Never thought I'd need relationshipfilter...
January 22, 2009 7:33 AM   Subscribe

My GF and I have been dating for almost a year. Everything is great, we're making plans, etc., but there is something that nags at me. Help me get over it.

When we first started dating a sort of game developed: one of us would say, "tell me a secret," and the other would respond with something... big or small, didn't matter, just learning about each other, bonding, you know. Or "tell me a secret about..." which could be more directed. Anyway, a few times I came up against boundaries she wasn't comfortable with -- previous relationships, college stories, things like that. I backed down of course, but it bothered me a little. Then at a party a few months ago, a similar issue came up -- an old friend of hers started to tell a story and she interrupted, saying "oh we don't want to hear that" (clearly because I was there).

I try not to let it bother me, but it really does -- it alternately makes me mad for her not trusting me, and frustrated and sad because I feel less close to her because of it. I've tried just letting it drop but it always seems to find a way back into my head; my imagination runs wild trying to figure out the horrible, terrible awful things that she just can't share with me (I know they're not true, but my imagination doesn't). Moreover (and more reasonably) she knows literally every sad/funny/embarrassing story in my past, and it feels unfair of her not to reciprocate. Of course, that's her decision to make.

Full disclosure: I am capable of being judgmental, and she knows that. But I don't want to judge her past, I just want to know her. You know? This is the only rough patch in (by far) the best relationship of my life. Help me figure out how to make it go away! Is there a way I can help her understand how I feel? Or is there a mantra I can repeat to forget about it and move on? All suggestions welcome.

Thanks everyone...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Try being less judgmental, and more understanding, of the people around you. Let her know it's something you're working on. Over time, she'll feel more safe about trusting you with those secrets and stories.

And tell her how you feel, as you've described it here. She may be so afraid that you'll judge her past that she doesn't know you feel like you're missing her in the present.
posted by amelioration at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2009

Have you ever watched "Chasing Amy?" Dismiss it as a Kevin Smith movie if you want, but it raises a good point: it doesn't matter what happened in her previous relationships; what matters is that she's in a faithful, committed relationship with YOU now. Unless there's a pattern of bad behavior that you see in her that could be further explained by her past, stay out of it. If the relationship is meant to last longer, things will come out naturally as she's ready to tell you about them.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:45 AM on January 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Moreover (and more reasonably) she knows literally every sad/funny/embarrassing story in my past, and it feels unfair of her not to reciprocate.

Why does it matter? Knowing someone is about more than having the full catalog of everything that's ever happened to them. Because that's the past. The past is past. Yes, everything that has happened to someone helps make them the person they are today, but that doesn't mean you have to examine all that stuff to truly know her today.

And FYI, that "tell me a secret" game sounds lousy, for precisely this reason- you're quickly going to run into barriers that don't even matter that will bother you. Find a new way to get talking - there are plenty of question books that could lead your conversations in much more productive directions.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Trust works both ways. You should trust that this is information you really don't need to know.
posted by grouse at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2009 [12 favorites]

Help me figure out how to make it go away!

You could murder someone! In secret! Then you'll have a secret she doesn't know about!

Or if that's too sketchy for you, just try to remember that she doesn't know everything about you. Does she know what it was like for you the first time you ate pasta? Does she know the biggest jump you ever did off of a tree branch? I'd guess she probably doesn't -- the things we don't tell people are a huge portion of what makes up our psyches, and we can't share everything. We pick the things we think represent who we are, and share those.

So she doesn't want to tell you certain things. Quite possibly, she thinks they don't contribute significantly to the person she thinks she is. Or maybe she does think they do contribute to who she is, but she just needs more time. A year's not all that long -- she may you tell you these stories eventually. Or she may not, so:

Is there a way I can help her understand how I feel?

No, don't try that. It's going to sound all pressuring and stress her out. You're two different people with two different souls. Don't try to get all up in hers faster than she's comfortable with letting you in. She may read it as I would -- aggressive and harsh, weirdly proprietary.

Or is there a mantra I can repeat to forget about it and move on?

