Penelope Is In — 24 April 2013

Dear Penelope,

I am a young man in my mid-twenties and soon to be an undergraduate. A few months ago, my girlfriend wanted to know my plans for the future, and asked me for a prompt response. I was reluctant to comply and asked for time to think about it, but she has grown ever more restless, and now she says that she is ready to be with me even if I have someone else. I don’t know if she knows for sure or was just assuming, but she is right. I am indeed a liar.

I am not proud of what I have done, but I am uncomfortable with her suggestion of basically starting something serious with an offer of an open relationship. This is just one level of excessive honesty I cannot bear. I lied and covered my tracks because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by brandishing my misdeed in her face, and would want the same charity from her. I don’t know what to think about this anymore, as now I am growing suspicious of her, our relationship, and whether we could have a future. She wants an answer in about sixty days and I don’t know what to do.

The reason for my original reluctance about my girlfriend was that my mother refused to meet her, much less acknowledge her as my fiancee. My mother doesn’t like her. She advised me to focus on starting my professional career, and said that I didn’t know my girlfriend sufficiently because I spent most of time overseas for my studies. My girlfriend took this very badly and asked me to go against my mother’s wishes, but I can’t do that. My brother who did so ended up causing a lot of grief to my family and I don’t want to break my mother’s heart by also going rogue. It made me feel suspicious about my girlfriend that she would try to induce me to such action.

I am confused about to what to do next. I have all these questions in my mind and don’t want to feel guilty by giving false hopes. Should I just say no to her or try to talk my way through this, and if so, where to start ? Am I just over-thinking my girlfriend’s intentions? Should I try to talk with her about what bothers me about her? I feel that if I do talk with her and give her anything but a yes, she is going to be hurt. The only thing I know for sure is that I refuse to go against my mother’s wishes. Beyond that everything is hopelessly confused in my mind.


A Liar

Dear Liar,

Okay, let’s break it down.

You refer to the woman in question as your girlfriend, but a) you have cheated on her, b) you have interpreted her (baffling) willingness to overlook that insult as a reason to suspect her, c) you recoil from the kind of relationship she is proposing (while not being entirely sure just what she has in mind), and d) no matter what, you will never bring her home because it would upset your mother. 

Liar, let me be frank. You don’t appear to particularly like this woman, let alone love her. You have no intention of giving her what she seems to desire, which is a committed long-term relationship. You have already been unfaithful to her, and seem to resent her very desire to be with you. Put this relationship out of its misery already.

Her feelings will indeed be hurt if you break it off, but she will (one hopes) eventually find someone who genuinely cares about and respects her. The short-term pain of a breakup, unpleasant as it is, is as nothing compared to the long-term pain she would no doubt endure trying to coax love from such stony ground.

It is your obligation to be as kind and gentle to her as you can, but this woman needs to get out of your orbit, and the sooner the better. You have already exploded the relationship by cheating, a serious matter about which I suggest you examine your conscience. You might impress upon your girlfriend, as you break up with her, that infidelity is not something she or any romantic partner should simply shrug and tolerate. By cheating on her you made yourself unworthy of her.

Once you’re on your own again, I recommend that you set your sights only on women who will meet your mother’s approval. There is nothing to be gained in leading a string of women along, none of whom you will ever bring home. If mom-sanctioned women are hard to come by, wait. Focus on your studies and give yourself a little time to mature romantically. 

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