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It's only a Code of Ethics if you stick to it when the going gets tough - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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It's only a Code of Ethics if you stick to it when the going gets tough [May. 10th, 2012|01:53 pm]
Zoethe
Many, many moons ago, I made a promise to myself that I would not talk smack about anyone with whom I broke up. No thinly veiled, passive-aggressive comments, and no trying to undermine that person's relationship with the people we mutually knew. That code of ethics extended to include no smack-talk or passive-aggressive comments when I was in a disagreement with someone. After the disagreement was over, I might write about what I had learned from the experience, but in the midst of it? I was absolutely mute on the topic.

That's a hard thing to do at times. One of the purposes of journaling is working through emotions and situations to try and find insight. Blogging adds the extra layer of new points of view. But those points of view nearly always take the blogger's side because s/he's the one presenting the case, and the observations are inevitably from the blogger's point of view. So the usefulness of other viewpoints is pretty limited.

And the damage that can be done by talking about/writing about one's relationship issues has the potential for huge damage. Listing a partner's weaknesses and foibles can often mean revealing information that was shared in trust and confidence. A huge amount of damage to trust can be done.

When I see someone talking smack about a former partner or complaining about a current one, I find myself thinking that I would have serious trouble developing a close relationship with this person. Because how could I trust that, should we ever reach a parting of the ways, my trust wouldn't be completely violated? Trust is easy when everything is lightness and roses. But when things get tough? Can I really rely on this person to still respect me, even if they no longer like me?

Because that's what it comes down to: respect. Respect for the privacy of someone who you once cared for, even if you don't have those feelings any longer. Barring behavior that is dangerous to others a breakup should *never* be considered as freedom to destroy the contract of trust between two people.

So I keep my mouth shut. It gets hard when I realize that the other person has not followed a similar code; if trust has been breached, do I really have an obligation to keep my silence?

I believe I do. My own ethics can't be compromised by the behavior of another person. Otherwise, they aren't ethics. If directly asked about a situation, I will state that I have a differing view of it, but will decline to provide details that would be smack talk against the other person.

This can be *hard* at times. It's not easy to read or hear the things that are being said. I have felt very hurt and betrayed. But the most important person I have to face every morning is the one looking out at me from the mirror. And I want to be able to look her in the eye.

Sometimes truth will out. Often times, it doesn't. But that can't inform my choice to be as ethical and trustworthy as I can.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: celticdragonfly
2012-05-10 06:21 pm (UTC)
Many many hugs to you for whatever it is you guys are going through. I don't need to know to sympathize.

And good for you in choosing to do the right thing. Proud to know you, even "just online".
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 06:23 pm (UTC)
Actually, for me it's less about things that are going on as a confluence of seeing a lot of snarkiness coming from many different, unrelated corners. This has been bopping around in my head for a while and finally made it to the keyboard.

But thanks.
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[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2012-05-10 06:51 pm (UTC)
Agreed. This is (one reason) I very rarely talk about personal/relationship stuff on LJ in the first place.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 11:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do less of it these days for this reason.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2012-05-10 07:42 pm (UTC)
My own ethics can't be compromised by the behavior of another person

right on!
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[User Picture]From: violet_helix
2012-05-10 07:54 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. It's not about what the other person deserves, it's about what you are capable of!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 11:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: daphne24
2012-05-10 08:11 pm (UTC)
I love this and it is certainly something I could do better at. I've improved a lot over time and put a lot more thought into just how much I want to put out in to the world. I end up doing a lot more private blogging than I used to. It's a way of getting it out of my head and not inflicting it on other people.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 11:54 pm (UTC)
Private blogging is helpful. And sometimes you do need to talk things out with someone who is trustworthy. But spewing? Just bad karma.
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[User Picture]From: mseuphrates
2012-06-07 12:25 pm (UTC)
I expect you'll be happy (or at least bemused) to know between this blog and what The Ferrett wrote yesterday, I've been doing a lot of internal "chewing on stuffs"

Growing is. I think I'm starting to understand (not the details, and I don't expect to ever get those, but the spirit of what happened is becoming more clear). Thanks for being my friend.
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2012-05-10 08:21 pm (UTC)
But those points of view nearly always take the blogger's side because s/he's the one presenting the case, and the observations are inevitably from the blogger's point of view.

I think that may depend on the presentation: one can (and often should) leave out personal details and give a more abstracted view of what is going on. It precludes more specific answers but is safer. As well, if you assume the other party also has a blog, their side is also being seen, and if unfiltered you can see both sides of the argument.

