have no better descriptor for it. I had told him that while he said I could be with others, I didn’t feel the same. Hypocritical? Sure. But at the time of the discussion, I couldn’t really see myself acting on what I had permission to do.
Of course, you know the story of how it happened. If you don’t, you can read it here.
I haven’t written much about the arrangement I had with my faraway lover. I’m working on our story. He too was married. We met through work. From the first day, we were very honest with each other about the situations we were in. We discussed whether there was anyone else we were involved with (there wasn’t, although he was a supreme flirt).
We were extremely open about what we were each going through in our marriages. Not only were we lovers, but we were each other’s therapists – in our situation, there were few people, if any, we could really talk to about everything that was going on. He knew I rarely had sex with my husband. I knew that it was more frequent with his wife, but when it happened, it wasn’t all that satisfying.
Were we deceiving each other about anything? I did suspect there were times that he fooled around with others – and it was very hard for me to let that go. To be perfectly honest, it was always there in the back of my head, bothering me. But we were many hours apart and I had my own issues to deal with. What really mattered to me, was that I knew he didn’t sleep with anyone else, and I certainly didn’t.
But then, what about his relationship with his wife? How did I deal with that? How did it feel for me when he would tell me he was trying to reconcile with her? That they were taking a weekend together to “play family” (his words)? That I knew it meant he was having sex with her? Not great, to be honest. But above all else, I wanted him to be happy. Did he deceive me by occasionally not telling me when he had sex with her? Probably. But really. He was married. What the fuck did I expect? I had to give my head a shake the first time I was pissed off at him for this. But it still stung…I wanted him and his passion all to myself.
The same applied to me. There were a few times that my husband and I had happy moments, and occasional sex. Did I volunteer that information to my lover? No.
Were those lies of omission, when we were both married? I don’t think so. When I engaged with a married man, who also knew I was married, I signed up for knowing that I was not his primarily relationship. Neither was he mine. Despite him being someone I fell in love with, the provider of passion and romance and a fantastic ego boost and a reason to wax my bikini line, he didn’t come first. The moment he did would have put me in a very bad situation.
However. I propose to you that deceit is a VERY different thing when meeting online.
I wrote before about “truths we prefer not to admit“. In dating, regardless of whether you are married, I believe that until you a) actually meet in person, and b) have an open and honest discussion about expectations and behaviours, there is no wrongdoing. Only misaligned expectations.
Here’s the thing. We all like to think we are the only one. We aren’t. Some people are very good at making you think so (I pride myself on this; it’s all about responsiveness in communication). It is a very rare person indeed who stops chatting with others, once they engage with someone with potential. Until you’ve been on a few dates with that person (despite all the texting, phone calls, maybe even phone sex), there is NO reason you should believe it’s exclusive.
Lying by omission is rampant in this online dating world. Perhaps in dating in general.
With NIM, for example, who has explicitly said to me I’m the only one he is seeing and sleeping with, I have said no such thing in return. Does he likely think it’s the same? Yes. Am I therefore lying to him? Yes. There’s no way around it. Would it hurt him if he actually knew about the others, about Johnny? Probably.
I also let P believe I wasn’t sleeping with others. When he asked explicitly about how dating was going, I would answer very carefully about men who I had been seeing – but I didn’t come straight out and say “actually I have about 4 men in rotation. You are one of them. I like sleeping with you but don’t see this really going anywhere. And yes, I’m still online dating and continuing to go on dates”. That would have been the truth.
I was honest with some of the men I was seeing…but they tended to be more openly sexual, asking about threesomes and sexual experiences and how hot it would be to see me with another man. I wouldn’t volunteer my real information until I knew that they actually meant it.
Any time we don’t offer up information openly and honestly, knowing that if the information was shared it would probably injure someone, it’s a lie. We just don’t like to think about it as such. I have all kinds of ways to justify my behaviour – he’s probably doing the same thing, maybe he doesn’t really care about me, I have the right to do whatever I want, etcetera. I do it anyway. I am a liar.
What about when the tables are turned? What gets me, every time, is my expectations. Expectations without clear and honest conversations always lead to hurt feelings. When someone lets you believe that they will ask you out again or that they aren’t seeing anyone else, and you expect something from them? Trouble. But it’s not fair unless you have put all your cards on the table. You can’t assume something just because you haven’t talked about it.
Obviously, if I ask someone “are you sleeping with others” and they say no, then I could believe them. But people do openly lie, especially online.
I contend that until you actually meet someone face to face, go on some dates with them, and ask – and offer – the explicit truth about your circumstances and your expectations, expectations and omissions will only lead you to a bad place. You can’t expect honesty unless you ask for it and you demonstrate it yourself.
I’m challenged now with a real “open relationship” with Johnny Id because it demands I tell the truth. Actively. Not allowing lies of omission. Talking about expectations and hurts and course-correcting as needed. It’s very very very difficult. I want my own freedom but don’t want him being touched by anyone else. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes. Are we talking about it? Absolutely. Do I need to adjust my attitudes and behaviors to make it work? Since I’m serious about making it work, yes.
I would love your thoughts on my rant.