Boyfriend lied about his college education.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 9 2009 6:59 AM

Lying Boyfriend Has a B.S. Degree

How can I confess my deception without scaring off my soon-to-be fiancee?

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Dear Prudence,
I have been dating a wonderful woman for four years, and we have been discussing marriage. She is accomplished academically and successful in her career. The mutual friend who introduced us told her I was an engineer. I am in the field, but I don't have a degree. When we met she asked about my engineering background and where I was educated. I have always been self-conscious about having never finished school and said that I had graduated from a college to which I had applied but was not accepted—and had never even visited. She exclaimed, "What a coincidence—one of my best friends graduated from there!" I eventually met Mr. Best Friend, who was thrilled that we had something in common and has talked about our mutual schooling every time we've seen each other since. All these years later, I haven't had the guts to tell my girlfriend the truth. I am a loyal partner and would not normally lie to my loved one. I consider this the biggest mistake of my life. How can I clear the air? Or should I just let it go?

—A Matter of Degree

Dear A Matter,
I agree you've made a mistake, but at least you haven't been practicing medicine or flying an airplane without any training a la Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can. And it's impressive you've been able to keep up the patter about your "alma mater" for four years without getting caught. However, you need to tell your girlfriend. You owe her the truth, and you would want to start your marriage without this lie gnawing at you. It's important, however, to deliver the news in the right way. I suggest you take her out for dinner and make sure you get a booth in the corner. Tell her there's something about yourself you need to confess. Say you hope she can forgive you because you love her and this lie has been making you sick. The beauty of this introduction is that the things that will be running through her head will be along the lines of: "He's HIV positive; he's married; he's impregnated a colleague; he's a murderer; he's a woman." Then, when you tell her, she will be shaken up, but she'll also be relieved. Assure her there are no other confessions you need to make. Explain you blurted out this stupid lie because when you met, you were intimidated by her accomplishments. Say you've regretted it ever since, and your regret has been compounded by letting this go so long. If she gets angry and accusatory, don't make excuses. Just tell her you understand her sense of betrayal but that you hope more than anything that this won't change your relationship, because she's the most important thing in your life.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband works in an office populated by "alpha males." They are mostly former military men now working for the government. They seem to miss their uniform and wear similar clothes in blue, gray, and brown colors. My husband stands out because he wears designer shirts in the whole spectrum of colors. He is being regularly mocked by one individual in particular for his pink-toned shirts. I'm talking about subtle stripes, something any businessman might have in his wardrobe. He has told this man several times that he doesn't care for his opinion on his sartorial choices, but he keeps at it, and others are joining in. Their boss is a woman, and she does not "interfere with the boys joshing." The human resources department for his company is in another state. What can he say to stop these attempts to make him uncomfortable?

—Mrs. Dapper Dan

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Dear Mrs. Dapper,
Unless this escalates and the office starts to resemble the hazing-in-the-barracks segment of Full Metal Jacket, your husband needs to deal with these bully boys himself. (That you're writing this letter indicates he could stand to work on fixing his own problems.) If he's shown any whiny weakness in replying to these alphas, that's the equivalent of telling the drill sergeant that push-ups make your arms sore. Your husband needs to be able to either laugh this off or shut it down. Which he decides to do depends on his personality. The next time the lead antagonist makes a snide comment about your husband's choice of shirt, he should look at him and say in front of the group, "Greg, every morning when I'm getting dressed, I wonder what you're going to say about my wardrobe. I've never had another man care so much about my clothes. But since you do, I'll let you know next time I'm going shopping. Maybe we can get a pedicure while we're at the mall." Alternatively, the next time Greg makes one of his comments, your husband should wait until Greg is seated in his office, then go in and lean across the desk. He should say something like, "You've now made the same joke about my wardrobe about 40 times. It's ceased to be funny and I'm asking you, for what I sincerely hope is the last time, to knock it off. Thanks." Then he should turn crisply, military style, and leave.