I go into the living room, Onyx and Jet hot on my tail. I pull up my website, and I’ve gotten a lively set of responses to my post about secrets and lies in relationships. MNborn writes, “My marriage was a hot mess of secrets, mostly on my husband’s part. He was fucking anything in a skirt that moved—but he vehemently denied it if I ever brought it up. It was crazy-making for me—I knew he was cheating on me, but he would never admit it. Talk about gaslighting! He also gambled away his earnings and mine. When I divorced him a year later, I was poorer in the wallet and in friends—because he fucked them—but richer in mental health.” NYOnMyMind muses, “My mother raised me to believe that my first and only goal was to be a wife and mother. That’s all she was, and she was miserable, though she would never say that out loud. My father was a good man, but ineffectual against her rages. He would disappear in a book when she went off on a rant, and I learned to follow suit.” CallMeJoe adds his two cents. “My father was having an affair with my mother’s younger sister. My aunt was barely eighteen at the time. None of us knew for five years, including my mother. We only found out when he left my mom for my aunt, whom he then left a year later for their oldest sister. This was twenty years ago, and me and my five siblings haven’t talked to our father ever since.” InSaneIty shares, “It was an open secret that my mother was in and out of mental institutions for most of her adult life. My father would say she was away at a cousin’s, resting or some shit, but my three sisters and I knew the truth. We could see it in her behavior leading up to the lock-up. She’d swing from mania to depression in the blink of an eye, and she tried to kill herself on more than one occasion. She died five years ago while on one of her ‘rests’. I was sad about it, but also relieved. She was hard to live with when she wasn’t locked up.”
There’s a small group of commenters who insist that their relationships are completely honest, transparent, and free of lies. The other commenters take them to task, but I don’t bother. If someone is deep in denial, it’s dangerous to take that away from them. One thing I learned in Psych 101 was that you don’t remove someone’s coping mechanism if you don’t have anything to replace it with. Even bad coping mechanisms are better than nothing. In addition, who am I to say that they’re lying? I’m sure there are relationships that are mostly honest and healthy, but I haven’t seen many of them. My friend Liz and her husband, Frankie, are as close as it gets to a great relationship. Before the last few weeks, I would have said Jasmine and Bob also had a solid relationship. Now, I know better. It’s not to say they can’t recoup what they once had, but it’s going to take work.
Speaking of Bob, I need to read his emails. The last time I asked Jasmine for his password, however, she got mad and refused to give it to me. She might feel differently this time because she’s more desperate now, but I wouldn’t count on it. I decide to be sneakier about it, even though it makes me feel slimy. I know his Gmail account is firstname.lastname@example.org. My bet is that he’s not very creative with his passwords. I try Jasmine, and I’m in. I make a mental note to tell him to change it later, but for now, I shake off my feeling of discomfort and read his emails. Most of them are mundane and about church or business. He doesn’t have them in folders, so it’s a slog to scroll through them. I see a thread from Hayley, and I open it up. I start from the beginning, which was three weeks ago. In her email to him, she’s whining about her husband and having to stay home with her baby. His response is compassionate and thoughtful, but with a tinge of impatience. I have the feeling that he’s heard it a million times before, and he’s getting tired of it. I would be, too, if I were him. I have little patience for people who want to wallow in their own misery.