Confessing a Past Affair

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Thanks for your input willowstar, I will add your votes to the thread totals.

I observe that in most cases, polyamorists have a strong reaction against cheating because all too often the naysayers out there will associate poly with cheating, or consider it to be the same thing. If we don't have knowledge and consent to distinguish us from cheaters, what do we have?

It's a big enough deal that DADT arrangements are generally frowned upon by polyamorists. Yet, a lot of poly folks have a little bit of DADT in them; that is, they don't want to hear every detail of their partner's encounters. So it's not 100% certain where you draw the line on how much you should tell your partner, and specific cases often need to be examined on their own unique merits. Many of us will end up asking ourselves, "Is this something xe would want me to tell hir?"

Also I agree with you that in a particularly volatile monogamous relationship, such as where the man is capable of violence, your options are arguably more limited with respect to affairs and confessing to them. Although I also think that in that kind of relationship, I would advise finding a way to get away from that guy regardless what may go down as far as affairs are concerned.
 

bella123456

New member
I'm now sure about the nazi story actually...

1. It's ok to kill Jews.
2. It's ok to save people from persecution.

If I thought 1 was a lie and 2 was truth....
Would I be lying to anyone if my behaviour was aligned to point 2.

In my country it's a criminal activity for women too seek to terminate a pregnancy.

Do I think they are criminals ? No
Do I think the government is lying when calling these women criminals? Yes, I think they are lying.
 

london

Banned
If you knew where Anne Frank was and you were asked and told them you didn't, that would be untruthful. If you believe lying is always wrong, then you would have did something wrong when you lied.

The fact that you (like most other people) feel that people shouldnt be persecuted is only relevant because you feel it would justify being dishonest. So even if you believe point 2, it doesn't change the fact you would lie if you felt that the harm caused by being honest outweighs the harm caused by lying in this instance.
 

Icewraithonyx

New member
Re: Anne Frank, now I have Pinocchio's speech from Shrek 3 in my head.

Nazi Officer: You can't lie! So tell me puppet... where... is... Anne Frank?

Honest Person: Uh. Hmm, well, uh, I don't know where she's not

Nazi Officer: You're telling me you don't know where Anne Frank is?

Honest Person: It wouldn't be inaccurate to assume that I couldn't exactly not say that it is or isn't almost partially incorrect.

Nazi Officer: So you do know where she is!


(I had a response for the thread but it got ate, will repost later)
Honest Person: On the contrary. I'm possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea that in no way with any amount of uncertainty that I undeniably

Nazi Officer: Stop it!

Honest Person: ...do or do not know where she shouldn't probably be, if that indeed wasn't where she isn't. Even if she wasn't at where I knew she was

Honest Person: That'd mean I'd really have to know where she wasn't.
 

london

Banned
Ha, yes you could say that and do both.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
That's sick humor! :p
 

bella123456

New member
If a Nazi were to ask "do you know where Anne frank is?"

I would view that question as part of this lie "it is ok to kill Jews".

If someone came and asked the same question, and I knew that person was a sympathiser who helped Jewish people I would view the question as part of this truth "it is ok to help people in need"

So basically.... If someone were to come to me asking a question that required me to step onto a lie path of their creation... Truth has already been soiled (not by me though).

It's muddy water I think. But if questions are directed at me that have been formed by a catastrophic, systematic, barbaric lie machine....well, I would struggle.

I'm not sure I would view that as my lie though.

I would answer no the the nazi and yes to the sympathiser. I probably wouldn't view either of my answers as lie. But probably not on the basis of my answer... More on the basis of whether of not the question is part of a system of truth or a system of lies.

The nazi would view my answer as a lie, I'm sure. My answer doesn't live in a world of it's own.... My answer being a lie or not is partly dependent on the other parties truth system. They are the receiver of my lie or non lie...

So perhaps I would suggest Barbara's truth system is a component, as she is the receiver of the message (whether she's knows she is a receiver or not)
 

Icewraithonyx

New member
I'm going to vote for confession in both dilemmas.

Dilemma #1: If this was an isolated event, one-night stand, old school romance just passing through, whatever, I think I'd opt for not saying anything but working DAMN hard to make amends to your partner for the betrayal, even if they're unaware of it. And let your guilty conscience pummel you every time they talk about how wonderful you are (because you know it's not true). I think this is one of the few situations where I advocate against honesty. However, the affair has been going on for a year. That means a year of lying and deception, basically repeatedly choosing to betray your partner. That type of personality doesn't just go away. So I'd opt for disclosure and whether or not the marriage survives, examining why the affair happened.

Dilemma #2: TELL! TELL!! TELL!!!

This is a case of Dick and Mad having an affair, lying to and manipulating Barbara into opening up their marriage, so they can continue to cheat openly. How in ANY way is this open and honest communication?