Give it time. It'll happen if it will.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Try a new game, called "Tell me your dreams/hopes/goals". That way you will learn about the woman you're with and the woman you will get to know over the years (hopefully).
The girl she used to be isn't part of your life. You don't need to know her that well.
posted by rocket88 at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2009 [28 favorites]

This is the sort of thing that is totally in her court. The terrible, awful fantasies you're having about what she might be hiding are your problem, period. You're bothered because there's a limit to her trust and comfort with you? Tough luck. You want to "know" her? Well, know that she's got some stuff in her past that really bothers her, and those topics (whatever they might be) have to be handled very carefully if at all. Being a good partner means helping her through her issues when she's ready to be helped. Forcing her to confront them for the sake of your comfort makes it all about you and your needs, and would only make her feel worse. Buck up and drop it.
posted by jon1270 at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

sjuhawk31 beat me to it, but I was about to recommend you rent and watch Chasing Amy.

For what it's worth, I also play the "tell me a secret" game, and it's cousin, the "tell me a story" game. But relationships aren't about knowing everything about the other person, even if you feel they know everything about you. Accept that some people need certain boundaries and privacy, and even if you feel like you wouldn't judge your partner for her past (or would you? you seem ot be judging her already for not sharing and she can probably tell) there is a different sort of pressure and set of expectations placed upon women with regards to personal life that she may have overstepped, and feel uncomfortable with becoming common knowledge.

I recommend that, if she's treating you well, you let her have her privacy.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2009

Seriously dude it doesn't matter. You want to know every single little thing she's ever done? Like called a kid a jerk in second grade? Peed her pants in front of the whole high school marching band? Once stole a CD from Best Buy? Listen, I know it can be frustrating, especially when you're young and in love cause you just have to know EVERYTHING about your beloved. But then you get older and somehow all that jealousy/possessive stuff just goes away; you realize everyone did foolish or stupid things in their past, and when she's ready she'll tell you. Until then, seriously, worry about things that really matter, like mega tsunamis and Hogzilla.
posted by billysumday at 7:57 AM on January 22, 2009 [11 favorites]

FWIW, when I started dating my now-husband I specifically said that I was not going to be all counting off the number of notches on my bed post because I wanted him to understand that other than my STD status, my sexual past was not that important.

What you may not be thinking about is not only can YOU be judgmental, SOCIETY is judgmental. If she's been with too many guys, she's a floozy or a whore, and too few, she's a frigid bitch. It's a lose/lose situation.

My then-boyfriend accepted this and chose not to pry about things that were not germane to our relationship. Over time, it became obvious that he wasn't going to be that kind of jerkface, he's heard about more of my escapades, but only because people will insist on telling stories and I will insist on participating in them. If you can make it clear that you are not interested in judging her and let these things come out naturally, then that's best. Of course, if you can't NOT judge her, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:03 AM on January 22, 2009

Haha, the irony is awesome. You are posting ANONYMOUSLY about your relationship problem that she doesn't want you to know EVERYTHING. If you were so open, wouldn't you just post this under your regular old name?

Seriously, though, there are some things that our loved ones just don't need to know. Information isn't what helps you "know someone" better, time and understanding is.
posted by letahl at 8:05 AM on January 22, 2009

I don't think it's that she doesn't trust you, necessarily. It's that you don't trust her. I have some stuff from my past that my husband just doesn't need to know, because it's not relevant to our relationship. I think he knows something's there, but he has the good sense not to ask. He takes the leap of faith that if it's important to our relationship, I would tell him. He's not going to know me any better by knowing the details of my past, because I'm not the same person now. I learned from my mistakes and they won't be repeated. It doesn't do either of us any good to rehash them.

Watch Clerks and ask yourself if what's-his-name's relationship with Veronica improved after her revelation, or if he would have been better off not knowing. Also, there are things you can't unsee (goatse comes to mind) and things you can't unhear. An ex of mine told me about something he did while he was a teenager and I was never able to look at him the same way.
posted by desjardins at 8:08 AM on January 22, 2009

EVERYONE has shit they are not proud of. Some people have stuff in their past they are down right ashamed of. There are stories about everyone they would be embarrassed to hear again... even worse, have someone else hear it about them.

If you trust this woman, then trust her fully. She has shit you don't want to know - that's fine. You claim she knows everything about you, but you know this is NOT true. There is SOMETHING that you wouldn't want her to know...

Maybe you let your dog lick your balls once. Maybe you masterbated to gay porn a few times. Maybe you had incestual dreams of your mother when you were 23. There is something.

