On a business trip, I drank WAY too much with some work friends and ended up kissing a random girl I met at a bar, despite my having a girlfriend I love very much. I feel horrible. Until now, I’d never cheated on a woman. Is it crazy to want to tell my girlfriend? It was kissing only, and I never saw the girl again. Plus, I barely remember it. I am planning on proposing soon and don’t want us to have any secrets. –Ashamed
Honesty is not the best policy. Judicious honesty is. That’s the kind of honesty that keeps you from telling your girlfriend that her mom is a shrill harpy, her best friend has amazing boobs, and you actually haven’t stopped peeing in the shower.
Getting away with something might feel good in the moment, but in time, it goes over like itchy underwear. Ruining the drunken make-out fun is one of the evolutionary underpinnings of human society, our evolved fairness-monitoring system that made it possible for us to live cooperatively in groups. This system is basically an internal accounting department, tracking who owes what to whom and using our emotions as the enforcer. When somebody’s chumping us, say, by not putting in their fair share of work, we’re goaded into getting mad (and then getting things even). Conversely, we feel guilty and long to right the balance when we’re the one breaking some agreement (like by treating monogamy as if it comes with days off for national holidays and photocopier sales expos).
But is letting your girlfriend in on your lips’ browser history the right thing to do? Maybe; maybe not. Chances are, you tell yourself that you’d be confessing for your girlfriend’s benefit, that she deserves to know. Well, maybe she deserves to not know. Maybe what’s really driving your desire to confess is the weight on your conscience and how telling will lessen your load. Sorry – you did the making out; maybe you should be hauling around the unsettling feeling about it. (Think of it as your pet anvil.)
What should determine whether you tell your girlfriend is why you kissed the girl and whether the past is a harbinger of what’s to come. If you’re a bad bet for remaining faithful, disclose this so your girlfriend can decide whether it’s worth it to her to put herself in harm’s way. If, however, this was a drunken one-time thing, why cause her unnecessary worry and pain? Keep your big wandering yap shut and lighten your guiltload by doing what you would’ve if you had told her – making amends. Do kind acts for people in need and basically be a fantastic boyfriend to her. (Be careful not to go noticeably overboard. A dozen roses on some random Tuesday is “Oh, you shouldn’t have”; 100 is “Wait … what the hell did you do?”)
And finally, to ensure that this remains a one-time event, come up with some standards of bar-time engagement for yourself, like maybe that you need to switch to Shirley Temples after two beers. This way, you’ll be prepared to act like somebody’s boyfriend when temptation sidles up to you at the bar. (There’s a reason they call it “sloppy drunk” and not “making wise relationship decisions” drunk.)
©2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon