Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ON FUN ~ Damaging Secrets...

Image courtesy stevendepolo via Flickr

At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.

"If a relationship has to be kept a secret, you shouldn't be in it."
~ LESSON #14

Secret loves. Secret friends. Secret jobs. Secret lives. They can all be damaging and not worth all of that exhilarating effort to keep them under wraps. I have withheld the existence of certain relationships in the beginning from certain parties. Usually to make sure it is going somewhere worth sharing. But the intent is not to keep something from them because I don't want them to know - I just want things to be at a certain point before I share the news. Such as when venturing into a new online writing project. I want to get my feet underneath me before sharing my public work with family. Or developing a bond with a new person. I may hang out with them a few times before I mention a new friendship to my existing circle. It isn't a secret. It isn't harmful if they find out before I've gotten around to telling them.

What is harmful is turning that original temporary delay of information into an extended period of hidden facts. This happened to me once and I still regret the way I handled things. I had begun to date someone new in college. I kept this relationship a secret from one of my closest friends, because I knew that he would be jealous and have his feelings hurt. I was too chicken to break the news to him so I just avoided the issue altogether. I juggled two sets of friends and did what I could to keep them from interacting and spilling the beans. I felt like I was having a sordid affair. And although it was exciting, in the end my friend found out from someone other than me. Which hurt his feelings even more than that difficult but honest conversation would have done had I been adult enough to have it.

The new boyfriend didn't last very long. My friendship with my disgruntled pal did. He is a good friend and important part of who I am to this day. Luckily for me, he forgave my secret and let his pride take a back seat to the bond we have.

If you are keeping relationships a secret, it is best to decide which side is more important to you - the one you are secretly with or the one you are hiding it from. Because eventually those worlds will collide and you'll have to pick a side when things are exposed. And they will be exposed. At the most inconvenient times. If your existing relationships are are strong as you need them to be, they just might be able to survive whatever involvement you have been hiding. If the secret is a better option than what you've had all along, you had better make sure that secret is in it for the long haul and then go all in, cutting bait honestly with your prior world.

Secrets torment the soul. Keeping things out in the open is the easiest way to go. But humans like to make life more difficult for themselves. Hopefully the secret relationships you have don't go on too long before you learn things the hard way and live to regret them.

11 comments:

Lin said...

I'm awful at keeping secrets--and that is just as bad as having them!

Matty said...

Molly, you were much younger and and didn't have the wisdom of experience that you have now.

My wife and I don't have any secret relationships, but there are things from the past that are best kept there.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Agree with Matty. Some things are better left buried! But generally I don't do secrets well. I can't lie either. That stuff just eats me up inside.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I hate to admit this, but I kind of do that now. It's not a secret friendship, but it's how I handle a monthly food pantry dinner I throw. Friends can bring friends, but one dear friend brings a woman who just bugs EVERYONE in the group (this woman also kept asking me if she was invited to my wedding in 2008 - after telling her TWICE unless she were a guest of our mutual friend, the answer was no). Now, I create 2 monthly invites - an A and B list. I don't want to hurt my friend and figured this the best way to handle it. Other dinner guests have no problem with how I'm handling it. I wish I could tell my friend, but it would upset her.

Margot said...

You've given very good advice here Molly. The only experience I have with secret relationships are ones I kept from my parents as a teenager. I knew they would not care for certain people I liked even though they said, "If you like them, we'll like them." Inside I knew they wouldn't. In truth, my parents weren't good judges of people. They trusted people they shouldn't have. I saw that as an adult.

When my children were mid-elementary school I began having discussions with them about my experience with my parents and my friends. I wanted them to feel free to bring anybody home. I would not judge my child and would try my best to keep an open-mind about anyone they brought home. The hardest part of that practice was keeping my mouth closed about the character of the new friend. Long story short - my kids have amazing friends. All three are good judges of character. I think talking about it helped. Did they have secret friends? Probably, but none that lasted.

kaye said...

well said, keeping secrets nearly always leads to trouble.

Sun Singer said...

When it comes to other people, we love secrets, the tell-all memoir, the movie that shows what really happened, the celebrity who got drunk on Letterman and said what s/he really thought about Hollywood.

Closer to home, secrets seem more harmful, though I've had a few and still have yet to spill the beans.

Malcolm

Jenny Girl said...

Hmmm...can't think of secret like that that I have kept, although once in high school, there was a secret I kept, until I had to reveal it lest someone went to jail. Intersting story that.

Anyway, you are correct in that humans love to make their lives difficult. I guess we think it's easier, but it's actually not.

Oh and I do have a kind of secret, my book blog. Some people know, some don't. I need a place I can go and talk about things with reckless abandon. The hubby knows but he doesn't count :)

stacybuckeye said...

Well, I can think of a few instances when secret romancss might be best kept secret or even special friendships. Some families and friends can be homophobic or racist. I have a friend who dealt with both of these issues.
Sometimes a little secracy can save a lot of heartache.

RUBY said...

I completely agree with you. Secrets torment the soul. A very commonly held wisdom has been shared in the most beautiful words. Sometime back I had shared a very similar thought on....


Ruminations...22nd March

By keeping facts obscure we achieve not an obscurity, but arrive at a spectacle that takes away the light of the day. Honesty goes miles and fetches rewards that are indeed priceless.....
www.rubysahay.blogspot.com

But it is most comforting to reveal a secret to your loved one and continued to be loved by him/her in the same manner or perhaps even in a greater degree.Sometimes it brings souls even closer.

Kathleen said...

I'm too open to keep secrets like this. I always tell my son that the truth sets you free and I really believe that. It just takes too much energy to keep secrets.