An Inconvenient Secret; plus, Boyfriend Bank & Trust
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I‘ve been put in an awkward position by my best friend’s girlfriend. Right out of nowhere, she tried to sell me…shall we say…an illegal substance. Pretty benign, frankly, but illegal nonetheless. She prefaced her offer by requesting that I not tell her girlfriend—who is my best friend. Apparently my friend’s not aware that her partner partakes in these substances. Now every time I’m with them I feel like I’m perpetrating a lie against my friend. What to do?
Dr. Hurd replies,
The issue here is not illegal substances. It’s secret-keeping. My first question is: Why did your friend’s girlfriend think you’d want to purchase an illegal substance? Do you partake? My point isn’t to interrogate or lecture you, but if she already knew you were interested in such things, then it really wasn’t unreasonable for her to ask. If that’s the case, you probably shouldn’t be so hard on her.
Regardless, I don’t think the girlfriend has a right to ask you to keep a secret. If she had started out her offer by saying, “I’m going to ask you something, but I first want your consent to keep it confidential no matter what,” that would be one thing. I don’t imagine you’d have agreed, but at least your secrecy would have been consensual. However, nobody has a right to put you in the position of keeping a secret after the fact—particularly one you don’t want to keep. It’s manipulative in the extreme.
At the same time, I don’t think you’re necessarily obliged to spill the beans. I understand why you want to, and you certainly have the choice. But think carefully before you do so. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Shoot the messenger.” It doesn’t always work out that way, but surprisingly often it does. Maybe it’s better to let whatever is happening with the two of them play out on its own.
If I were you, I’d say to your friend’s girlfriend, “I’m sorry, but I can’t promise to keep a secret. You’ve put me in a bad spot. I won’t necessarily run out and tell her, and I might not do it at all. But I reserve the right to do so.” Who knows? Maybe your stated position will generate an opening-up between them that is obviously overdue. The rest is their business and their problem to work out.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’ve been seeing a really nice guy for about four months. Everything was going great—until he asked me for a loan. We’re talking a rather substantial amount of money; at least for me. When I asked him what it was for, he got irritated and said I was invading his privacy and didn’t trust him. We get along perfectly in every other way, and I want to stay with him, but I feel like this could be a slippery slope. Now he brings it up every time we get together—even during our “intimate” moments. Am I missing the forest for the trees?
Dr. Hurd replies,
You might indeed be missing the proverbial forest. The trees are part of the forest, and you can’t divorce any one tree from the forest itself. I will give your boyfriend some benefit of the doubt here. He might be in a difficult position; perhaps of his own making, but you don’t know for sure. Either way, instead of telling you about his difficult position (isn’t that what friends and boyfriends are for?) he’s asking you to blindly loan him money.
You might say to him, “There’s obviously something troubling you. I’m disappointed you won’t tell me about it. I understand it’s probably hard, but aren’t you putting the cart before the horse? You’re asking me to help you with a financial problem, the details of which you won’t share with me. And we’re supposed to be friends?”
Bottom line: Of course you cannot loan him the money. It’s like walking across a busy highway blindfolded. He won’t even trust you with the facts, yet he still expects you to trust—and help—him. Friends don’t ask friends to do this sort of thing. Are you afraid he’ll break up with you if you don’t loan him the money? Think about what that means. The person you’d be breaking up with is very different from the “really nice guy” you thought you knew, and with whom you got along perfectly in every other way.
But this painful new information trumps what you thought you knew about him. You have to like and trust the whole package; not just part of it. If his feelings for you are sincere, then he might accept and even respect your refusal to blindly loan him money you don’t really have. If that happens, you’ll have learned something good about him. He might even open up and tell you what’s going on. You two could end up closer because of all this. And then you can figure out how to solve the problem together.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr Hurd