General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Are secret relationships bad? (my story included)

Asked by seekingwolf (10392points) May 24th, 2009

I was told by a friend today that because I’m in a secret relationship, it means that I’m being deceitful to everyone and it will fail. This sort of hurt because I really trust this friend and what she has to say to me. Now I’m doubting my current situation.

I’ve now been in a relationship with a guy for 1 year. I love him dearly. There’s a 15 year age gap and he’s also from a different ethnic group than I am (he’s filipino and I am white).

We’ve been seriously dating for a year and our relationship is very open and healthy. However, only a couple of my closest buddies know about him and NONE of my family knows. I know that we are legally able to date but I know that my father would hate the fact that he’s Catholic and Filipino, and my mom would hate the fact that I’m dating a much older man. I dated an older guy when I was 14 and she seriously freaked out (understandably), so this has sort of scarred me now. Even now that I’m legal, those traumatic memories still haunt me.

A small part of me wants to tell them, but how? and when? and I’m SO scared. Even just thinking about telling them makes me feel like I’m going to vomit. I love my boyfriend to bits and he’s so supportive of everything that I want to do but I just know my parents (esp mom) would dislike him because he doesn’t “fit the mold”. Plus, it’s a long distance relationship most of the time. We met the….unconventional way, should I say? (He was born and raised in CA by the way…)

As for him, he’s standing by whatever I want to do. I cannot stress enough how wonderfully he treats me…whenever we are together, physically close or physically apart, it’s great. He’s been there for many of my “firsts” in college and never interferes with my course work. (like other boyfriends I’ve seen).

I’ve never worried about this before, but I am now for some reason, probably because of what my friend said and I ran out of my anxiety pills ><.

What do you guys think?

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38 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Your friend speaks the truth. If you have to keep it a secret, it’s not a strong relationship.

seekingwolf's avatar

I mean, I’ve been planning to tell my parents and friends…but then again, I waver! We have a great time together and my parents/friends are all really judgmental, as evidenced by events in the past.

I have no idea.

Jeruba's avatar

Don’t rush to a decision. Let’s think about this a little bit. You don’t have to do anything today or tomorrow.

MrGV's avatar

No, it’s your personal life and it’s your choice; if someone don’t like it oh well.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Is this an online thing? Why the distance?

Nah never mind, I don’t need to know.
If you feel confident about your relationship, you should be able to share it with your family. If your not confident about sharing this with your family, then maybe that needs some introspection.

Darwin's avatar

If you are thinking this is the guy you want to spend your life with, then you are going to have to tell your family sometime, probably fairly soon. And if he is as wonderful for you as you think, your family might just surprise you. However, if they don’t accept him bear in mind that once you leave home your family becomes the people you gather around you. Besides, grandchildren can often change family opinions.

In any case, I think you do have to tell them, but not necessarily today.

seekingwolf's avatar

@Jeruba

I know I know >< I guess I am just worrying.
It’s starting to really strike me though “Wow, I’ve been dating a guy seriously for a year and no one knows.” I’m not sure if that’s good or what.

All I can say is that I love him and he’s been there for me when others were not. We’ve had a lot of good experiences together.

seekingwolf's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic

Well, it moved online to real life pretty quickly, obviously. He’s taking care of his father and mother back in CA and doesn’t want to go anywhere until he knows they’ll be okay wtihout him. He’s really devoted to his family…I talk to his younger sister a lot (she’s 21) and he basically put her through college. His Dad has Alzheimers and all…But I do get to see him so it’s not a big deal.

@Darwin

He’s pretty much sterile and I won’t (and can’t to an extent) have children so there’s no issue with grandkids.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Do you think maybe because there is such distance between you, you’re not confident enough in the “relationship” to acknowledge it? Does the distance not give you enough of what feelings of love and support you get from your family and so you don’t want to gamble it?

wundayatta's avatar

Well, it seems like you don’t want to hide it from your parents. Just that you believe they will flip out and you don’t want that.

Why do you think they will flip out? The age difference? The race difference?

What do you think they might do if they find out?

seekingwolf's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence

Not really…I’ve hidden relationships before that were always in real life…I just worried about what my parents would think so I hid them, even though I was the legal age and didn’t have to or anything.

Like I said, distance isn’t a big thing, especially with technology these days. I’m not always in need for physical attention (although it’s nice!) so as long as we get that emotional/intellectual connection, I do fine.

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

They will flip out. Period.
Why? 1) He’s not a doctor, like them. 2) He’s not white 3) He’s 15 years older than I am.

