Here and now, in the present, I am giving internet dating yet another go. It doesn’t always click with me. If you are used to going with your gut instinct, to suddenly choose someone based on a load of facts figures and a theoretical percentage compatibility feels a bit like doing your monthly supermarket delivery order. I’d like one male, open-minded, sexually adventurous but not into pain thanks or blindfolds, who likes to talk about issues, politics and ideas and doesn’t end his messages with lol. Pick up in aisle 3.
What it does do, though, is get you to think about who you’re well matched with. What bits of your personality do you want to be able to develop and share. What things are you just not prepared to accept. Luckily, I’m pretty open minded and liberal myself but today I had a message from someone that did make me stop and think.
Write back if you feel you can.
I’m intrigued, not least because we apparently share an initial. It’s the little things that make you decide to write to somone in an impersonal setting like the internet. He hasn’t uploaded a photo but I check out his profile to see what he’s like. Apparently based on having answered many many questions on sex, morality, religion, love and other issues besides, we’re compatible. I read the paragraph everyone writes as a summary of themselves:
‘Naughty…adventurous,,,no inhibitions,’ He begins. And then
‘OK, I am married and being secretive so any ethical minded creatures should probably report me somewhere…’
He concludes that he’s looking for someone open minded and casual.
And there’s the deal breaker. No, not because, after previous experience I’ve decided never to get involved with a married man again. If it’s ok by his wife again then I’d never say never. The deal breaker is secrecy.
After my own experiences of being secretive or uncomfortable about a relationship, I have made a promise to myself that I am never doing that again. Eadmund’s affair actually ended up being a catalyst for change, but on balance I would far rather the change had happened in a way that didn’t involve me being lied to. It was the state of mind I managed to get myself into by trying to keep the relationship a badly kept secret that I will never put myself through again.
I’m a terrible liar. I hate doing it. I’m not very believable. I recently read a quote from Mark Twain that said
‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’
I couldn’t put it better myself. So as the person trying to keep a secret, you not only have to behave in a way that feels deeply unnatural and seems to negate yourself and your presence, you are also always under the stress of remembering who you’ve told what to. It’s exhausting and unneccessary. In contrast to the freedom of relationship we were trying to achieve, we had created ourselves another prison far worse than the claustrophobia of my impending marriage to Jack. I wanted to feel limitless and on occasions I still did, when we were alone together and could stop looking over our shoulders. But most of the time, when we were at work, or at his home those moments were snatched and furtive. The walls were closing in again on us both.
I also found that by keeping the secret and having to behave as if the whole company didn’t know I was in a relationship with Eadmund, I cut myself off from my friends. I couldn’t talk to them and because they were aware there was a big area of my life that was off limits, they avoided socialising with me or talking to me. It was very lonely and it wasn’t until later, when things were out in the open that one of my colleagues finally said to me
‘As long as you’re happy we don’t care what you’re doing and who with. It makes people uneasy if you won’t talk about it though. We don’t want to say the wrong thing.’
Then a few years later, ironically as I split up from Eadmund, my sister got involved with someone who she had met through work. They too decided to keep their relationship a secret.
‘It’s not like it’s a big secret,’ she told me when I asked her why we needed to pretend they weren’t together, ‘I just don’t want to be gossipped about. It’s none of their business.’
Again, not something you’d think would be a big deal, just being discreet so that the workplace rumour mill doesn’t take off but from a different viewpoint, this time, I observed how corrosive secrecy is. It starts as a little act of being discreet and then through the stress of not telling it how it is, openly and honestly, you create relationship problems for yourself, you argue and can’t admit to anyone that you know why your eyes are puffy, red and swollen. People around you withdraw because they don’t know what to say or what to do. They don’t understand, when as far as they can see it’s a good thing that you are in a relationship with the guy, why they can’t admit to people that they know about it. Just as people pulled away from me, I found myself avoiding Gia and her boyfriend because I didn’t want the hassle and stress of their secret. The early years of their relationship were a bit tortured. He’s a great guy but he’s not easy to be with. He’s force of energy which when he’s good is very. very good and when he’s bad is horrid. She could have done with more support before she hit her rock bottom. If she’d had it, hitting rock bottom could have been avoided. But the secrecy made us not know how to act or what to say. It made me keep my own counsel and keep away from her. I wasn’t the only one. I’d run into one of their mutual friends around the Food Market on occasions and we’d let out some of the tension of the situation by royally taking the piss. It was a huge relief to be able to just laugh about it.
So now I’ve seen it from the point of view of someone keeping the secret and from the point of view of the friend forced into secrecy and not really understanding why it is neccessary. I’m not going there again. I feel it very strongly that whatever relationship I go into next, absolute honesty and openness has to be the cornerstone.
My reply to A was easy to write:
Thanks for your message and what a conundrum you present. You sound like a fun guy to get to know and I’ve been in an open relationship before and been in one with a married man so there are no judgements here but the need for secrecy is a deal breaker. If your wife agreed to it and it was all above board, I’d probably be interested but I’ve been someone’s secret before and it did bad things to my psyche. Sorry and Good luck.’