If she deserves your trust, then give it to her.
posted by Brettus at 8:11 AM on January 22, 2009

You sound kinda like an ex of mine. He knew I kept a journal online and had since 2001 and he was really unhappy and uncomfortable with my not allowing him access to it. He, like you, felt there should be full disclosure while I felt I was fully entitled to keeping secrets and having some things private. It ended up being a big thing for him and he never let it drop. It may not have been the "thing" that made me break up with him, but it certainly contributed. So don't push her on it. Because you chose to tell her everything doesn't mean she has to.

Basically, some people (esp. women I find) like to keep somethings separate and private from their partner. It isn't about being elusive or secretive or deceitful and it doesn't mean that the things I don't disclose are these horrible nasty secrets that would disgust you. I know I will always have some things I will only share with my close girl friends and not my significant other. It is almost more to do with my friends that know than about the SO that doesn't.

I'd also bet you if you did find out what these secrets she has are you would be "that's it?!" if you knew what they were.
posted by gwenlister at 8:13 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been married almost 10 years. In the early years of our relationship, I asked my guy to tell me something that bugged him about me. In his wisdom, he said, "uh... no." I kept asking until finally he relented and said, "OK, I wish your car wasn't such a mess." I still think about it every few weeks. Then I usually think, thank god that conversation stopped after the discussion of the car.

Don't pick a scab. Just. Don't.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:14 AM on January 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

Seconding rocket88 - focus on the future, not the past. That's where your relationship is anyway. Trust that whatever's happened in the past, she's over it / put it behind her / moved on / gotten over it. Trust that the future is filled with bright spots and the best relationship of your life, as you've called it. Remember that you've not exactly shared every little detail of your life and all your dark secrets (if by some chance you have, I apologize).

On a certain level, it's important to be in the loop; on other levels? Not so much.. What matters more is your life from here forward - not who she was years ago. Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2009

Moreover (and more reasonably) she knows literally every sad/funny/embarrassing story in my past, and it feels unfair of her not to reciprocate. Of course, that's her decision to make.

Two points here. For some reason, your "game" has turned into a real game. You're keeping score, tallying moves, judging and critiquing not only the players of the game and how its played. It's stopped being a fun way to learn about your partner into a a competitive reciprocal game of oneupmanship. This is how "keeping up with the Jones" games work. You are holding her to some scorecard and are upset that she's not matching up with it.

Another point is that she doesn't know every sad or funny or embarrassing story of your past. The reason why she doesn't is because you've forgotten them. Or you've embellished the stories you have told. Or you've made up stories that you really believe happened to you. You are not a totally objective story teller and all knowing soul about even your own life.

Relationships are not merely made of knowing everything about your partner. You can not know everything that happened to her life. You can not know everything that she has said or done. You met her at a certain part of her life. Your relationship is then how your proceed from there. You can get over this by stop playing this game. Stop being competitive with her. Stop holding her to a scorecard where you believe that 50/50 means everyone acting the same exact way (which really means the same way you believe you're acting) is the right way to be. Stop competing with her and her past.

You also have to remember that she knows you're judgmental. She might have these boundaries established to protect how you view her, how you view her friends, or to protect how you view yourself. And you've only been together a year. If you really are making plans, and taking them seriously, stop assuming that everything needs to be known and seen now. Taking a longer view picture on your life together and realize that there's no need to rush finding out about a funny story from her past. Cover the basics but let the details come from her at a later date. And figure out how to stop being so judgmental. The more carefree, understanding you are, the better she'll open up to you not only about her past but about her dreams, her hopes, and her assumptions about the future.
posted by Stynxno at 9:06 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

She is setting a boundary that you need to respect. That's all you need to know.
posted by RussHy at 9:09 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest you see the movie Sleeping Dogs Lie. In this movie, the guy can't deal with the fact that he now knows something unsavory about his girlfriend, even though he begged her to tell him everything and assured her that he'd love her no matter what. The girl discovers some that lies are necessary, especially because some people are judgemental and can't get things out of their heads.

The point is that if you love your girlfriend, you have to trust that she's doing the right thing. She may know that you are judgemental and that you can't get things out of your head. And she may know you well enough to know that whatever this secret of her is, that's it's something you won't be able to deal with at this point.

If you want to move ahead in this relationship, work on yourself to get this obsession that you *MUST KNOW THIS SECRET* out of your mind. Look at your present life with her and see if you can enjoy it.
posted by jasper411 at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2009

I understand where you're coming from, anon. If I was in your shoes, I would be bothered by the mystery, because mysteries always bother me. Some people can read a mystery novel, discover last page is missing, get irritated for five minutes and then get over it. Not me. I'd be hunting everywhere for another copy.