They will flip out. My mom will yell and scream. My father will scold me. I’ll cry and want to curl up into a ball and die. This exact thing has happened before…I don’t want it to happen again.

They are hypocrites, really. My mother has dated TONS of older guys (30 year age gap) when she was my age and my father dated Asian girls. But, somehow, they don’t want ME doing that.

If I could just know that they would accept him, I’d be okay…It goes back to “not wanting to disappoint them”.
Oh, and I’m always dependent on my parents to pay for college and possibly med school…what if they took that away?!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Well, as quickly as you’re answering the responses and what you just said about having secret relationships in the past, sounds like you’ve got this figured out and are asking for affirmation? Okay, personally I don’t believe secret relationships are bad because I’ve no experience with them. I wouldn’t consider a set up as you’ve described as a relationship so much as a distraction or infatuation.

hug_of_war's avatar

I can see hiding it from your parents, even if you’ll have to come clean at some point. But having only a few close friends know? I would expect most of your friends to know.

Darwin's avatar

@seekingwolf – When I was dating the man who became my husband I thought my parents didn’t know. But, when I called to let them know we were going to marry, they knew already. Again, your parents might surprise you.

I worried about telling my grandmother because my husband to be was of a different race, but he charmed her with humor and gifts of her favorite chocolate-covered cherries, so all has turned out well, at least with my family. Some of my husband’s family members don’t consider me a good choice for him or that our children are on the same level as the “real” grandchildren, but, you know, that is their problem.

As to having children, actually if the two of you could have children that would be a plus factor. Many parents change their attitudes once there are babies. However, having children is your decision, not theirs.

mangeons's avatar

I personally think that you should tell your family, and trust them to trust you to make the right decision, and be with who you want to be. It’s not up to them who you date, and if they don’t like it, then that’s just too bad for them, in the end, no matter what they think, it’s up to you who to be with. If you really like/love him that much, then you’ll stay with him no matter what your parents think. It’s not their choice anymore.

richardhenry's avatar

I don’t see any reason to change anything. If you’re still seeing this guy in a few years and things are getting really serious, then sure, you should let people know.

But if you really think all telling your parents would do is make your life hard, then no, I woudn’t tell them. They don’t need to know right now.

seekingwolf's avatar

Sorry guys I guess I’m just sort of upset right now…I don’t even remember what I’m asking…>< My mind is a mess.

@hug_of_war

Well, I don’t share a lot with people, even friends…actually…wait, only 1 of my friends knows everything about this. He’s one of my best friends. Only one other person knows a couple details but barely anything. I guess I don’t really trust them either. All of my guys’ friends know and he doesn’t care.

@Darwin

Yeah, he can’t have kids…sort of the reason why he was single for a long while. (also, he’s kind of a difficult person for a lot of people to deal with, but he’s not for me)
My parents have known for years that I won’t (and sort of can’t) have kids. I plan to stay on the pill for a LONG time for my PCOS. They said not to worry, my sister wants to have kids someday so they’ll be all set.

He shares my idea of having a child-free life, focused on work. He’s a workaholic and so am I! There are so many things about him that I love. Part of me just wishes that we could be “facebook official” and everyone would accept us…but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

wundayatta's avatar

I think you have to try to figure out what your parents’ concerns are. I’m sure they want the best for you, and they are afraid that an older guy will take advantage of you, or just dump you when he’s tired of you.

I have no idea why they would be bothered by his race, unless they are prejudiced. So where would the prejudice come from?

As to the doctor thing—wow! I mean, that’s a lot of heavy baggage to lay on your children. Do you have any brothers or sisters? My (perhaps former) best friend also grew up with a doctor father, and all of his siblings went into medicine (although one as a nurse), but he didn’t. Of course, he was the youngest. In any case, that’s a heavy expectation, and it sounds like your family is very strict about that (you almost sound Asian, or second generation, yourself, in that way).

Sooner or later you’ll have to find a way to let your parents know who you are. They think of you as their baby still, but college is the time these things change. You’ve been hiding your private life all this time, but now you want to be open. That suggests that you want to change the grounds of your relationship with your parents, but it scares the shit out of you. I guess it should. It’s a big deal.

I have no idea how to evaluate this idea that they might disown you, or threaten to take away your college education if you don’t break up with him. That was done in the 50s, but today?

I think you might want to ask for some brainstorming here. How can you prepare your parents, or explain what’s going on in such a way that they will understand.

