My boyfriend and I have a secret love affair. We’re in love and we want to be together, but it’s complicated. It hurts so much to have to lie about our relationship. I don’t know how long this will go on, but it’s already been a long time. I want so much to be out in the open and be a real couple, hold his hand, say: “Hey everyone, I’m his girlfriend and I really love this man!” It’s hard to pretend that I don’t care and that I’m not interested in him. I think our relationship is potentially strong, but we’re not together like a normal couple. We’re only together a few hours at time a few days a week at the most. And worse, since we have to lie about our relationship, I’m always afraid I’ll slip up and “out” us. My boyfriend handles the situation better than I do and seems ok with it, but as time drags on, I’m getting increasingly stressed out. I don’t think he understands how much this is bothering me. When I try to tell him he says I’m pushing him, but all I really want is someone to talk to, and he is the only one I tell! If we can’t talk to each other, who then? Please don’t judge. We are stuck in a bad situation and I think it will eventually resolve itself, but meanwhile, how can I make this relationship work if the person who should most understand what I’m going through and support me, won’t talk about it?
Alison’s Take: We don’t know all the details of your life or relationship, and we’re not here to judge. You asked for advice, and we’ll do our best to give you some perspectives that might help you.
A couple that has to hide their relationship is not a couple in a traditional sense, although they may consider themselves as girlfriend and boyfriend when they are in private. That changes the dynamic of your relationship from one of outward joy, to one of two people hiding a secret from the world, together. By your own admission, you are deceiving others, and for most people, that’s stressful. So although you are happy to be with each other, you pay a price in terms of your inner peace and probably your physical and mental well being. Some people seem to manage this kind of relationship well, but for others, the stress is overwhelming. It appears from your letter (which we edited for privacy’s sake) that this is happening to you, and you’re about to crack under the strain of it.
It is natural that you’d want to talk to someone about this, and you are already aware that many people will not be supportive. A therapist or counselor might help you sort out some of your issues, but as I see it, you and your boyfriend do need to talk about these issues too. The key is not to push him over the limit. Many men really just don’t like to talk about their feelings or they just don’t express those feelings verbally very well, but I imagine your boyfriend is also stressed out. If you can share your feelings with one another, your bond should remain strong and grow stronger. But it is also possible that your boyfriend sees your relationship as a respite from the other stresses in his life, and for that reason he doesn’t want to talk about what’s happening. He just wants to “live” and “enjoy” being with you. So you can’t continue to bludgeon him with your unhappiness every time you see each other, either.
Ultimately, if what you really want is to be an out-in-the-open, recognized couple, then you need to figure out if this could be a possibility. It appears as though it might be. So you need to do whatever is necessary to make that a reality. That might mean being patient longer than you’d like, but at some point if it looks like it’s not going to happen, it might also mean that you will have to end the relationship you have with your boyfriend. In either case, there will be pain. One thing I am sure of, the situation is going to end badly if you don’t manage it.
Even strong couples sometimes balk at dealing with emotional subjects, but when communication is limited to a couple of hours a week due to time and lack or privacy, it is nearly impossible to work out all the issues without being honest and forthright. So speak your mind, but don’t push too hard. You might point out to your boyfriend that if you can’t talk about your feelings, hopes and dreams, you cannot be intimate. Assuming you are both mature adults, talking things through is probably your best bet for relationship success. Again, it’s just a matter of balancing the positive experience with this.
The good news is that if you can survive the challenges you are facing right now and become a genuine couple, your relationship will be strong enough to withstand just abut anything life will throw at the two of you.
Tony’s Take: Carla, we have a couple of different things going on here. Let’s take them in reverse order. Anyone, including you needs to be able to discuss their relationships with an unbaised, independent third party ,be it a girlfriend, an old time friend who you do this with mutually, a religious advisor, or a professional counselor. I think your boyfriend has a point in that when you keep trying to discuss these issues with him, it makes him feel as if he is doing something wrong , and he he feels defensive. You need someone who is not part of this situation to talk to, so that you can discuss this situation completely with clarity. That might be enough to work everything out for yourself.
Although I will fault your boyfriend for not moving things forward in a manner which you can understand and trust in, I think he probably knows what progress has to be made. He is confident enough in you and in the relationship to allow him to keep the relationship going and be secure in his life , until such time that he can have an open relationship with you.
Carla, he understands and Alison and I understand that it hurts to not be able to share what you have with the world. But you must remember that the first rule is to be happy that it is happening at all. Be happy with what you have now, and trust that if this is the right man for you, that things will get better and will resolve.
Just as men need to realize that women have to talk to settle things in their own minds, a woman needs to realize that men are problem solvers and if you keep coming to him with a problem which directly relates to him, whose solution is essentially that he is causing you anguish then his response will be either to say I should leave you because I am hurting you or to try to put aside the conversation because he feels guilty about hurting you.