But what would bother me much more is the inequity: you have told her all your secrets; she refuses to divulge hers. It sucks to open yourself up and be vulnerable and not get the same in return! Regardless of what is fair, I understand why you feel like you trust her but she doesn't trust you -- and how that makes you feel distanced from her.

I tend to let myself be vulnerable. The error I make -- and perhaps the error that you made -- is to assume that opening myself up is a two-way contract. After I open myself up, I always feel like saying, "Okay. Your turn." And I'm surprised when the other person forgoes taking a turn. I thought we both knew it was sharing time!

But that's all in my head. The other person never promised me anything. The other person doesn't owe me anything. So I try to think of being open as a gift I give without any expectations of return. If I don't think I can do that, then I shouldn't be open.

You have two decisions to make:

1) Knowing that you might not get anything back, are you willing to be open in the future?

2) Are you willing to move forward with this relationship despite knowing that your partner will always keep some things from you?

Item two is important, because there's nothing you can do (or should do) to force her to divulge her secrets. Assume she's not going to change, and then think about what that means to you.

One more thing: if your girlfriend was reading this thread, I would tell her that secrets are very hard to keep in long-term relationships. I don't lie to my wife. Mostly, I'm truthful with her because I love and respect her. But I'm also truthful because the truth will probably come out eventually. She'll respect me more if I man up and admit it than if she discovers it on her own later. It's very hard to permanently keep a secret from someone who knows you very well.
posted by grumblebee at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

I remember an anonymous relationshipfilter ages ago that went something like "My girlfriend told me about something she did with another guy before she met me, and it really bothers me, how do I make these thoughts go away?" Being completely open about your past is not necessarily desirable for everyone.

I can't seem to find that question now, but I do remember the answers being strikingly similar to the answers here: it's who she is now, not who she was in high school or college or two years ago, that you love.

So many of us have done foolish things, and for the most part we grow and learn from them. They help us become who we are, but they don't define us.

If something happened in the past, is resolved, and no longer has an effect on her life, let it remain a secret. If it nags at you, you can always assume it's something innocuous, like getting hit by bird poop at graduation, or accidentally drinking someone's tobacco spit, or a singing career as Robin Sparkles. Even if her secret is something less tame, the end result is the same: it's in the past, and it doesn't change who she is today or how she feels about you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2009

I really thing the thing to be stressed here is just to be PATIENT. You've been together for one year. It will feel a lot better when in a year or two (or ten) she decides to confide in you about whatever these things are. Just relax and give her some reason to breathe, and grow into the relationship.

Also it's a good idea to figure out ways to calm yourself down when you are in the moment and you feel like she is keeping something from you. It's all well and good to say "I must get over this," but when you are faced with the situation once again, it's hard to not feel angry/frustrated/rejected, etc. I recently read about a technique called "self-soothing" which sounds ridiculous but it's been helpful for me in similar situations. Find something to focus on when you feel the negative feelings popping up: "I need to respect her emotional space" or "This is an issue with me, not with her." Anything to stop yourself from being angry with her.

And remember to relax, remember the reasons why you love her, and try your best to move on.
posted by anthropoid at 9:21 AM on January 22, 2009

Ugh. Did not edit for clarity/grammar.
posted by anthropoid at 9:22 AM on January 22, 2009

I try not to let it bother me, but it really does -- it alternately makes me mad for her not trusting me, and frustrated and sad because I feel less close to her because of it. I've tried just letting it drop but it always seems to find a way back into my head; my imagination runs wild trying to figure out the horrible, terrible awful things that she just can't share with me (I know they're not true, but my imagination doesn't). Moreover (and more reasonably) she knows literally every sad/funny/embarrassing story in my past, and it feels unfair of her not to reciprocate. Of course, that's her decision to make.

You're making a mountain out of a molehill. If I were your girlfriend, I'd be sorely tempted to offer up Every Single TMI Thing I could think of until you cried uncle. Oh, but that wouldn't be very appealling, right? You don't want to know the volume of her last pee, you just want her to even up the Story Score so that, what? You can modify your imagination fodder?

Quit it. A relationship is a long, slow, lovely learning process.Why would you want to run that well dry? Meanwhile, you'll make your own stories together.
posted by desuetude at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2009

there are some things that our loved ones just don't need to know.