I’m a great believer in stories for that. Start at the beginning, and they will see what’s coming. If they let you tell the story, they have a chance of understanding.

dannyc's avatar

Bad, I am not sure. Only you can answer that. But very stressful, and thus leading to a bad result unless you remove the stress, that may be highly likely.

jrpowell's avatar

“Oh, and I’m always dependent on my parents to pay for college and possibly med school…what if they took that away?!”

And that is the crux. I was going to say that you should tell them until I read that. A hard position to be in. It sucks that you are in it. You seem smart, you will figure it out.

jackfright's avatar

it doesn’t sound like a healthy, long term relationship to me. no offense when i say this, but what matured working/professional adult finds an equal in a college/uni girl? i dont mean to put you down, but guys like that always come off as sleazy to me.

race isn’t the problem here, but the age gap, and the fact that you have to hide it is.
your friend may have overreacted, but im inclined to agree.

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

sigh I have two sibs…a bro and a sis. Both have developmental disabilities…I’m the only one who is going to go on and lead a normal independent life. They probably won’t be able to.

I’m working on being a doctor and there is a lot of pressure. However, it’s what I want to do with my life and I can’t see being anything else. No one has any idea how much pressure I’ve been under my life to do well…It’s like I’m the one kid who isn’t “sickly” and now I need to go out and make something of myself. I don’t know how else to put it

Oh, and I’m not Asian. :) I just come from a long line of doctors who work work work work work. I can appreciate work and I love my coursework but I’m just under a lot of pressure.

@dannyc
Yes it can be stressful, but most of the time, it isn’t. We talk during the day and such, so it works out okay.

@jackfright
If you knew me well enough, you’d understand that I’m nothing like other college “girls”. I’ve always had trouble associating with people my own age because I couldn’t relate to them and I found them immature. I don’t drink, I don’t party, I don’t listen to their music…this is sort of why I don’t have many friends.

Our relationship, like many age gap relationships, isn’t totally “equal”. There is an understanding that he’s older and smarter than I am (but I am catching up!). However, deep down, our life philosophies are the same, despite different life experiences. We even like the same music. We respect each other and this may sound corny, but when we are together, the age melts away. I don’t see the small wrinkles or his bald spot or how he can’t keep up with me when I run ahead…it doesn’t matter. He’s ageless to me and I know I am to him.

I know that you didn’t mean to be offensive so I’m not mad, but your comment shows that you’ve never been in this type of relationship. If you were in my shoes, I have no doubt that you’d understand where I am coming from and you’d see it differently.

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

I am thinking about the story idea and that sounds really creative! I never thought of that!

I also wonder if someday, I may tell them when I’m at home…I’ll probably just write my mother a REALLY long letter and give it to her and leave the room. I used to do that with dad when I needed to say something but I was scared. She’s the one I’m mostly worried about…I know my father will accept it with time because he and I are close and he trusts me.

We’ll see. For now, I guess, I’m just keeping my mouth shut and enjoying our time together.

nikipedia's avatar

I was told by a friend today that because I’m in a secret relationship, it means that I’m being deceitful to everyone and it will fail.

You are being deceitful.

That doesn’t mean it will fail.

In general, your friends and family want what’s best for you. When they don’t approve of something you’re doing, that’s usually because they think it will hurt you in some way.

I want you to really, honestly examine your parents’ motives. How much of this is about him not being a doctor, or about being a different race?

And how much of this is about him being older than you…when you have already had a relationship with an older man that you acknowledge was unhealthy?

If you were in your parents’ shoes, wouldn’t you be concerned, too?

It sounds like the reason you’re hiding this relationship is not because everyone you know is completely insane and is going to judge you unfairly. It sounds like you’re hiding it because you worry there might be something a little off about this relationship.

If what you say is true, and your parents are just bigots, then fuck ‘em. You don’t need them to pay for your schooling and you shouldn’t accept their money if the conditions are that you have to act like a bigot, too.

seekingwolf's avatar

@nikipedia

You’re totally right…it’s more about the age gap thing than anything.
The guy I dated before was when I was underage. That was the issue. Oh, and he was totally mental. When I was 14 and with him, I was also EXTREMELY depressed and not at a good point in my life. I’ve changed a lot since then.

I believe wholeheartedly in this relationship; he’s nothing like my past relationship and he’s very stable with a good income and he’s very good to his family. I’m just worried in their reaction REGARDLESS of the fact that he’s good for me. It’ll just be a “blast from the past” for them because he’s older and I know my mom will freak out, and will it ruin the relationship?...I know with time, my dad can accept but I’m not sure about my mom.