However, I respect your code of ethics. It is a good and kind one.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 11:56 pm (UTC)
That strikes me as a bit of a copout. The other person might have a blog, but the audience is certainly not completely overlapped. So saying bad things on my blog is not automatically balanced by the other. Or they might not have a blog. Or they might not have the same size "bully pulpit." Or they might not be the greatest written communicators. Leaving it for the market to work out is cheating, for me.

And thanks.
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2012-05-13 10:24 pm (UTC)
Good points, especially about overlap or the number of people watching you. Those can completely overwhelm and sway a situation. I'm less certain about great written communication since I have seen some pretty bad vitriol spread around, but it does depend on the audience.

I do tend to leave anything directly or easily linked back away from anything I put online, although my rationale is more personal than moral. Real names? Verboten. Dates and times? Smudged just a bit, as some details are. I consider that cheating as well but it is a kind form of cheating, much like the white lie.
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[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2012-05-11 07:21 am (UTC)
It is incorrect to assume the other party is blogging about it at all; they may not wish to.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2012-05-10 09:19 pm (UTC)
Well good for you. The world needs less drama in it. Sadly you don't get awarded a cookie for doing the right thing. But if you were to let the world know what was going on then you would have everyone validating your feeling and feel a lot better about the whole thing. But, really if I were in a relationship with you and it didn't work out I'd rather have you as a friend than as an enemy. You seem like a rational person and you already have a husband so...why not keep the friendship if nothing else? People are dumb.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-10 11:58 pm (UTC)
Staying friends is definitely the best path. And yeah, drumming up sympathy is great, but in the end it just poisons everything.

(This isn't about a specific event, and I'm not breaking up with anyone. It just came together over some other things.)
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[User Picture]From: fallconsmate
2012-05-10 10:51 pm (UTC)
I've bitched about partners before because I had literally NO other place to vent.

And I also said "this is still a good person who I care about even when I'm complaining". Because they WERE. I was having an issue...and the person I was venting about wouldn't talk with me. Or to me. Or stuff beyond both our control was affecting the relationship and I needed to say that in a neutral place.

But there are ways to vent respectfully, and ways to just rip at the other person. And as I have said for a very long time:

There's what she said, and what he said, and what REALLY happened.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 12:15 am (UTC)
Oh, no doubt there are times when you have to have a confidante. I am not saying I never speak of anything to anyone. There is a different, though, talking something out and talking smack.
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[User Picture]From: mseuphrates
2012-06-07 12:22 pm (UTC)
Miss you. Just that...
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[User Picture]From: fallconsmate
2012-06-07 12:50 pm (UTC)
So email a gal, silly woman. *hugs*
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[User Picture]From: mseuphrates
2012-06-07 01:01 pm (UTC)
I don't think I haz it (and I definitely didn't know your new username). :) But hey, I'm attempting to blog more over HERE again...I can haz friend back?
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2012-05-10 11:56 pm (UTC)
I knew of a situation years ago where somebody I knew was married to another person who was just downright ignorant, not to mention nuts. When they were separated for a time, she disparaged him to everybody she could talk to. Then months later she was shocked when he didn't come back to her. One reason he felt he couldn't return to her was the fact that she had run him down to everybody they knew. The lack of respect, the breaking of that trust and even his pride (i.e. feeling like he would look like a wimp if he went back to a person like that) meant that he didn't go back to her.

Edited at 2012-05-10 11:57 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 12:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's one of many instances of karma doing its thing.
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[User Picture]From: shandra
2012-05-11 02:31 am (UTC)
This is a really great post; thank you for writing it. I have not always followed this kind of advice/ethical thought in the (recent) past. I have tried to stay on the line of respectful (no name-calling, tearing down, etc.) and not betray confidences, but I have also over-shared, especially when I have read things about myself in other public places.

For me one thing I value in my blog is its immediacy and also, having grown up where my feelings and thoughts had no value and were quite dangerous to share, I think I do overshoot the other way. I have always been open about it - I'm a writer, you are dating/marrying a writer - but the way you've expressed this is making me think it through again.

I highly, highly value authenticity but I also value the kind of care you're expressing, and sometimes I haven't taken the time to really consider it when the two values have collided. And of course in a breakup, "being authentic" can really mean "defending myself/my viewpoint." And feh to that, although I've done it so recently I am cringing.

