Don’t Keep it a Secret / Your Safe Word is…Honesty
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My new friend and I get along really well. So well, in fact, that things are beginning to move to another level. He and I were introduced by a mutual friend who apparently has a thing for him. We feel sort of guilty, so up to now we have kept our relationship away from the friend who introduced us. But he’s going to find out sooner or later and neither of us wants to hurt him and/or lose him as a friend. What to do?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Put yourself in the mutual friend’s position. If you were him, would you want to be blindsided and find out in a sudden or embarrassing way? Or would you rather be told privately and conscientiously by the parties involved? It’s not rocket science.
The real issue here is that you don’t like your choice. But your decisions up to now have left you with no other option. Unless, of course, you wish to break up for the sake of your friend. That doesn’t make sense, of course, so there you are.
I’m always telling people that the essence of sanity is serenity. Serenity implies an acceptance of what you can’t control. It’s hard enough for us to control or manage our own romantic reactions, much less the romantic connections of others. It’s just the nature of reality, and we face it day after day. You can’t shield anyone from this, and you should not try.
So rather than wasting time worrying about his reactions down the line, focus on what you can control now, i.e., not blindsiding him. That is a much more sincere display of your feelings of friendship than sneaking around behind his back. And then go enjoy your budding relationship with guiltless glee and vigor while wishing the very same thing for everyone else who wants it.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
A couple of months ago I met a really nice woman at a local bar. She and I have gotten along great—up until we had our first “hook up.” That’s when I found out that she is into…shall we say, waayyy more “aggressive” lovemaking than I could even imagine. She even brings a little kit full of…accessories. I really like her, and don’t want to disappoint her (any further), but I know I will never be able to give her what she wants. Is there a way to make this work?
Dr. Hurd replies,
You really haven’t given me enough information to fully answer your question. To better understand, we’d have to know what she does and does not consider a “dealbreaker.” Is she so into these particular sexual activities that in all honesty she’s not interested in pursuing a relationship with someone who isn’t? If that is not entirely clear to you, then you must let her be the judge of that, rather than making decisions for her. If the relationship is worth saving for you, then she has to be a part of this decision.
People tell you things through their actions. When words and actions conflict, I usually pay more attention to actions than words. For example, she might tell you that she’s OK with having a relationship even if you don’t share her taste in sex. Who knows? As you get to know each other more, and explore all the different levels and facets of a deep relationship, including sex, you might decide to open your mind to some of her preferences. Or there might just be some things you can’t enjoy under any circumstances. That’s OK too, and it’s all right if you don’t know for sure just yet. The overriding factor is that you have to be honest.
Mind reading is futile. We often attempt to do it without realizing it’s what we’re doing. It leads to a lot of frustration, anxiety, and sometimes even depression and the like. And it has no basis in reality; it’s all just in your head.
You mention she’s sexually aggressive. This is probably her personality coming out. While it’s true you don’t have to do anything sexually you don’t wish to do, you can’t really ask her to change her personality, either. Keep that in mind and make sure she understands you know that.
Probably the worst thing you could do here is to pretend you like what she offers in the bedroom, and then go along with it. That’s the real lose/lose. Why? Because if you succeed in faking it sufficiently, you’ll be greeted with an invitation to the same thing again and again. Imagine how hurt, disappointed, and embarrassed she will be if she ever finds out you faked it. Or, if you fake poorly, then that will lead to a harmful and painful form of mortification (albeit temporary) for everyone involved.
The best way to run a brand-new relationship is the same way as an old one: With honesty and integrity. Yes, it can sometimes end up in hurt, but given the potential for a long-term bond, it is the only way to go.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr. Hurd