Q: My friend, “Bill,” has recently gotten involved with “Dave.” Bill tells me that Dave is “The One” that he has been looking for all his life. They have been dating for seven months and it has become quite serious; it seems very mutual. I have to agree that they do seem made for each other.
Bill has some skeletons in his closet; skeletons that I know about because I have known Bill ever since we were in high school together. Bill and I moved here from another part of the country, so none of his current friends know about his skeletons. Bill has never asked me not to tell anyone about them, but there would be no reason for me to do that. It’s not my business to talk about his life; if he wants to tell them, that’s his prerogative.
My problem is that Bill came to me and asked me not to ever tell Dave about certain things in his past. One of the things that he wants to keep hidden is that he spent six months in jail for assault. Granted, he was defending himself from bullies who were harassing him because he’s gay. Everyone who witnessed the incident knows that the wrong person went to jail – the two bullies should have been the ones in the slammer, but that’s a long story. However, the fact is, he did serve a jail term and is now stuck with a record.
The second secret is: he has a 10-year-old daughter. He got a girl pregnant in high school, and though he doesn’t see her (the mother doesn’t really want him in her life), he does pay child support.
As I said, Bill doesn’t want me to tell Dave about all this. And, I would never bring it up. However, Bill wants me to lie and say it’s not true – if it ever comes out. Like, for instance, if someone in his past shows up and talks about his going to jail or about his daughter, I’m supposed to say that it isn’t true.
I told Bill that I certainly would never bring it up, but telling a lie seems like a totally different thing. Now, Bill is really upset with me and says that if I don’t lie, I will be the one that ruins his relationship with Dave. The fact that I won’t lie is making him a nervous wreck.
Am I wrong? I told Bill that I would write to you about it. We’re waiting to hear from you.
Living with Secrets
A: It’s one thing for Bill to decide to keep a secret about something, but quite another to ask you to lie for him. It’s unfair for him to ask that of you. You could, however, agree that you will not discuss those topics with anyone.
To Bill: Going into a relationship with significant secrets from your past is a bad way to start a relationship. It also implies that you don’t think Bill will understand or accept you if he knows about your past. If that’s true, you need to decide if you want to be in a relationship with someone who would not accept your past. (Is there some reason you feel that you can’t tell Dave?) A criminal record, paying child support or having your daughter show up at your door someday are not easy things to keep under your hat. How do you think it would work out if you got into a relationship with Dave and one day the secrets came out? Don’t you think he’d feel deceived, even if he were accepting of your past?
Certainly, not every detail of a person’s life needs to be brought up and revealed, but these two events are pretty major. Relationships should be about, and built on, trust. Secrets like this have the possibility of bringing down a relationship.
Are you thinking about revealing a secret? Should you? To find out, go to “Dear Jody Valley” on Facebook.