If a Relationship has to be Secret, You Shouldn’t Be In It.

(I still love you, Elizabeth.)

“If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn’t be in it.”

It was written serendipitously on a friend’s Facebook wall last week.

I was immediately quietly defensive.

“…sure, in a perfect world.”

“… but circumstances…”

“…and when there are kids involved?!”

I have no interest in exposing my kids to the changing fortunes of some halfhearted attempt at a romantic life. We all need stability, not the stomach-churning carnival ride of romance. My life is full of great people, kind and wonderful people. I’ve been doing quite well mostly on my own, thank-you-very-much.

I have learned to embrace being mostly alone, even to thrive in it.  That isn’t to say that loneliness hasn’t visited, but I know how to manage her, like a difficult relative. I’m detached. I have to be. I have no time or room for love. There is no extra chair at the table. No big fellow is going to come in here and elbow anyone aside, most especially not a kid or three.

Also, there is that bit about sharing a bathroom—never.


So, um…. he’s tall, smart, wickedly witty, and unlike anyone I have ever known. We’re talking. Just talking. There’s no harm in talking, right?


29 comments to If a Relationship has to be Secret, You Shouldn’t Be In It.

  • Kari

    I have no time or room for love.

    I beg to differ – you have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know and what seems like way more love to offer than most folks. (ok, I get that you were talking about romantic love…not a more general love)

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  • TheOtherLibby

    LOL you have nooooo idea how closely this follows my own train of thought lately… minus the kids thing. But oftentimes, being a small business owner is kind of like having a kid… right? No time. No energy. But…

    Yeah, I’m no help.

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  • I have two things to say.

    1) We all need companionship. If you are enjoying him, have some fun. I have learned that sometimes people that I am attracted to in the beginning can turn out to be good friends, even if it doesn’t take off romantically.

    2) I have learned this year that it is nice to have some anonymity in a relationship. So keeping it secret in the beginning can be a smart move.

    I look forward to hearing more when you are ready to share!
    Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce recently posted..Plants Grow…My Profile

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    • Wise, as usual, Molly: “I have learned that sometimes people that I am attracted to in the beginning can turn out to be good friends…” That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

  • Connie Marshall

    Sorry to be the killjoy here, but the fact that the relationship must be a secret AND there are kids involved, not BECAUSE there are kids involved suggests that the other issues leading to secrecy are not all that honorable. I can’t think of a good reason that a relationship needs to be secret other than that you don’t want to expose kids to too many maybes. What would you say to a friend embarking on the same kind of relationship? And depending on what direction the talk is going, there can be a lot of harm in it. I think you already know the answer here, but the package temptation comes in is so attractive that it is hard to resist; after all, who would be tempted by short, ugly and no sense of humor?

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    • Wise words of caution. Caution. CAUTION! I’m hearing it in my head every minute!

    • Hm. I understand the words of caution, and I agree that why someone is hiding a relationship is important; however, I do not think this situation is anything sinister as your comment would seemingly portend. I think BD is worried about exposing her kids too soon (I’ve seen women fall on both sides of this and not one has regretted waiting on introducing the kids) but not about being sneaky or shifty, etc. She also doesn’t strike me at all to be the type of gal to talk/date/canoodle with someone who would hide their relationship for reasons other than that, either.

      I do think your advice is very good. Please don’t think I’m saying anything to the contrary. I’m just not sure that it necessarily pertains to this situation in particular.
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  • I view it kind of like the best advice I ever got about quitting smoking (and what actually finally did work for me in that regard): Don’t tell anyone you’re (trying to quit / in a relationship / etc.) until you feel confident you have gotten over that line between thinking you can and knowing you can. I waited 30 days to tell anyone I had quit because by that point, I knew that them asking me about it every 5 minutes (which people do and will do about your budding relationship) would not send me running to the nearest party store to buy a pack and a lighter.

