When a guy tells you he adores you and sees a future with you while simultaneously nursing a loaded secret, what is a girl to do?
“Loving someone is giving them the power to break your heart while trusting them not to.”
— Julianne Moore
There could be many reasons why this former male friend chose to keep his secret from me. Perhaps it was due to a sense of shame or maybe he was afraid of losing me once I knew about it.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. attributes the reason for this reticence to not feeling comfortable enough to share “Not everyone feels completely comfortable engaging in self-disclosure, even to the people we hold most dear.”
Whatever his reasons may have been for hiding the truth about his struggle with mental illness, I felt hurt that he didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt. After all, isn’t that what people who love each other do?
Instead, he made vague allusions to being in treatment on and off. When he said it, it somehow never sounded like anything serious or worrisome. It led me to assume that it was probably high blood pressure or something.
I wouldn’t have felt blindsided if he had been upfront with me when things were starting to get serious. I blamed him for lying by omission and for hurting and misleading me.
And I blamed myself for trusting him enough not to do any due diligence.
“Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Every healthy relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust”
— Dave Willis. org
In an article published in Psychology Today, Robert Weiss suggests asking yourself this question in order to determine if you are keeping a secret from your partner: “If the person I am keeping this information from knew the entire truth, would he or she be hurt or angry? If the answer is yes, you’re keeping a secret.”
This is not about asking for a detailed report from your partner about what they are doing every hour of every day.
Neither is this referring to “benign secrets” which generally do not affect the quality of a relationship.
I am talking about the “deal breaker secrets” that have the potential to ruin a relationship.
Here are 5 things your partner has every right to know about:
1. Be transparent about your past
Trust and communication are the foundations of a healthy relationship.
When you are serious about someone, it calls for a certain amount of courage to be open and candid about your past life. Some of these aspects include previous incarceration, communicable diseases, or addiction problems.
Even though this may call for some very difficult conversations, it demonstrates that you are willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable for the sake of love.
That way you have done your part and it is up to the other person whether they wish to continue with the relationship in light of this knowledge.
2. Be transparent about financial debt
According to an article in the Power of Positivity, making your partner aware of your financial situation “Is crucial to relationship happiness and, quite possibly, relationship sustainability.”
While heavy debt or bad credit may not spell doom for many relationships, financial transparency is an important building block of trust in relationships.
3. Be transparent about mental illness
Sometimes the fear of judgment or fear of damaging the relationship makes it difficult to reveal a struggle with mental illness. These are selfish motives that can create difficulties for the relationship later on.
Since you love each other, give your partner the benefit of the doubt and allow them to make the decision for themselves. You may very well be surprised by their response. In her article published in Psychology Today, licensed marriage and family therapist April Eldemire further explains the benefit in talking about mental illness with your partner “Having a partner affected by a mental health condition can be navigated in a relationship if both partners have the skills and awareness to cope and communicate through these challenges.”
4. Be transparent about your expectations and ambitions for the future
Certified relationship coach Kira Asatryan describes talking about what each partner’s expectations are for the future as an important step when a relationship progresses from casual to serious.
Having discussions about what your expectations are with regards to how you would like to be treated in the relationship or whether you hope to have kids can not only provide important feedback but also help both partners be on the same page.
Also communicating your career goals can better help your partner support you in achieving your goals.
5. Be transparent about your current relationship status
It is important to let your partner know if you are separated or going through divorce rather than having them find out your relationship status via a third party or from social media which can be devastating to the partner who is in the dark.
In my case, I wasn’t offered a choice to arrive at my own conclusions about how I felt about it because he never brought up the topic of his mental health in our conversations. In retrospect, that was a big red flag. Upon discovering the truth, the ensuing path from that point on was strewn with a sense of betrayal, confusion, and eventual heartbreak.
It’s not okay to hide things from your partner. Period.
I could never trust that man again.