Should we or shouldn’t we? That is the question. Divulging past secrets to our new partner can be thwart with danger. The question remains – what is the benefit of telling?
If telling your new partner a secret, is solely to release the heaviness from you, then I strongly suggest disclosing to a counsellor in confidence only. If it is something your new partner may discover and you believe this may impact your relationship, then disclosure may be necessary.
According to the Oxford dictionary, a secret is something that is “not meant to be known by others.” We should all just keep our secrets to ourselves because they aren’t meant to be known by others or are they?
The decision to share past illegal or immoral activities can be complicated. Past crimes committed or gaol time served is best disclosed and explained. If you had a history of drugs, gambling or alcohol addiction, this is important to disclose to enable your new partner to decide if they wish to proceed with the relationship. If you hide it, the fear and guilt you may carry can become a huge burden to bear while if exposed, can cause deep fear that the behaviour could be repeated. Catch 22 unfortunately.
Transparency and openness in a relationship is important but confusion remains as to what should we say and should we keep quiet.
The important part here is the reason for disclosure. Who does it help, how will it support the relationship and is it relevant now. Will people from the past speak of it and how will your new partner feel if they have been left in the dark?
There are so many grey areas to this. Many of us have had wild experiences during adolescence or young adulthood that led to trouble; things we did we wished we could forget. Remember if these things occurred as a young person or teen and you are now a mature adult, then rest assured most of us made similar errors of judgment as a young person. Hopefully, we have learned from them and these past ‘bad’ behaviours are clearly no longer part of our present life.
There are a few questions to consider when trying to determine do I speak out or not:
– Decide if the disclosure is necessary and beneficial to your relationship. Will it impede severely if it is disclosed later on or will it simply be an embarrassment for you
– Understand most everyone has done something they are not proud of. Mistakes are made as part of our maturing process, so perhaps you should not be so hard on yourself
– Disclosures of past sexual activities are never a good idea. Telling about a threesome or exploratory sexual behaviours needs to be kept quiet. Remember when disclosure is made we often attach a visual image; this is never good for any new partner and many feel like it is cheating, even though it may have occurred years earlier
– Have you made peace with your mistake? If you haven’t how will your partner? Counselling is the best option to remove or disclose any deep or dark disclosures in a confidential and non-judgmental setting
– Any disclosure you decide to make be prepared for questions. Answer what they need to hear and know, not necessarily all the fine details. This is not transparency; this is stupid.
If you really believe you need to divulge a dark past secret, there are a few steps to take to ensure you protect your partner and yourself. One of the first things is to accept the mistake or past behaviour as past and you have been able to forgive yourself. If this forgiveness is not yet achieved, I implore you to get support or counselling to complete that process. How can you expect another person to understand, accept and forgive if you haven’t?
1. Ensure this person will remain with you long term
2. Set the tone for the disclosure such as ‘when I was stupid and young’, ‘a long time before I met you’, or ‘before I understood the ramifications’, etc
3. Be confident they will not disclose to another person – this is hard. If you are having an issue keeping it to yourself is it fair to put it onto them and ask them to keep it secret?
4. Tell them what they need to know without graphic details, less if often best
5. When they ask for details, and they will, be selective in your disclosures
6. Allow them time to process this information or secret
7. Check in on them to ensure you can respond and clarify what they need
8. Take it as an opportunity to give what you hope to get – kindness, compassion, understanding and forgiveness.
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