Yes, I guess I would be concerned if I was in their shoes…but I wonder if they could give him a chance? Despite the past baggage? I have no idea.

I will admit, I think my parents do have some prejudices. I don’t like it, but I love them anyway. I DO need that money for school and I can’t risk my future.

I hate to say it, but maybe I’m just a very deceitful person. I hide things.
I hide relationships, I hide friends from other friends, I hide my family from my friends, my friends from my family, heck, I started hiding things when I was only 4 I’d hide drawing pads, pencils, “secret papers” I’d call them…why?...it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll somehow disappoint my parents, or my friends will get weirded out by my family, or whatnot…I’ve been scarred by past life experiences and maybe also that I was just born a secretive person.

The end result is that I’m on tons of antidepressants, I get migraines, and no one knows who I really am except my parents and my boyfriend, who don’t know each other. I rarely reveal personal details to friends. I’m a mystery and boy it’s tiring to be one.

Sometimes I just wish I could go a special place and not have to deal with any of this. No parents, no boyfriend, no friends. I just want to learn and build a future career for myself that will make me very happy. That’s the most important thing to me.

wundayatta's avatar

I know that pattern: pressure from parents, desire to meet those expectations (although, in my case, officially there were none—hah!), fear of disappointing others, depression, medications, feeling like few people know who you are, especially those who used to know you.

Since I’ve been diagnosed as bipolar, I haven’t told my family, nor have I told my (formerly) most cherished friends, none of whom bothered to check on me during the year I was really sick. It is deceitful, and it is a deceit born because the things we are are stigmatized by society.

My parents don’t believe in mental illness. My friends—they might be sympathetic, and they might not. In any case, it hardly matters, since we don’t see each other any more. However, I just told someone today. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, when I decided to tell my wife what had been going on with me, I didn’t start, “Oh, hey, honey, I’ve been cheating on you.” I told the story of us growing apart, and me trying to wait and wait, and putting up with the distance and lack of affection, and finally breaking, and figuring I would take care of my physical needs on my own, so as not to bother her.

I was afraid to talk to her, because I was afraid if I told her the truth, she’d divorce me. This was before I got involved with other women. Since I believed she’d divorce me anyway, it didn’t seem to matter so much what I did.

I’d love to say that the answer is communication, and you just have to do it. But we are fearful creatures, and if we don’t feel we have power, we can let that fear stop us from telling those we care about who we really are, and what we really want. When you tell the truth, to some extent, it is a roll of the dice. I got really lucky. It turned out that she did love me, and she understood that she had withdrawn from me, and she wanted to fix it. So…. work in progress.

Deceiving people we care about ties us up in knots. I’m sure it creates anxiety which doesn’t help us lift ourselves out of depression one bit. At some point, I think, you have to take the risk of the truth. If you lose, you just lose support. You can eventually deal with that and support yourself. If you win, you win so much more. You win the ability to be close with those you care about. Do not underestimate the value of that.

seekingwolf's avatar

we can let that fear stop us from telling those we care about who we really are, and what we really want

This is so true. You really know how I am feeling right now.
Telling your wife about your being bipolar and cheating on her is HUGE…my situation seems like small potatoes…and the fact that she’s supportive and is working on fixing, well, maybe my family can do the same. It gives me hope…

Someday, when I get the courage to tell people about my boyfriend (this has always been a matter of WHEN, not if), then I can stop my pattern of being deceitful, which I know is hurting me more than anything else. My being deceitful is like eating cookies, it’s so easy and it feels good in a way and you can’t stop with just one! But inside, it’s killing me and my relationships, the communication lines are clogged like a fat lady’s arteries and I’m choking with the stress and pressure. Sorry for my bad analogy but I’m tired.

wipes away tears Thank you for your answer and thank you to all of you.

I know what I have to do. I can’t do it right now, I’m afraid, but I know I will someday. Even if my boyfriend and I don’t make it, I am still going to tell them. Someday, they are going to know. Whatever happens…I’m going to be okay. I’ll go on and reach my dream (being a doctor) with lots of hard work and time.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@seekingwolf: I just wanted to say I don’t think your relationship is bad, and I can relate to the tough time you’re going through with trying to sort things out. I’ve been having some similar problems, and I know it can be hard. I wish you all the best. <Hug>

jackfright's avatar

i said what i did before because while you’re entirely right- no, i have not experienced this (and i likely wont because i’m not attracted to older women) i have seen girls who have, my younger sister and in one of my ex best friends.

interesting then that both of them had the same reaction you did which can be summed up in 2 lines; “this one is different” and “you wouldn’t know”. both are likely true, but what i do know is that neither relationship ended up being long-term or positive.

i just loathe guys who do this.

also, dont be goaded into feeling guilty for hiding things. i do it all the time and i couldn’t be happier.