Ever notice how considerate cheaters get AFTER they start having an affair? “Oh, I don't want to upset them so let's not give them ANY bad news.” You'd think a fraction of that consideration would help them avoid cheating in the first place.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Since we have a few more people's votes, here's the new totals:

Dilemma #1:
  • Confess: 11 votes ... bella123456, FullofLove1052, GalaGirl, Icewraithonyx, InfinitePossibility, InsaneMystic, Kernow, LovingRadiance, Marcus, mmkeekah, Phy
  • It depends: 2 votes ... bookbug, SchrodingersCat
  • Don't confess: 8 votes ... copperhead, graviton, Inyourendo, JaneQSmythe, kdt26417, london, SNeacail, willowstar
Dilemma #2:
  • Confess: 13 votes ... bella123456, copperhead, FullofLove1052, GalaGirl, Icewraithonyx, InfinitePossibility, InsaneMystic, Kernow, LovingRadiance, Marcus, mmkeekah, Phy, willowstar
  • It depends: 3 votes ... bookbug, SchrodingersCat, SNeacail
  • Don't confess: 5 votes ... graviton, Inyourendo, JaneQSmythe, kdt26417, london
Now as far as my personal views are concerned ...

Re: cheating is a Very Bad Thing ... is most often true.

Re: not confessing to Barb in Dilemma #2 is Very Very Dishonest ... I can see that.

Re: semantics and the Nazi ... I take it if I tried to protect Anne Frank, it wouldn't be my lie, it would be part of the Nazi's (bigger) lie. Is lying okay as long as I can prove that the lie "belongs" to the person I'm lying to?

Re: Richard should confess after a year but not after a one-nighter ... that's pretty interesting (and understandable). I'm curious where we'd draw the line? after a two-nighter? a one-weeker?

Addendum to my votes ...

If Richard were coming to me and asking for advice, I'd probably start by asking him some questions, such as, how much does honesty matter to him, how much does it matter that the consent he gets is authentic, does he really have the life he wants with Barbara, etc.

So in voting the way I did, I took a guess at what I'd most likely advise, based on how I think Richard would most likely answer my questions, and even moreso, I took a guess at what I'd be the most likely to decide to do myself if I were in Richard's shoes.
 

Confused

New member
I'm a little late but I vote for confess in both scenarios. It's incredibly condescending to decide for someone else what they can or can't handle hearing in an adult relationship. They have the right to choose their path through life with or without you based on accurate information.

Like someone else said, you don't know what they were aware of during that time or what they might suspect or be worried about.
I heard recently from a couple I know where the wife had cheated with another man but not to the point of full intercourse shortly before getting pregnant.
Five years later the husband finally gets up the courage to ask her about it, he had suspicions all that time and had doubts that the child was his. That's a lot to live with, their marriage suffered both because of her guilt and his fear for five years. When they talked honestly it was hurtful to have some of his fears confirmed but he had been worried it was far worse. They're happier together now than they've been in years.

We don't know what harm we do by lying in intimate relationships until the harm is undone by a willingness not only to confess but to ride it out and really be there to help your partner heal from the betrayal if they choose to give you that chance. Lying is almost always about protecting oneself and being unwilling to deal with the consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are likely to be so great that it wouldn't impact negatively on even the most determinedly honest person to lie in those circumstances, in the case of the nazi question, some people might choose to say honestly "yes I do know where she is, but I'm not going to tell you." And accept whatever happens to them after that, or they might be completely ok with a lie that avoided the risk of death. I don't think you could expect the person you lied to to be in a successful intimate relationship with you afterwards regardless though.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Good post Confused. Thanks for participating and sharing your input.

Re:
"Lying is almost always about protecting oneself and being unwilling to deal with the consequences."

Yes it is.

Re:
"Yes I do know where she is, but I'm not going to tell you."

Ohhh ... is that a promise I could keep, once they started torturing me?

Re:
"I don't think you could expect the person you lied to to be in a successful intimate relationship with you afterwards regardless though."

Ah, but what counts as "successful," and who decides?

Sometimes I look at the vote totals and think, "Oh drat. The side I voted for lost." But then I remember that this is a poly forum -- of all things. If honesty doesn't trump all here, where does it? It's surprising enough just that there's any significant number of votes at all in the it-depends/don't-confess boxes.

Well that's what I think anyway ...

In any case, "Confess" now gets 12 and 14 votes respectively (for Dilemmas #1 and #2).
 

Confused

New member
I find it interesting that people liken it to using the spouse as a priest, I guess the other option is to think of it like confessing to the police. I guess it depends whether you think once confessed the confessor should expect absolution or whether they should expect to have to do the work (time) to repair the damage done as well as confessing.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hmmm ... but priests do assign penance, yes?