    So. Have fun. Talk. Maybe more than talk. ;) Get your sea legs so to speak. You’ll know if/when to go ‘public’ with it. :)

    Love ya. :)

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  • I say you go with your bad self and enjoy it any way you want. Keep it a secret or shout it to the world. Just enjoy it. Live life on your terms and be comfortable, because in the end, you only have to answer to you!
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  • Liz

    talk till your clothes fall off sugar! ;-)

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    • Oh my gooshness! When I told a friend about all this while our boys were playing soccer she quipped, “You might actually get laid.” I thought I was about to die right there!

  • Melissa D

    Yes, with kids sometimes it is best to be “secret”, at least for a while. Good for you! Friends or more it’s splendid news to see you exploring new relationships. Enjoy and be brave!

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  • I read this a day or so ago, and I’ve thought about it many times since then. It’s a nuanced question, not black and white, so worth some pondering.

    I don’t think that keeping things a secret from your kid(s) is the same as keeping something a secret.

    When married couples have sex, they keep it a secret from their kids, and this is appropriate. When parents have to decide been buying something for themselves and buying something for their kids, they don’t advertise their sacrifices to their children (“Well, I wanted a new pair of shoes for work but you needed shoes too and so you win and I lose because we’re broke” doesn’t sound like great parenting to me; we keep these things to ourselves.)

    If you can’t tell your girlfriends about your date(s), if you are compromising your morality in some way, then it seems to me that you’ve got a problem. If I had to “keep a secret” from my closest friends because I knew that they would be horrified by my actions, I’d know that I was in some deep trouble, because my girlfriends are wise and kind and they love me, so if they judged me, there’d be something to judge. But not telling your kids is not the same thing as keeping a secret, it’s called *using discretion.* Our kids deserve that kind of discretion, and you deserve to have a little fun.

    Please post details. I want to live vicariously. :-) (PS I’ve been reading your blog for a while – I’m a fan!)
    PollyAnna recently posted..Adult bullying, aka High Drama CommunicationMy Profile

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    • What a delightfully thoughtful comment. I surfed on over to your cyberspace house and added you to my Love-Worthy list. <3

      • Thanks, Annie! Much appreciated – and you’re on my list, too. I actually referenced your blog in my post “The Lonely High Road” http://pollyannasdivorce.blogspot.com/2012/05/lonely-high-road.html with some admiring words for you. I appreciate the way that you simultaneously own your anger towards your ex (he deserves it) but don’t stoop to his level (shudder at the thought). Having some of my own anger towards an ex, I appreciate how next-to-impossible that can be sometimes, and I take all the support I can find on that one. Wishing you all good things, and if that includes a little romance, then I’m all for it. Can’t wait to hear more!
        PollyAnna recently posted..Adult bullying, aka High Drama CommunicationMy Profile

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  • Have some discreet fun….when the time is right. And you don’t have to share the bathroom. Boundaries, ya know. When I was ready to date a year or so after the end of my marriage, I told all my friends I was looking for dinner and sex–not necessarily in that order. Think about what you want. Kids are to be cherished and respected and protected, but motherhood can swallow us whole.
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  • I’m in a quotation frame of mind:

    There comes a point in a relationship when you realize that you trust someone enough to let them keep their secrets.

    I accept that the people I love will sometimes lie to me. But I have to trust them to always love and protect me. I don’t want their passwords, their every thought, and 24/7 surveillance. How difficult it is! I am reluctant and have of course gotten screwed over from time to time but … love is deeper and larger than “perfection.” In a way you have to trust the other person to exercise some of your own judgment as to what needs to be said. Frankly that’s pretty scary, but it’s the difference between being bonded versus just another pair of individuals. Mindlessly clutching to “honesty is the best policy” can also make you pretty damn boring. Most of us live a bit of a lie in one way or another, don’t we? Or we’re one of the Cleavers.

    The really hard part is to figure out whether you’re bending the rules because it’s the right thing or the easy thing. Think twice now. Hopefully you remember what a tremendous responsibility it is to be trusted.

