Of all the bad choices I’ve made in relationships and the wrong turns I’ve taken, I will forever be grateful that I did one difficult thing right.
To set the scene: The man who is now my husband and I had an admittedly awkward journey to falling in love. First we were next-door neighbors, then casual friends, then close friends. And all the time our relationship with intensifying, I was dating other people in a concerted effort to find love.
My now-husband made no secret of how he felt about some of the guys. One time, he couldn’t hold his tongue when I brought around a guy who he thought didn’t treat me right and who generally hadn’t left a good impression.
“Are you really that desperate?” he asked, next time we saw each other.
I cried, but he was right. I broke up with the guy the next time I saw him.
I met my husband during a lonely and confusing time for me. I dated a lot of guys who weren’t worth my time, and crossed a lot of lines I never planned to cross. As my friendship with my husband grew, I had begun to pull out of this dark place and set better boundaries and higher standards for myself. But every now and then I’d still slip up.
Just before my now-husband asked me to start a relationship with him, I had reconnected with a guy with whom I’d had a pretty serious relationship. We decided to meet at his place to talk and play games and I ended up staying the night. We didn’t have sex, but we did get physical. Even worse: I found out he had a long-distance girlfriend at the time. I was ashamed.
So when I agreed to start dating my husband, shortly afterward, there was a little pit in my stomach marring my happiness. Should I tell him what had happened? Or should I just be silent and hope he never finds out?
Hard as it was, I decided our relationship needed to begin with honesty. I decided to tell him. I also told him he could ask any question about my dating history, and I’d do my best to answer honestly. I didn’t know if he would want to keep dating me after that, but he processed the information, asked a few questions, and said it was okay; it was in the past.
And we’ve continued that trend of honesty and collaboration into our marriage. There are no dark secrets from our past or present that can hurt us, because we make a point of talking about the hard and uncomfortable things. There are things I definitely struggle to tell him about – my anxieties and stressed about work, my parenting insecurities, my dieting struggles. Hidden problems have a way of festering. But I find when I bring these issues out into the light and talk about them, they lose some of their power over me.
I’ll take a tough conversation over a dark secret any day.