September 1, 2011 | 9:33 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
An entry from my sister while I’m away at the Burning Man Festival.
If someone were to ask me my strengths as a person, probably as my first offering, I would say that I am honest. And then I might backtrack immediately afterwards, saying that being honest may also be one of my weaknesses. I am great at telling people the reality of things as I see it - which is to me, of course the utter truth. But I am also terrible at keeping secrets - whether they be about myself or anyone else (and yes, I have ruined quite a few of birthdays and presents for others)
Recently, I have found my honesty to be a quite a hindrance in my relationship.
I am edging on three years with the same man and since the beginning I have been committed to being honest. I have never had a “secret” chat with an ex boyfriend - I immediately tell Miguel all the details. I have never had a “secret” flirtation at the supermarket - I text him as it is happening. And I have never even spent an evening with an old guy friend without sharing every moment with Miguel.
And well, it has come to my attention this week that my boyfriend does not function quite in the same way. Even though things were clear from the beginning, i.e. that if I was to be completely honest in the relationship, I could not expect anything less from Miguel, he was not born with the same innate sense to share EVERYTHING. And now, upon discovery of his missteps, it is hard not to feel as if it is a type of betrayal.
I admire so much these couples that I hear of, who are committed to one another and really rely on their open communication and honesty. But I can’t help but feel that these abstract ideas are so much more complicated when it comes to the details. I mean, I am committed to open communication and honesty. And I know Miguel tries his hardest to be committed to the same. Yet, I still wonder…
What does honesty include? Are there things I don’t need to divulge with my partner? And if there are, what are they?
And no, I am not talking about the big issues here. There has been no cheating, no meeting with the exes, and no secret family. I am more talking about the day-to-day stuff.
Like for example, lets just say that I snooped around after being on vacation for two weeks visiting my family. And I happened to discover that Miguel had a girl alone in his apartment for a few hours on a weekday while I was gone. And while, yes, they were working together on a project and it was really quite innocent, Miguel decided NOT to not share this bit of information with me upon my return.
When I found out I was angry. And I was not upset about the girl - who I do not know, but I was upset at the secrecy. He chose not to reveal anything at all, deciding to think of the incident as trivial and unimportant. Miguel later explained that his decision was made in order to spare my feelings or a possible jealous tantrum. And being quite self aware, I can understand his side. Nevertheless, I can’t help but be angry at his assumption of my reaction and his repudiation of the truth.
Yet, the entire episode made me question my relationship with honesty. Was it truly necessary for Miguel to tell me a girl came to his apartment so they could do some work? If I trust my boyfriend, which I do, does he need to fill me in on every single detail? In retrospect, I can clearly see that if I had never even found out about this little secret encounter, nothing in our relationship would have changed. I think I just wish that Miguel places the value of honesty in the same vein that I do. However, I have to understand that he is a different person than myself, especially when it comes to the “sharing everything” department.
But this is where I feel stuck now. I am uncertain as to what degree there should be this utter truthfulness. I know that I will continue to be an honest partner in my relationship. I also know that my boyfriend will continue to push himself to a certain degree of honesty to the best of his abilities. But, I can’t help but wonder, to what degree is honesty really the best policy??
Maybe the answer lies in this giant grey zone we live in as a couple. I’m referring to that space in relationships where the generalizations cease to exist and the day-to-day life is really managed by trial and error. Miguel and I can discover what works for us and move forward. If it doesn’t work out, well, I guess there is always another variation of the truth out there to try on…
Jenna Kagel is a writer and English teacher currently living in Argentina. She can be reached at JennaKagel@gmail.com
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