I am currently dating a sophomore who is a student at a university in Kansas. Recently, we got into a bit of a tiff in regards to whether or not we should inform people we have just met that we are currently in a relationship. I believe that if the topic comes up in conversation, or if the question is asked, then that would be the correct time to inform the new friend. It doesn’t seem necessary to share our relationship status right away. My girlfriend disagrees for two reasons. She feels that it is doing the new friend an injustice by not being completely honest about oneself. She also feels that we should respect each other enough to want to tell people about our significant other. What are your thoughts?
–Honest, but not Overly So
Using utilitarian ethics as a guide, we can try and decide the best possible course of action. We want to maximize happiness while minimizing cost. If you do not tell your new friends of your relationship status, it is possible that they could become attached, thus losing happiness when told about your relationship status. If you are up front, on the other hand, what is lost? Meanwhile, it is likely that your significant other’s happiness would be increased by knowing that you are not breaking other girls’ hearts. So, we can conclude that the morally right course of action is to be up front about your relationship status. This could be done tactfully by slipping a comment into conversation, such as, “Oh, I need to call my girlfriend tonight.”
In this case, honesty is the virtue in question. According to virtue ethics, you will want to find the mean to two extremes. I believe that you are correct in that you do not need to say anything unless it comes up in conversation. But if the “new friend” is clearly making attempts at being more than a friend, it is right to tell her you are dating someone so that you don’t lead her on. Lying, of course, is wrong (the bottom extreme of honesty), but no one appreciates people talking about their lives when it is not necessary (honesty’s top extreme). Therefore, according to virtue ethics, as conceived by Aristotle, letting the “new friend” know about your girlfriend in casual conversation or when asked is best. The danger is, if you lead someone on who clearly wants to be with you, then you are using that person as a means to your happiness and self-esteem, which is not moral.
To be virtuous, you don’t need to be overly outgoing on this subject. You will not receive praise for outright announcing your relationship to a person as you may come off as unsociable when the true goal of humans is to be social. You are doing your girlfriend no disrespect by waiting for a situation to tell friends about her when it won’t be awkward. In the end, both of you are still on good terms and still in good faith. I’m in the same situation and things seem to work out well with a mindset like yours.
A friend recently broke up with his girlfriend. They’d been having real problems for a while, so it seemed pretty inevitable. I met this girl through my friend and we’ve hung out a few times as a group. I’ve had a crush on her for a while, but I’ve never asked her to hang out because, obviously, she was dating my friend. Would it be wrong for me to ask her out now?
–Crushing on My Friend’s Ex
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