More importantly, priests and police alike are generally not in an intimate relationship with the person whose confession they receive. Telling the police, "I robbed a bank," generally doesn't make their hearts skip a beat as they think, "OMG, was this somehow my fault?" But confessing an affair to a spouse may indeed get the spouse to thinking such a thing. In other words, priests and police have nothing personal/emotional to lose from hearing your confession ... but your spouse may very well have something personal/emotional to lose. At the very least they'll be facing a mourning process as they see the "pure marriage" they previously thought they had go down the drain. They might be pissed as hell, which is just what their spouse deserves, but they themselves (when they've done nothing wrong) might also be racked with grief.

This isn't to say that the mourning process shouldn't occur in the spouse who'd receive the confession. It's just to acknowledge that the "spousal priest" will probably suffer deeply as a result of hearing the hard truth.

Having said all that, I'll grant that there's a big difference between, "I just wanted to get that off my chest," and, "I want to shape up and make it up to you if possible."
 

nichtdaisy

New member
The author of this post states in his reply:

You could actually argue either way about Barbara. You could argue that she's being mistreated by not being allowed to view the full truth, but you could also argue that she's being helped by not being exposed to painful truths. You could argue that her psychological growth is being constricted by denying her the challenge of hearing about the affair, but you could also argue that we can grow psychologically in any number of ways during our mortal years.

I agree overall with the author that I would not want to tell Barbara. The counter-argument for the truth; that her psychological growth is constricted by not telling her, is presumptuous. Richard is not the arbiter of Barbara's need for psychological growth. Barbara is. Only parents get to make you do something "for your own good".
 

Confused

New member
But you could equally argue only parents ought to keep things secret 'for their own good' and I would probably argue that one isn't a great idea either, mostly secrets seem to cause harm and we're learning over time that even children do better when given full and honest answers (though age appropriate) about things that affect them.
 

nichtdaisy

New member
Confused,

I guess I wasn't directly addressing the core issue of whether or not its better to tell the truth, whether its between adults, or between adults and their children. I would argue, in the latter case, that kids probably don't need to know all of the painful details of the truth, and leave it up to the adults in charge to decide what they need to know. I was just taking issue with the idea that one person can decide something should be done to further another adult's psychological growth. "You are going to be a stunted person unless I do the magical action that facilitates your growth." There are definitely other important reasons to be honest and forthcoming with the adult whom you are in relationship with, but doing so just to help them "grow" is patronizing. Plus, how do you know that you have the power to help them grow? What if their reaction to your magical action hurts them so badly, the pain and suffering stunts them from being able to grow in other ways? Not to say that would be the outcome in this case. In this case, if Richard is concerned about anyone's psychological growth, it should be his own, and that could well be the motivating reason for being totally honest with Barbara.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
I was just taking issue with the idea that one person can decide something should be done to further another adult's psychological growth.

I agree and find the assumption that we should assert any kind of influence over another persons emotional growth to be nonsense (within the current context). This applies to both answers to the initial question.

Should I tell my current partner about a past transgression:
No. I will withhold the information for their own good
Yes. I will share the information with them for their own good​

The prospect is insulting from top to bottom. More importantly, it is pretending that we made either decision for some selfless motivation, which is just self-deception. One decision has a better long or short term outcome for us and this is the reason we choose it, we weigh the consequences against what is to be gained and make the decision accordingly.

If I don't tell them, I have done it because doing so presents the best possible outcome
If I do tell them, I have done it because doing so presents the best possible outcome​
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Cool beans: Each person is responsible for facilitating their own personal/psychological growth ... and it's true regardlesss of one's final votes in "Richard's Dilemmas."

It looks like "don't confess" gets a tweak for both Dilemmas: 9 and 6 votes for #1 and #2 respectively.
 

graviton

New member
Another thing that should be take into account is the idea of ownership of information. Nobody has ownership of information except the people that know it. It is up to them to share that information and nobody else has a right to that information unless they choose to share it. We all have secrets and thoughts that we do not share with our lovers. Nobody has a right to know me 100% other than myself. Obviously an intimate relationship give us more priority to the sharing of information but there is certainly no absolute ownership of a person physically so why should there be ownership of a persons secrets?
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
Another thing that should be take into account is the idea of ownership of information. Nobody has ownership of information except the people that know it. It is up to them to share that information and nobody else has a right to that information unless they choose to share it. We all have secrets and thoughts that we do not share with our lovers. Nobody has a right to know me 100% other than myself. Obviously an intimate relationship give us more priority to the sharing of information but there is certainly no absolute ownership of a person physically so why should there be ownership of a persons secrets?

Interesting take. I can't say I disagree. I will pipe in, though, that some relationships involve explicit agreements to share certain types of information, and nearly all involve implicit agreements. Agreements don't grant you ownership to the information, but it's pretty crappy to make an agreement and then break it when it gets inconvenient. That's kinda the whole point of making agreements: that you'll do something you might not do otherwise, because you agreed to it.

Generally, "I had sex with another person for over a year" falls into the category of information we agree to share with our partners.
 
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