Repeated for truthness.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:34 AM on January 22, 2009

My husband and I dated for 5 years before getting married, and have been married coming up on 3 years now. I'm STILL learning new things about him - present and past. Give it time. Trust that she's not hiding anything from you that you really need to know. If this relationship continues to be the best of your life, you'll have plenty of time to learn about each other. No need to rush it.
posted by geeky at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think you should enter a relationship fresh. It's a new start, you know? And whatever baggage comes up for both parties, then an explanation about the past might be relevant.

Think about it this way. She was a different person three years ago. You are not dating that person now. So don't judge her today based on who she was in her past.

It's something YOU have to learn to let go of. She is not obligated to reveal anything.

And I'd stop playing that secret game. It's kind of a roundabout way of building trust but it's built on a GAME. Real trust seems to be what you're grappling with so live in the moment, trust who she is today and stop intruding on her private world.

Everyone's got skeletons. If she trusts you and feels it's necessary, she'll let you peek in her closet. THAT is how you build trust.

Let go. Live in the moment. Love her who she is today.
posted by HolyWood at 10:07 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Full disclosure: I am capable of being judgmental, and she knows that.

This raised red flags for me. Maybe you've been "judgmental" about about specific things other people that hits a little too close to her? For example, if you've called other girls mean things ("sluts" etc) or made other disparaging remarks about women's sexual lives; or criticized people for overdoing the partying, etc. If so, she may not want to tell you anything for fear of being similarly criticized. In fact, you're criticizing her in your imagination already by thinking that the things she's done are "terrible" and "horrible."

On the other hand, if she doesn't want to tell you ANYTHING about her past, then that is a little strange.
posted by footnote at 10:13 AM on January 22, 2009

I think people are getting dangerously close to glorifying the cultivation of self-shame.

That said: It isn't your job to break her of the shame that she's cultivating by wrenching it out of her. She's obviously compartmentalizing her life ("I'll keep this friend, but I'll live in constant fear that they will bring my OTHER life up.") and she's doing it because on some level it's working for her.

You're worried because you don't know what is being swept under the rug and what might be lurking in her other compartments. And you know what? In this crazy world, you've got every reason to be worried. But that doesn't make it your issue. It is very clearly something she needs to work through, and something that will damage your relationship if you try to work through it for her.

So here what you do: You help her work through it by making your relationship a safe place to be honest by very consciously building the healthiest relationship with her that you can based on mutual respect.

I remember being quite struck at the ending of "Six Degrees of Separation." Stockard Channing realizes that she'll never really know who Will Smith's character is or was. For everything that we can know about people, however connected we might be to people, that story seems to tell us that it is really impossible to know everything about someone. I don't look at that in a good-or-bad way. It's just the way it is.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:20 AM on January 22, 2009

Honestly, is there not a single thing in your past that you wouldn't want to tell her about? Everybody has secrets. Unless you have some specific reason not to trust her, I'd say let it go.

And definitely stop playing the secret game. Things will come out in their own time when the necessary level of trust has been built up naturally. And even if some things remain hidden forever, that's ok.

Don't prod her to reveal things she's not comfortable with. Maybe she's done bad things in the past, realized those things were bad or wrong, and changed. And she doesn't want to bring those things up because she fears you'll judge her for them. Or else she herself doesn't want to be reminded of mistakes she's made. ie:

She was a different person three years ago. You are not dating that person now. So don't judge her today based on who she was in her past.
posted by number9dream at 10:40 AM on January 22, 2009

Maybe she's not telling you some things because she's still in process of understanding them herself, amd is not ready or able to turn them into narratives for you. Further, if you stay together, you can look forward to learning more about her as time progresses (and not necessarily by ever hearing the stories). Slow reveals can be delicious, honestly.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:43 AM on January 22, 2009

I skimmed over the last 10 responses, so apologies if this is repetition.

Based on my experience, this all boils down to communication. You have the right to ask her about whatever you want. She has the right to not answer.

But you've said yourself, the information she's keeping isn't as important as the fact that she's keeping secrets. You see that as a lack of trust in you, which leads you to doubt your trust in her.

So instead of trying to pry out the information she's hiding, have a conversation with her about WHY she isn't comfortable sharing that information with you. Make it clear that you respect her privacy(assuming you do) but that you're having a hard time with it. From personal experience, this sort of conversation works better with a couple's counselor involved. A neutral 3rd party can really help defuse emotional escalation.

