Wednesday, Mar. 5 — Q: On a business trip, I drank WAY too much with some work friends and ended up kissing a random girl I met at a bar, despite my having a girlfriend I love very much. I feel horrible. Until now, I’d never cheated on a woman. Is it crazy to want to tell my girlfriend? It was kissing only, and I never saw the girl again. Plus, I barely remember it. I am planning on proposing soon and don't want us to have any secrets.
A: Honesty is not the best policy. Judicious honesty is. That’s the kind of honesty that keeps you from telling your girlfriend that her mom is a shrill harpy, her best friend has amazing boobs, and you actually haven’t stopped peeing in the shower.
Getting away with something might feel good in the moment, but in time, it goes over like itchy underwear. Ruining the drunken make-out fun is one of the evolutionary underpinnings of human society, our evolved fairness-monitoring system that made it possible for us to live cooperatively in groups. This system is basically an internal accounting department, tracking who owes what to whom and using our emotions as the enforcer. When somebody’s chumping us, say, by not putting in their fair share of work, we’re goaded into getting mad (and then getting things even). Conversely, we feel guilty and long to right the balance when we’re the one breaking some agreement (like by treating monogamy as if it comes with days off for national holidays and photocopier sales expos).
But is letting your girlfriend in on your lips’ browser history the right thing to do? Maybe; maybe not. Chances are, you tell yourself that you’d be confessing for your girlfriend’s benefit, that she deserves to know. Well, maybe she deserves to not know. Maybe what’s really driving your desire to confess is the weight on your conscience and how telling will lessen your load. Sorry — you did the making out; maybe you should be hauling around the unsettling feeling about it. (Think of it as your pet anvil.)
What should determine whether you tell your girlfriend is why you kissed the girl and whether the past is a harbinger of what’s to come. If you’re a bad bet for remaining faithful, disclose this so your girlfriend can decide whether it’s worth it to her to put herself in harm’s way. If, however, this was a drunken one-time thing, why cause her unnecessary worry and pain? Keep your big wandering yap shut and lighten your guiltload by doing what you would’ve if you had told her — making amends. Do kind acts for people in need and basically be a fantastic boyfriend to her. (Be careful not to go noticeably overboard. A dozen roses on some random Tuesday is “Oh, you shouldn’t have”; 100 is “Wait…what the hell did you do?”)
And finally, to ensure that this remains a one-time event, come up with some standards of bar-time engagement for yourself, like maybe that you need to switch to Shirley Temples after two beers. This way, you’ll be prepared to act like somebody’s boyfriend when temptation sidles up to you at the bar. (There’s a reason they call it “sloppy drunk” and not “making wise relationship decisions” drunk.)
Q: I just started dating a sweet guy who loves taking me to nice restaurants. (He knows I can’t afford restaurants, because I’m in grad school.) Well, he’s not rich, either, but when the waiter pushes sparkling water, he always says yes, and the same goes for cappuccinos, desserts, side dishes — all the extras. It’s lovely enough that he treats me to dinner; I don’t want him to go broke doing it.
A: A guy on a date is in a tough position when the waiter comes over and essentially asks, “Can I offer you some sparkling water this evening, or will you be drinking out of the faucet like a dog?” Sometimes a guy will say yes to all the extras because he is a foodie and likes to have the deluxe experience. But the average guy is just afraid of coming off cheap, making him easy prey for every waiter upsell in the book. The woman he’s with can counter this by being the one to lead with the frugalities, like “Tap water works fine for me!” and “I actually don’t eat that much…I’ll just have the entree,” when the waiter pushes the caviar-dotted baby vegetables watered with the tears of Tibetan monks. If you do this, you’ll reassure the guy that he’s the big draw for you and not the free dinners — perhaps allowing him to devote his attention to you instead of checking his phone to see whether the bank has cleared the security deposit for your desserts.
It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or listen or download at the link, at iTunes, or on Stitcher.