Doc Joe is a psychologist and attorney who has consulted with and advised people of all ages. Katy Ann is a licensed marriage and family therapist who, like Doc Joe, has counseled and advised people of all ages.
The discussion and advice offered in their column is not offered as a clinical recommendation or as a substitute for clinical treatment. Rather, Doc Joe’s and Katy Ann’s comments are intended to stimulate thought, often with a sense of humor. Sometimes they agree; sometimes they don’t. So, read on…
This question is one of the most challenging types of questions that we get. It’s one in which there are many layers. It’s a question of truth and honesty.
DJ & KA
Dear Doc Joe and Katy Ann,
Is honesty always the best policy?
I am 23 years old, working at the Capitol in my first post-graduate job. Last February, while doing an internship, I met Dan. A week after we met, we began dating. It seemed to be going really well. My relationship with Dan was the first real relationship that I had since my sophomore year in college. After a couple of weeks, we agreed that we would be exclusive.
In March, after dating Dan for a month, I really messed up!
This is what happened. At that time, I thought that I had gotten over Brad, who was my boyfriend during my sophomore year in college. That relationship ended quite abruptly when we had a big fight over commitment, as he was not willing to make future plans. About anything. So, we broke up. Well, one afternoon while I was at work, Brad called me and asked if I wanted to go out for a drink after work. I agreed, and we met at a downtown restaurant.
We spent the night together, which brought up many confused feelings. So, after a week of avoiding Dan, I called him and told him that I was not ready for a relationship or serious dating and that I hoped that we could stay friends.
He let me know that he was really sad, but also really glad that I was honest with him. (But I hadn’t been honest about my recent time with Brad).
Then a week later, I remembered the feelings of insecurity I experienced being with Brad — the guy who won’t commit to much of anything … So, I ended that. And then, I realized how much I respected and cared for Dan. So, I called him up, apologized for my “random” behavior, and told him that I never wanted to lose him. (That was honest). He said, “Okay. Let’s try. At least it wasn’t about another guy.” (I just let that ride … )
We got back together, and have had a great relationship since that time. I am totally loyal and committed. In fact, if any guy starts talking with me, I start with, “My boyfriend, Dan…”
Well, last week, Dan proposed to me. He said: “What I love about you most is your honesty and loyalty. Let’s get married next month.”
I was stunned; all I could say was “Awesome” … Yes. And then I cried. At first I cried out of happiness. Then, I cried out of guilt. (I never did tell Dan about my affair with Brad).
We are planning to have a small wedding during our Christmas vacation.
What should I do? Should I tell Dan about the affair that I had with Brad? Holding on to this lie is really hard! I feel totally guilty for my mistake, and even more guilty for not being honest. But I don’t want to destroy Dan’s trust in me, and maybe even end my engagement to the guy that I really love. Is honesty always the best policy?
Paula, in Wisconsin
Doc Joe: Yes.
Katy Ann: No…
Doc Joe: …Well, we’re off to a good start.
Katy Ann: Joe, this is really complicated.
Doc Joe: I agree. You have to balance out the “rightness” of truth and honesty with the damage that the truth can cause. That is unless the truth is always right …
Katy Ann: Let’s look at the situation. Paula is very committed to Dan. She is, now, very loyal to Dan and Dan recognizes this. She loves him, and Dan recognizes this. The issue of honesty relates to a past “mistake” that Paula made. It’s in the past.
Doc Joe: Yes, but he asked Paula to marry him, believing her to be honest and loyal. Does he have a right to know about her “mistake?” Was that just part of the “dating” or “hanging out” process? I know that this is a tough one. You’re big on loyalty.
Katy Ann: You know that. It’s about faithfulness and devotion to a person! But here, I am wondering if it’s a greater expression of Paula’s devotion to keep silent about rather than share her guilt and live up to his belief that she will be an honest and loyal wife.
Doc Joe: I guess the question is, truth at what cost? Also, we do need to keep in mind that Dan might find out about the affair at some future time. You just never know for sure.
Katy Ann: That would be worse. Part of the problem is that we don’t know how Dan would handle the truth …
Doc Joe: … I’m thinking not well. But, in the end, I am coming down on the side of honesty. That way, if Paula and Dan can make it as a couple, they will be off to an honest start.
Katy Ann: Hmm. I’m not there, yet. I don’t think that Paula needs to clear her conscience in order to be a faithful and devoted wife. In this case, I think that lovingness would be to let go of her guilt over the “big mistake,” and take good care of her man. Paula, follow your heart.
Doc Joe: Two perspectives. And, there you have it.
If you’d like to get Ask Doc Joe & Katy Ann advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, state of residence and your question, along with a brief description of the situation.