So thank you; there's always room for improvement and you made me really stop and think, and I think likely I will modify my approach for having gotten that insight.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 02:51 pm (UTC)
Wow. I'm glad I helped. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: cyan_blue
2012-05-11 03:32 am (UTC)
Excellent philosophy.

I've long said that trash-talk online makes both the trash talker and the object look bad.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 02:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, and the more frequently you do it, the more likely that long-time readers are going to look askance at your personal choices, at the very least.
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From: anonymousalex
2012-05-11 01:45 pm (UTC)
"if trust has been breached, do I really have an obligation to keep my silence?

I believe I do. My own ethics can't be compromised by the behavior of another person."

I want to say something about this, but I'm not sure what. On the one hand, it strikes me as unfair that one shouldn't be "allowed" to defend oneself against an attack(1). That is, in appropriate circumstances (abstracting from your example for a moment), the correct ethical decision can be dependent on the behavior of another person. Which is not necessarily to say that your code is wrong, just that one can have an ethical code worthy of the name under which an action may be ethical or not depending on the prior actions of another.

On the other hand, I recognize that there ought to be some absolutes, ethically. There are some ethical obligations that must be borne "at every peril to oneself." And, in the abstract, my instinct is that I agree that public smack talking about an ex falls into the category of things that you shouldn't oughta do, regardless.

Still, it irks to think of that obligation leaving you with no real option(2) but silence in the face of smack talk against you.

-Alex

P.S. Discussions like this remind me how happy I am that I haven't been through that kind of drama in a long, long time.

(1) While recognizing that who fired the first shot can almost instantly get lost, particularly online.

(2) Theoretically, one could respond without talking smack, but particularly in the heat of a breakup, I would certainly question my own ability to distinguish between the two.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 03:03 pm (UTC)
I didn't say it was fair, or comfortable. Doing the right, ethical thing often is uncomfortable and feels very unfair. That's the part that makes it hard, but also makes it ethics. Ethics are not "I hold to this ideal, unless you start it first!"

If someone came to me and said, "I heard this thing about you, it is true?" I would have no problem saying that it wasn't and correct the situation as much as possible. But I would not feel it was right to go into details of the other person's behavior.
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From: anonymousalex
2012-05-11 04:36 pm (UTC)
It feels like there is an underlying assumption that in defining one's ethics (as distinct from executing them), one must or at least ought to entirely ignore one's own interests, and I don't think that is correct. The other extreme, where one's self-interest is the sole or superlative consideration in defining one's ethics is of course problematic, but I think that there's an appropriate balance to be struck somewhere above giving a zero value to oneself.

That having been said, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with your ethical position (it is probably my own, though I have been fortunate enough not to have been in a position where I was required to make that determination), just that it's not the only possible one, and that under some ethical positions one's appropriate or permissible actions may depend on the actions of others.

For example, pacifism is an ethical position. The position that it is unethical to start a fight (as distinct from participating in one that someone else started) is a different ethical position. If you hold yourself out as a pacifist then of course you would need to maintain that even if someone else hits you first. But it doesn't follow from that fact that anyone who strikes in response is unethical; they may be holding to a different set of ethics, and doing so consistently.

There ought to be one of those long, cobbled-together German words for the sense of satisfaction one gets from the annoyance and frustration generated from following one's ethical dictates.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 04:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm definitely not saying that this is the only ethical stance possible, only that it is mine and I have to stick to it.

And if I am far enough away from the situation that there is no possibility of there being any identifying markers, I'm not above telling an anecdote that begins with, "I once dated this guy who...." ;-)
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From: anonymousalex
2012-05-11 07:32 pm (UTC)
Quite so. I'll tell you one thing that I think is always unethical, though: taking advantage of someone else's ethics. Which I think someone would be doing if they trash-talked about you (or someone like you) because they knew you wouldn't retaliate.

As for anecdotes, they're effectively about fictional people, and you can't really harm someone who doesn't exist. An entirely different moral calculus.

I once knew this person who had a secret. This person was of the opinion that saying "I know a person who did X" was a violation of that secret. While I respected that position insofar as I never revealed that secret to anyone we knew, I respectfully disagree with respect to people who were adequately removed from the situation such that they would never connect the act to the person--that is, I don't think it would be a violation of trust in that circumstance.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-05-11 07:50 pm (UTC)
I bet I could follow that if it wasn't Friday. ;-)
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From: anonymousalex
2012-05-11 08:42 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the circumlocution, but see here it's pushing 25 years later, and I'm still reluctant to get into specifics.

-Alex
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