In the interest of intimacy, some believe that partners should have no secrets from one another. I don’t happen to be one of those people. Of course, sharing our deepest feelings with another is desirable and necessary for closeness. But every thought? Every unedited opinion? Um, I think not. Some things are better left unsaid because if told, they would cause a lot of hurt and do damage. Damage that might be hard to overcome.
For example, I wouldn’t tell my present partner details about my past sex life…even if they ask. This is landmine territory and can lead to nothing but trouble. Your past sex life is just that…in the past. It has nothing to do with your present relationship. If your partner asks, what’s underneath that question anyway? Do they want to know if they compare favorably so that their ego can be fed? What if the comparison is not so good? As I said…trouble.
If you’re the one who wants to tell all, what’s that about? Is it an attempt to grow closer by sharing everything? If so, this is well intentioned, but misguided and could have just the opposite effect. Do you want to blame your partner for current troubles in the bedroom by telling him how great it was with someone else? Or maybe you want to make her jealous, or just want to brag about what a stud you are. Before you divulge this kind of thing, you really need to explore your motivation and deal with what’s beneath the surface. You, your partner and your relationship will be much better off if you do.
What other secrets are better left unsaid? Well, you wouldn’t tell your sexually insecure mate that his penis is too small. Or your wife, who is self-conscious about her body, that her breasts are too big and floppy. If your sex life is going through a down time, you wouldn’t divulge that you have been fantasizing about the hot person you saw in the coffee shop. If she’s gained a few unwanted pounds and can’t seem to shed them, you might not want to gush over the skinny babe in the bikini on TV. When your friend just got a brand new Porsche, best not to ooh and ahh to your unemployed husband who can’t find a job. In the interest of harmony in your relationship and out of respect for your partner, please, will you keep this stuff to yourself?
We all have to find a balance between sharing things that will bring us closer, and revealing things that are potentially harmful. Through trial and error, we discover what can be said and what cannot. My partner, for example, knows how sensitive I am to what I wear because of painful childhood experiences when there wasn’t much money. After giving me what he considered benign feedback in that regard, and seeing the hurt that it caused, he doesn’t do that anymore. Rather he tells me every time he thinks I look great, and keeps the other times to himself. I know what he’s doing and I appreciate it! We want to know each other on the deepest level; at the same time, we need to be sensitive to the wounds and vulnerabilities of the person we love.
Most of us know the difference between withholding something out of respect, and withholding because you’re being sneaky. As a kid, I had a friend who would charge things to her mother’s account, then hide the goods and the bills when they arrived in the mail. If she were to continue doing that with her husband, what category do you think that would fall under? You guessed it…sneaky. Then there’s the woman who “steals” $20’s from her husband’s wallet because she feels she doesn’t get her fair share of their money. Again…sneaky. Why not have a direct talk with him and tell him that she wants and deserves more of the “pie?” Isn’t that better than sneaking around like a thief?
If there are lots of taboo subjects, there’s too much withholding, which makes for a shallow, unsatisfying relationship. Finding the balance between sharing ourselves appropriately, and dumping everything that runs through our heads onto our partners takes time, and there will be mistakes along the way. But we learn from seeing that something we said was hurtful and store that information for the future. Most of us are not out to be deliberately cruel. We just blunder into hurtful behavior because we’re not aware. Loving couples make it a point to become aware.
What have you shared with your partner that helped you grow closer? What have you shared that was a mistake? Have you talked about your past sexual encounters with your present partner? Was it helpful or harmful? I would love to hear about your experiences.
Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, www.infidelityandaffairs.com and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.