Carolyn Hax: A kiss is just a kiss, so keep to yourself

The Washington PostApril 5, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I was having drinks last week with two girlfriends when one of them said, "I did something awful." She proceeded to tell us that she was out at a work event and got very drunk and ended up kissing some guy.

She apparently feels horrible about it but says she will not tell her husband because it was a mistake and she knows she won't do it again. I tried to remind her that honesty is the best policy. Her husband is a great guy and has the right to know. So should I tell him myself?

FRIEND

Oh for the love of biscuits, no. Egad.

For one thing, "Honesty is the best policy" is a blunt instrument where a marriage is better served by a thoughtful, individual touch.

And, it's a kiss, not an out-of-wedlock child. Proportions deserve respect. If he doesn't know about a single, regretted, drunken smooch, then the marriage can arguably hum along just fine. If instead he finds out about said smooch from a third party, the marriage can be knocked off its pins. And why? Because you want to feel as if you did the "right" thing?

If anyone ought to tell of an oops like this - and reasonable, decent people can disagree on whether telling is the right thing to do - then it should absolutely be the spouse who tells. When a transgression is huge enough to demand reporting, a friend's place is to say, "I can't in good conscience keep a secret this damaging. You need to tell the truth, or I will be forced to." This smooch falls very, very short of the "huge" standard, but even if it didn't, it would be wrong to jump straight to tattling, especially on someone you call a friend.

As for that "reasonable people" thing: What matters here (the one place we agree) is the husband's feelings, and a good percentage of people in the husband's position wouldn't want to know. Why? Because the benefit of knowing so minor a transgression might not outweigh the pointless pain of knowing.

Your tattling would be a betrayal of your friend. She trusted you to help her unburden and figure out how to handle this. Earn that trust retroactively, please, by zipping it now.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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