-- Question for John --
My lady friend seems to occasionally feel a need for mystery. She will tell me parts of something but not all. An example: one morning she informed me that she would not be available that night because of a meeting of her committee group. I asked where the meeting was and she said at a committee member’s home but wouldn’t say who.
She seems to tell me part of a story, just enough to appease me. She keeps secrets. I want the truth. She says she needs to be off by herself and needs times when she doesn’t have to account for herself. My reply has always been to tell the truth if in fact it was what it was, why was it a secret. She says that’s how she is. The secrecy makes me wonder why if it’s no big deal. Am I stupid to buy this and let her convince me that I have a problem?
There is more to the story.
We were each married for 30 years. Both our spouses were unfaithful and we were both divorced last year. We met in July and began dating and became serious fast.
From July to Dec she had also been seeing another and would lie to me about it, but usually admit it later. I seem to have a paranoias whenever she is mysterious. She swears she has seen no one else since Dec. She also knows I would stop seeing her if she did.
-- Answer from John --
You two are engaged in a bit of a power struggle and a polarity. Relationship is a dance, and you both have a part in this struggle. It is a normal struggle at this point in a potentially meaningful relationship — one that could become longer term and grow in intimacy. It usually does not affect relationships that are not that important or significant. But it always comes up in the ones that matter.
It’s a bit like coming up to a fork in the road and seeing it split in two directions. There’s two roads you can take now, into your future.
One leads to resolving the power struggle / polarity, but this road also necessitates you learn new ways to act, feel and communicate. It’s not the easier road, because you will both have to change a bit, and that is never easy.
The other road leads to increasing the struggle and making a big deal of it, and quite possibly, losing your ability to be happy together. This is the easier, more commonly taken road, because you don’t really need to think about things very deeply and all you have to do is react to the other person.
So which road do you want to take?
I can understand that you are both affected by your past marriages. And there can be a lot of fear around what exactly you are getting into now. From her point of view and from yours. The issue of closeness vs. distance does seem to be presenting itself as a major matter to be addressed right now. And a major struggle.
It is a big one, and frankly, when you are having the kinds of reactions that you and she are both having, it is a serious one, and not at all likely to just solve itself with time. It can bring up uncomfortable feelings in each person — things like the fear of abandonment or the fear of being trapped.
It may be time for you to consider making a serious commitment to dealing with this issue, this “paranoia” as you call it, and all the insecurity and whatever else goes along with it. This is old baggage and you can heal it.
And if you can get your partner to also look at dealing with this situation from her side of things, so much the better.
But whether or not she wants to get her own counseling, I still think you should do this, for yourself and your own personal growth. Use this particular relationship you are in, and all the things that it is bringing up in you — to learn to do something different, more healing, and more constructive.
Even if this relationship doesn’t last, even if she is not going to ultimately commit, you still need to learn to deal with your own reactive tendencies, and you still would benefit greatly from healing your own baggage. We all got baggage.
Few of us really understand it is there to be healed. If you do not act on this opportunity, things will tend to just get worse. What you are presently doing has a very predictable outcome: she will pull away further and you will be triggered even more, and the cycle will continue to get more extreme until one or the other of you cannot take it.
So this is my advice to you: find someone to work with who knows this territory and can offer you some real help. This is not the kind of thing that I can imagine my little email advice service really touching on an effective level. If you want to work with me, know that I coach people around the country by phone