January 17, 2014 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Tell him you cheated to get what you want

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: I always wanted kids, but managed to get to my early 40s with no husband or children.

Three months ago I started seeing a nice guy. He has potential. This time I was determined to at least try to get something I want, so I did what I never thought I’d do. I lied about taking birth control.

Well, I’m looking at a positive pregnancy test. How do I do this? How do I tell this man I barely know that I lied to him and hey, sorry, but I’ve torpedoed your life? – Just Sick

Bernard Malamud’s got this one. “We have two lives,” he wrote in “The Natural.” “The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”

Please tackle your second life with a very good therapist.

Here’s why: The “right” answer is the truth. You sold your soul for a baby, so it seems obvious that fixing the mess requires truth-telling, immediately and in perpetuity.

However, your mess is en route to having a life independent of you (health permitting). Does this child deserve one parent who profoundly resents the other? In perpetuity? Does Nice Guy himself deserve to see his child through unclouded eyes?

People who cheat come to a crossroads: those who believe a cheater’s duty is to confess, and those who believe it’s to bear the guilty secret – because confessing restores the cheater’s peace of mind at the cost of the victim’s.

Since each camp is certain the other is very wrong, that alone says people must take their specific circumstances into painstaking account before making deep moral choices on an unwitting other’s behalf.

So, therapy. You lied without regard for potential consequences, but you can think them through now, with someone objective, sharp and bound to confidentiality. Plus, you’ve just become rudely acquainted with what a bad person you’re capable of being. Arguably everyone will, or should, have that awakening over the course of a lifetime – but it’s still tough to live with. Having a guide can help.


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