TaoSan's avatar

@jackfright

Guess I’m a real shitbag then, my SO being 12 years younger ‘n’ all…

@seekingwolf

Hang in there, these things have a way of working themselves out. Don’t think of yourself as being maliciously deceitful. Think of it as protecting your parents from facts that they have developed a phobia about. No one says it makes you dishonest to simply keep some of your secrets. Stupid age stigmas :/

<—- roots for you and wishes you both all the best…

Strauss's avatar

@seekingwolf Your story sounds similar to mine. My parents were very old school, from a time when racial boundaries just were not crossed. For example, when I was in high school (mid-1960’s) I became friends with a black student (I am white), who I invited over one time. My parents were very polite, and did not say anything untoward when he was over, but after he left, they told me I could not invite him over any more. They were concerned about what the neighbors would think.

Fast forward about 20 years (late 1980’s). I was living far away from my parents, and had met a woman 11 years younger than me, and she was black. We decided to marry, and figured we would have to break the silence on our racial difference. I told my siblings first, and all except my older brother supported me. His reasoning had nothing to do with the person, but his concern for me dealing with interracial issues. My mother, when we told her, was very supportive, and grew to love my wife and they had a very good relationship until my mom passed in 1996.

A couple years after we got married, my older brother called one day, and had a long talk with my wife. He apologized for his original reaction, and said that he now realized what a good wife she was for me. He said he was only concerned for our happiness.

I guess the advice from my experience would be this: people can change. Your loved ones can surprise you. Your marriage will be for you and your spouse. If family members have an issue with either cross-cultural or age difference, let them know how happy you are. Understand that any concerns they have, however misguided, will usually be out of love and concern for you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

There is fear on many levels at play here, mostly fear of the unknown, or fear of what is perceived.

Hugs and happiness to you @seekingwolf .

alive's avatar

this reminds me of my coming out story. i wanted to tell my parents that i was gay, but i had all of these conflicting emotions, and i didn’t know how they would react etc.

take my advise, do not waste your time and energy worrying about it. when the time comes you will have the courage to tell them and deal with whatever consequences arise (good or bad), it will be fine.

(also, i understand that your friend’s comments made you worry and feel uncomfortable with your situation. you should consider her advice, but also remember that ultimatly the decision is up to you and even if she is judging you, you have to do what you think is best for you.)

everything will be fine. and what is not fine you will have your significant other there to support you just like he always has. its going to be ok kiddo. now take a breath.

focus and worry about other things that are important like school. that is worth your time and energy.

and gooood luck! :)

Judi's avatar

I wouldn’t tell you family until they have nothing to hold over your head. As long as they can say, “Quit seeing him or we will no longer pay for your education,” you are taking a chance. Introduce them at your graduation. :-)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Yetanotheruser What a cool story. I love that.

@daloon, you’re the only one on here who knows me well, so you won’t be surprised at what I’m going to say here. You know I’m a romantic.

@seekingwolf, if you love this man & he loves you, do what you feel is right. So what if there’s an age span? Do you make each other happy? It sounds like you do. You’re of legal age. No one has the right to tell you what to do. Go with your heart. Life is too short to be without the one you love. Will your family be happy about this? It doesn’t sound like it. But are you going to give up the love of your life to make other people happy? And who knows…they may come around. It’ll be their loss if they don’t. You can’t live your life to suit other people all the time. Do what feels right to the two of you. Believe me, you will regret it if you don’t.

SirBailey's avatar

The important question to be honest with yourself about is whether or not, at some level, you AGREE with what you anticipate your parents would say???

cwilbur's avatar

This is very much like what gay people experience when they date someone who’s in the closet, or when they are in the closet when they date someone.

I’ll tell you what it’s like from the other side, because I’ve dated someone who wasn’t out. You have to refer to him as a “friend” or a “roommate,” never as “lover” or “partner.” You get to avoid his parents and friends, because he’s paranoid that they’ll figure it out if they see the two of you together. You get to deal with his constant shame and fear about what will happen if he’s out.

It’s not pleasant at all, and I don’t think it can be a healthy relationship if you have to isolate it so stringently from the other important people in your life. More than anything else, you are hurting yourself and him by living deceitfully rather than honestly. Sooner or later you will need to inform your parents; you might as well do it sooner than later, so that you can end the deceit.

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