More details in last week’s sleep over mystery

February 18, 2011

What Makes or Breaks Your Relationship – according to 720,000 people

February 18, 2011

Regarding the “I’m single” lie of omission

February 18, 2011
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There are white lies, there are lie, lies, and there are lies of omission.

I know this because I was one of those little girls who had a little problem with lying. It’s like once I found out you could say things that weren’t true and not get struck by lightening (a thing I didn’t quite understand as it was), there was no stopping me. In a classic Rosen Family story I ate the entire center out of a loaf of Italian bread via a tiny whole I bore with my baby carrot-sized fingers, blamed it on my four-year-old little sister and then, crippled by the guilt of getting her punished, kidnapped her from the time-out chair, convinced her to lie and say she covered up for me on purpose because she felt bad, and got us both taken out of dance class for two weeks. To this day I believe that punishment is what stood between me and a role in the 2000 blockbuster CENTER STAGE.

So, I know a thing or two about lying, which is why I feel qualified to answer last week’s reader e-mail about a confusing situation.

To paraphrase, this reader recently met a man with whom she has become friends. They are both away from home for a period of time and have found friendship in their shared experience. In the several weeks they’ve known each other, much as been shared. This reader wondered, based on their interactions, if there might be something growing between them…

Until her curiosity took her to his Facebook page where she discovered that he’s been in a relationship for over a year.

Oh yes he did.

Is it possible that you fail to mention that you’re in a relationship the first time you meet someone? Absolutely. The second time? Fine. But to develop a friendship with someone of the opposite sex (if that’s your sexual persuasion) over several weeks and never mention that you have a girlfriend is fishy. I’m not going to be so bold as to say, “wrong,” because who knows what the circumstances of that relationship are, but it is by every understanding of the term, a lie of omission.

I believe this reader was deliberately mislead, and I believe she has the right to say, “hey buddy, I was tooling around Facebook and noticed that you’re in a relationship. You never mentioned that.” (though the thought of having to say that to someone is admittedly terrifying).

But her situation does beg the question of when not telling becomes a lie. One time? Two times? Three?

In my mind it’s a combination of time plus nature of conversation. Case in point: I briefly dated a guy who was divorced. He did not inform me of this for the first several weeks of dating. On one occasion while in his apartment, I questioned his lack of furniture.

  • “Oh, I had to get rid of some of it,” he said.
  • “My wife took her half in the divorce,” he meant.

On another occasion I asked this guy if he had a serious girlfriend in college.

  • “Yes, I had one.”
  • “And then I married her,” he left out.

“It didn’t come up…” he might have told someone who asked, “how is it possible you haven’t told Jessie that you’re divorced in over a month?!” When in reality, it didn’t come up because he made it not come up.

But a divorce is one thing, a current relationship is absolutely another. To the person who says, “it didn’t come up” after even four instances of spending time with another person (note: specifically of the opposite sex) I say, “well then you must not like your girlfriend very much.” To have zero stories, examples, reference points or reasons to bring up a girlfriend after that much time means she is so small a part of your life that she doesn’t naturally come up in dozens of conversations, ooorrrr she doesn’t come up on purpose.

I went to an awesome restaurant the other night. When I recount that story to someone I could absolutely say, “I went to an awesome restaurant the other night,” which would be entirely true. Or I could say, “My boyfriend and I went to an awesome restaurant the other night,” which would be more true.

I am as sensitive as the next previously perma-single girl about dropping the “um, I have a boyfriend” line obnoxiously early:

  • “Hey, I’m Bill.”
  • “Hey Bill, I’m Jessie, but I have a boyfriend.”

But now I am equally as sensitive about dropping it too late, which is what happened in the case of this reader and her new friend.

Why he hasn’t said anything is a mystery I can’t solve, but the fact that he has not said something on purpose is certain. As far as I’m concerned.



  1. Jessie! Love this post! Even worse, is when you’re the girl who meets Mr. “I’m Single Lie of Omission” and makes out with him, only to find out out a day or two later that he has a girlfriend. This has happened to me twice.

    In such cases, I am inclined to feel like “the other woman” thanks to my uber-Catholic-guilt. However, isn’t the onus on Mr. NOT SINGLE to not make out with girls who are NOT his girlfriend?

    Is it my abject responsibility to specifically ASK a boy I am about to kiss, “Wait. You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?”


  2. He definitely did not mention it on purpose.

    When you are in a relationship, simply because many of your experiences happen with your significant other, it’s HARD not to mention them. ___ and I went to that exhibit, We definitely want to see that movie, ___ loves that band too. Not in an obnoxious, bragging way, but because a lot of your social time is spent with that person.

    Maybe it wouldn’t come up the first time, especially if this is a work-related friend. You might just be talking about your job or your industry. But if she feels like they have a “friendship”, it probably means talking about restaurants, music, movies, you know, things you like to do (and some of which you might do with a girl/boyfriend).

    I can’t say that I’ve never done this. In college, I had a long distance boyfriend and I met a cute interesting guy on campus. I “forgot” to mention my boyfriend because I wanted to keep talking to him and I was afraid he might lose interest if he knew I had a boyfriend. It blew up in my face and predictably things did not work out with the long distance bf either. I’ve always felt like if you behave that way (not talking about the bf), you’re sort of sticking a leg halfway out of the relationship.

  3. This was highly interesting to read, because I was in a slightly similar predicament a few months ago. I had hung out with a guy twice (we had met online), and we talked ALL of the time. For at least an hour each night. I really liked him, and things were going really well… Until we were on the phone one night, and (after almost three months of talking to each other), he mentioned that he was hanging out with “insert guy’s name here” tomorrow. I asked who that was, and he responded with “my son.”…..

    WHAAAAAA???? First of all, it’s been this long and a son hasn’t been mentioned? I was mostly concerned about what it says about his relationship with his son that he didn’t mention him at all. I stopped talking to him for awhile, and now we chat every once in awhile. He actually talks about his son now, but it was so, so, SO weird. It is such an awkward situation!! I feel bad for this girl – even if they were just friends. That leads me to question his relationship with the other woman! Or maybe he’s too lazy to change his status?? Lame.

  4. Ha. I am the queen of omitting, and I’ve had a boyfriend for more than 2 years.

    People do it because they aren’t happy in their current relationship, but they are scared of ending it without a concrete reason. If they omit when they meet new people, it gives them the feeling of being unattached, and as long as it stays in the grey platonic area- they aren’t technically doing anything wrong.

    It’s ok to have friends of the opposite sex, and for me, it’s often easier to get along with guys if my relationship status is ambiguous.

    Maybe it’s unhealthy, and maybe it could lead to a break up… but that’s how it is for now.

  5. I used to omit a lot, not because I wanted to feel single or cheat on my boyfriend, but because I thought guys would not want to be friends with me if I was taken. Then I finally realized… I don’t want to be friends with those kinds of guys anyway!

  6. Love the reference to CENTERSTAGE!

    In regards to the topic I’m finding this to be common place. And with married men to boot. There are men out there who don’t wear wedding rings. What is the world coming to?!

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