    The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. — Henry L. Stimson

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    • BTW I agree, I would be pretty careful about introducing children to new relationships. God forbid they find out how unstable the lives of us grownups really can be! Childhood is the special case.
      andrew recently posted..Two Kinds of BeautyMy Profile

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    • I’m not sure that I get this:
      Most of us live a bit of a lie in one way or another, don’t we?

      Can you explain? I don’t think I live a lie, and my life is very un-Cleaver-like….but I’m not sure I’m following and I’d like to hear more.
      PollyAnna recently posted..Falling out of love at different timesMy Profile

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      • Hmm… Warning: I’m still sorting through this.

        Above, I did hedge: “live a bit of a lie.” I don’t mean the nutcase from Catch Me If You Can.

        I don’t have a very good answer. I think some things we work through privately, or mask how we feel until we know what to do. (“Do you love me?” –> “I met someone who threw me for a loop and I’m having a minor crisis right now and am sorting out my feelings, mindful of you, but why don’t you come along for the ride even if it gives you ulcers and damages your ability to trust me despite the fact I am trustworthy” or “Yes”?)

        Life is messy for many or most of us (mine perhaps on the messier side, but that’s another story). I think that’s normal and to insist or pretend everything sensitive or complicated can be dealt with by keeing no secrets. Actually you could really hurt someone that way. Of course you can also hurt someone by keeping a secret.

        Sometimes people even tell the truth for selfish reasons, to purge a guilty conscience, and that can compound the mistake. Letting it all hang out may also be a sort of exhibitionism, whether sanctimonious (“look how great I am!”), attention-seeking (“look at me!”), or because you just don’t have anything interesting to exhibit (“”).

        It depends! Generally, yes, I’d rather hear the truth. But truth or lie, if you have to pick I think a trustworthy parent or partner is the best. It may be harder to truly trust someone than to love them (talk amongst yourselves folks).

        As I stressed at the end of my half-thought-out comment, though, beware: it is even more tempting to lie to ourselves and rationalize a secret when really we don’t want to deal with the consequences or are being cowardly as opposed to protective. I think that what most often happens. You do need to disclose when you realize the secret is more for your convenience, especially if bad consequences loom.

        On topic re Annie’s post: Kids get an extra layer of protection because, well, they’re kids and can’t process adult emotions. For them, security is paramount and many details off-limits. We owe them honesty with consideration. Fortunately as parents we know exactly how to balance everything. (!)

        As for the dear Cleavers, I meant that they didn’t deal with anything that couldn’t be worked out with honesty in 25 minutes. No secrets there (aside from June’s wild summer tending bar in Acapulco and Ward’s “experimentation” in college) (that was joke ;-) .
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  • ann

    There is a fine line between fun and fiasco!!!!!! Go ahead…..ask me how I know!!!!!

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  • Kobi

    So my ex repartnered quicker than you could take a breath, and “sends love” from his new girlfriend and her kids to my kids when they are not with them. My kids are 2.8 and 1.5, and are struggling with the concept of love (particularly the 2.8 year old). My ex walked out when they were 1.5 and 2 weeks old.

    My ex tells him in front of me that he still loves me, but he has a new girlfriend/family who is fully integrated (to the extent that she recently posted pics of herself with my kids on facebook as her profile page even though she has her own kids – and pulled them down when a deluge of my mates looked her up on linkedin).

    Go gently, gently, gently where kids are involved, and I agree, you never know where it is going to go…until you do, the kids shouldn’t be caught up in it, even if you are.

    I really feel for my kids. This won’t be the last (I’m his second divorce).

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    • Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. My heart aches for you and your kids. Yours are wise cautions. The last thing any kid needs is an attachment disorder wrought of a parent’s revolving-door love life. I am sorry for your kids and HE WALKED OUT ON YOU WITH A TWO-WEEK OLD BABY?? (Good riddance—there’s a man who isn’t worth having, but OUCH.) I hope your skies do brighten, Kobi. You deserve some relief, and eventually, a good measure of happy.