The Truth Can Set You Free
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I wrote to you last year about my (former) partner whom I suspected of cheating on me with a woman who was a mutual friend. Back then, my partner vehemently denied seeing her, and the two of us have since gone our separate ways over other issues entirely. A few weeks ago I saw her at a local event with that woman! It brought back all my anger—not about her possible cheating, but that she might have been lying about it. It looked like they were “together,” but I have no evidence of that. Can you make me feel better?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Can I make you feel better? Sure. You made the right choice. What better validation do you need?
Who knows what’s really going on. For all you know, they might just be friends. But it’s also likely that last year you were picking up on some kind of connection between them. Try to put aside your hurt and anger and look at how astute you are. That should make you feel good.
A part of you doesn’t want to feel good right now. You can’t help but have a renewed sense of loss. This is a normal and necessary part of any break up. People in unhappy relationships sometimes say, “I can’t break up with my partner. We’ll run into each other out in public.” Actually, the pain and awkwardness of doing so is part of the healing process. Your psyche has to get used to the fact that what once was, no longer is. This is common sense, but emotions are often slow at catching up with common sense. These awful experiences help the process along. Think of it as mental medication.
So what’s the worst case? Your ex-partner was a phony, two-timing liar. At least you saw through the cracks so you could move on. Sometimes we make errors about a person’s character. It’s important not to treat that as a catastrophe. Read a biography of anyone you consider interesting or admirable. Think about the life events of people you know. I guarantee that everybody has at least one major letdown with a significant other (romantic or business), and most people have had more than one. You’re not alone.
People are not always bad. Sometimes they just change. Rather than owning up to it in a straightforward and rational way, they go about it indirectly, which sometimes results in deception. That’s not an excuse, but very often that’s the way it is. You survived it, and (forgive the cliché) you’ll survive to love another day.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
In a past issue of your column, you gave me a choice between staying in my faux-heterosexual marriage with my wife of 40 years, or finally freeing myself and admitting to her that I am, and always have been, gay. Let’s face it: Forty years ago people got married. That’s what they did, no matter what. Well, you really made me think. I agonized for months. I finally made a great dinner, poured some wine, and broke the news to her. She looked at me and said, “It’s about time!” She’d known all along. She very matter-of-factly told me that she loved me and appreciated my loving her in spite of our physical incompatibility. We’re both in our 70s, so our physical life hasn’t changed that much, but I feel like a 500 lb. weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and our relationship—as best friends—is even stronger. Thank you, Dr. Hurd. You changed my life.
Dr. Hurd replies,
I say it all the time: People are not stupid. They usually know what they’re doing, and they generally know what’s going on. Your wife is no exception.
With human beings, the issue often isn’t ignorance or stupidity as much as not wanting to know something unpleasant. This is certainly true with many of the social issues of our day. It’s true with bigotry, of course, but it’s also true with matters related to daily life, including relationships.
The truth does indeed set you free. Are there risks? Of course. But refusing to take risks is in itself a risk, as you discovered. Living a lie, or more precisely, refusing to say the truth out loud, became the 500 lb. weight. You cluttered your life unnecessarily by keeping a secret that was never much of a secret to begin with.
The biggest mistake people make is caring too much about what other people think. If you’re right, and sure about it, then you need not care what anybody else thinks. You simply know they’re wrong, or that they don’t understand. Some don’t want to understand, because they have other agendas—emotional, political, or whatever.
This is particularly true if you’re gay or lesbian and you think somebody will not approve. So what? It’s the truth, either way. Your wife obviously has an important connection with you, albeit an unconventional one. But in some sense you obviously do love one other, and it’s always wise to speak the truth to those whom you love.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, life coach and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.