So you’ve met someone. Not just anyone, someone really special. Someone you believe you can wander through this crazy maze of a world with, who will help you to make sense of the insane and share the wonderful, the worrisome and the weird with you. It’s a lovely thing.
And then, all of a sudden, out of the clear, blue sky, that person you met becomes the person they are and the two aren’t the same person. You have been deceived. Swindled. Tricked. Conned.
It’s the fault of our elders really. Our parents and grandparents and teachers and mentors aren’t honest with us from the start. Between the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the wide world of Disney, by the time puberty kicks in, you’re as confused as a cat in a dog fight. Nothing is really what it seems, if it’s real at all. The Tooth Fairy was Mum. Santa Claus was Dad. (Sorry. I thought you knew by now). And that frog in the backyard won’t become a prince no matter how many times you kiss him. (I should have told you sooner). Even the clear, blue sky I referred to earlier seeks to betray you. Surely the sky cannot be both clear, lacking in color and blue, a primary color. (Hmm.) You see the con begins from early.
In the relationship, the con starts from that very first conversation. When you first said hello you used your best Marilyn Monroe, or Barry White impression. Because we know you don’t really sound like that. You laughed at their jokes, which we know aren’t really funny. You praised your boss, loved your neighbor’s dog and said your tennis level was just a ball shy of a Williams sister. You twisted the truth a little. You bent it. You lied. Call it what you like, that’s what you did. And don’t bother to tell me you didn’t because that would be a lie in itself and only prove my point.
It’s ok though. No harm in it. (Or so they say). Because once you got to know each other and the love started to bloom, it all worked itself out. The little twists and bends straighten themselves. And later when your real tennis skill level is revealed, your little white lie becomes something you’ll both recall and laugh at when you meet mid-court by the net. Those initial and little fibs are not a big problem, just don’t keep them going. If you’ve been in the relationship for awhile and still can’t say what those shoes really cost, or where you really were at 3am, you need to rethink what you want from the relationship. Flat out. But later, when you know each other, it’s not so much about what you said. Oh no. The real problem by now is what you don’t say. (Ummhmm). That secret you’ve been keeping. This, is the real con. What you don’t say in the conversations. And if you keep on keeping that secret, that beautiful future you’ve been building for two, can end up fit for one.
Let’s set some boundaries. We’re going to need to clear up what a big secret is. Because let’s be honest with each other, some things you’re meant to keep to yourself. You’re not in the practice of doing anything to deliberately hurt yourself. Part of two becoming one, is that this person is now part of you, so you wouldn’t do anything to deliberately hurt that person either. I believe there are some things you don’t need to say, ever. This applies to telling your partner things about themselves which will hurt, but they can’t change anyway. In other words, you’ve highlighted a hurtful problem without a solution and neither of you is any better for it. For example, if his equipment (sniffle), is more weed-whacker (blush) than a 17 horsepower, 4-wheel steering, 2-pedal hydrostatic, rust-proof riding mower (cough). To me it’s not necessary to say, but this is where you (chalk in hand) need to draw your own moral boundaries, I’m not touching that one. (Pun intended).We’re talking the big stuff. The stuff that day time programming is made off. The ‘my credit can’t get me a loan for a pencil’, ‘I did drug rehab’, ‘it’s not your baby’, (Maury, you need a new punch line) and ‘I was born a male’ type of stuff. You always tell the truth about your sexual status, your sexual partners (how many, who is up to you), your sexual preferences, your finances, your expectations and ambitions, your recreational habits (the negative ones), your religious beliefs, your triggers (what turns you on and off, non-sexual) and your definition of family (4 children, 3 dogs, 2 cats and a pig).
Now while most people when asked will say they lie to shield their partner from hurt, but if you’re ever caught in that lie, the hurt you both feel will only be a part of the problem. You’ll then have trust issues to deal with as well. And by the time you add feelings of betrayal, (theirs), guilt, (yours), anger, disappointment and heartache (shared), you have got yourself one great, big, flushable, hot mess.
So what’s to be done? Surely I’m not expecting you to tell the truth? Well actually, yes. If there’s any chance that secret can come back to haunt you, tell. (The whole truth?). That’s the idea. Out with it. You’ll sleep better. But since it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, let’s see if I can help. (Ahem).
Before you open the closet, know why you’re coming out. You can’t undo hurt. So remember, if it’s not on the must tell list and neither person benefits from the knowledge, you may want to get a combination lock for the closet door and just leave it in there.
But once you’ve decided to share, plan ahead. You don’t want to drop the bomb just by the way. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Be prepared for all the follow-up questions that are sure to come. If you write it down, this helps some people, do not leave your note-pad on the dining room table by accident.
Location, location, location and timing has got to be right. This is all part of your planning. Don’t do it in a public place. It could turn into a disastrous embarrassment for you both. Choose a time when you both have clear calendars for awhile. Give yourself time to tell, time for you both to talk and time to determine the steps to recovery.
Be ready to give the other person space. Depending on how big the bomb is, that might be physical as well. It’s a dilemma you’ve brought to the table, so the couch is yours. Or the hotel room. Just don’t expect things to return to normal overnight. If there’s something the two of you enjoy doing together but alone (just the two of you), it may be a good time to do it. Hiking, fishing, tennis. But don’t purchase two first-class tickets and plan a second honeymoon as a surprise. This will not only invade the other person’s recovery period, it may cost you a good non-refundable penny if the other person doesn’t want to see you for bit.
Serve notice. You didn’t plan the what, the where and the when only to slip up now on the warning. You’re going to have to let the other person know you have a secret to tell. Let them know it’s something major and when you want to have the discussion. Be ready to do it immediately if there is persistence, but if you can, and this is preferred, allow at least a few hours for the other person to be mentally and emotionally prepared.
In stressful situations we tend to improvise, don’t, stick to the script. At least in the beginning. Ask beforehand to be given the opportunity to explain everything in detail before answering questions. Talk to your partner though, not at them.
Now is not the time to cast blame, take responsibility. This will be difficult enough for your spouse without them having to hear that they caused the problem. So when giving that detailed explanation, remove all occurrences of the word ‘you’. There is a good chance that you will be asked who is to blame directly, think this through in advance and know what you want to say.
There may be expletives. Know in advance that you will be a pestilence spat up from the bowels of Hades upon the face of the earth. Or something not so creative but equally as harsh. Anticipating this in advance will help you not to be surprised when the onslaught begins. And there will be an onslaught. But try not to retaliate or cast blame. Remain calm. Don’t argue. This will be their time to vent. There is a lot of confusion, hurt and anger and any retaliation on your part will hamper the resolution.
Have your suggestions for how you plan to move forward ready. What are the resolutions. But, and this is a big but, you may not be able to fix this. It may take days, weeks, months or even years for full healing to occur. And sometimes, that healing never comes. Don’t expect the worse, love conquers all (I believe this and I’m a pessimist) but be prepared for it. That first-class ticket money may be put to good use with some professional counselling. If all else fails, there’s ice-cream. Good luck.