Dear Carolyn: The other day, I discovered my boyfriend of five months had lied to me about riding with a girl co-worker to a college football game in another state. He has apologized profusely and said he never told me because he didn’t want me to think anything was going on between them when it wasn’t.
Would this be considered a white lie? Or just a flat-out lie? – Wary Girlfriend
The short answer is, flat-out lie.
The long answer starts here: You’re new to each other, he’s been burned before, and the details of your story (hitching rides, “girl co-worker”) point to a high probability of youth.
There are few circumstances where flat-out lies aren’t a serious problem, but being young and insecure in a new relationship can be one of them.
Some people hit adulthood ready to tell the whole truth about themselves without fear of rejection or other repercussions, but in my experience they’re the exception. For many (most?) young people (and some old ones), fear of consequences is powerful motivation to spin.
So. If your boyfriend in fact didn’t stray but genuinely feared your reaction, and if experience (dysfunctional family, bad relationships, low self-esteem, your past overreactions, combinations thereof) taught him to associate truth-telling with punishment, then that would mitigate his lie.
Once. If he’s telling the truth now, he can be forgiven, once, for misjudging you as someone who preferred a sanitized version of events.
But, do recall my saying his lie can be minor. It can also, obviously, be serious.
You won’t know whether this is a fixable problem or a deal-breaking one without context. If you don’t have enough yet, then accept what he says and let time show you how well acquainted he is with truth. That’s what dating is for.