It's not a lot of fun, but it WILL make your relationship stronger.
posted by specialnobodie at 11:21 AM on January 22, 2009

So instead of trying to pry out the information she's hiding, have a conversation with her about WHY she isn't comfortable sharing that information with you.

This is the worst possible thing you could do, if you want her to trust you. It's berating her for not telling you from a different angle. It's also borderline abusive. No should mean no.

There is this myth that to be in a relationship you have to be BEST FRIENDS and tell each other everything, that there should be no walls ever. That translates into no privacy.

Here's an example I will give: every other guy I have lived with thought that once we moved in together, that I was not entitled to any kind of consideration or privacy or discreetness while dressing and undressing. The attitude was "doh, i've SEEN it" (charming, I know) and while that may be true, I don't want to be ogled at 5 in the morning when I'm going to the gym, or at the end of a long shitty day when i'm changing into sweats. Sometimes you can not walk into the room, or turn your back, so the person has a little bit of a refuge. I understand that men are programmed to like looking at naked women, and frankly I like being desired, but OMFG it doesn't have to happen 24/7.

Maybe she has more in her past than you do because she's led a richer, more interesting life. Maybe she's made some mistakes, which she's entitled to not have to bring up. Personally I hate the friend who thinks they're being funny or whatever and brings up inappropriate shit, those people are usually trying to break up happy relationships.

What I don't like in here is the controlling aspect I am reading. You have to know. It's not fair. You've shared EVERYTHING. You aren't the only one who sets the rules here. And if you push, even in the slightest, even from a different direction, if you do anything but respect her boundaries and her limits and her emotional needs and right as a free human to privacy and consideration, I would tell your girlfriend to DTMFA.
posted by micawber at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

To fully love her as she is now, you might try to accept and love the part of her that doesn't want to tell you.

Whatever her reason, acceptance and love can only help build a platform for closeness and openness. A comfortable and happy respect for her privacy is necessary if openness on her part is to occur voluntarily. You can spend your time trying to (nonpryingly) understand and love the part of her that wants privacy.
posted by salvia at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2009

I've tried just letting it drop but it always seems to find a way back into my head; my imagination runs wild trying to figure out the horrible, terrible awful things that she just can't share with me

You're assuming that when you hit these stopping points, it's because there's a SECRET TO BE TOLD. It's entirely possible that there's no big shocking secret, she's just tired of plumbing the depths of the past for good stories on demand.
posted by desuetude at 12:14 PM on January 22, 2009


No. If I'm keeping something to myself, the last thing that would encourage me to share more is being badgered about WHY I'm not talking. Especially if it's couched in disingenuous 'I really do respect your privacy, but TELL ME!' terms.

She's entitled to her own bounderies and mental privacy - everyone is. Your game is no longer about bonding, it's about control.

Here's some perspective - suppose this person you care about really does have all these horrible, awful, terrible secrets in her past. What then? What if she thought YOU had awful secrets in your past - wouldn't you want to be given the benefit of the doubt?

Perhaps the mantra you're looking for is 'trust is a two-way street.' That includes trusting that your partner is a good person who just happens to have a different comfort level in sharing than you do, instead of assuming privacy = AWFUL SECRET. Good luck to you both.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:58 PM on January 22, 2009

I try not to let it bother me, but it really does -- it alternately makes me mad for her not trusting me, and frustrated and sad because I feel less close to her because of it.

Marriage is the joining of two people into a single financial entity - not a single biological/emotional entity. I really caution you to come to terms with this now. She's allowed her own secrets and thoughts and should never be made to feel that by doing so she's depriving you of intimacy. Boundaries are not separation - they are vital to maintaining one's own integrity - and you will have a far better relationship with her by allowing her to maintain those boundaries without bitterness.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Her stopping a friend from telling a story sounds odd. It's one thing to be reclutant to go into details about your past, it's another thing to have your friends actively avoiding certain subjects so the SO doesn't hear details.

I would say don't push it aside, you two really need to talk, 'cause this sounds like a small thing that will always be lingering in the background and over time, could grow much larger.
Just remember that neither of you is right or wrong, but you hae different views on this subject and you two need to acknowledge that and move on, if you can.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2009

Well, anon, I just want to say I totally sympathize. If I were in your situation, I would feel exactly the same. I tend to be very open with people in relationships and also extremely curious. If I knew there was something I didn't know about my partner I would go nuts wondering. I've been with my husband for over 10 years now and we went through a long period of telling each other everything about ourselves, over probably a two year period. I'm pretty sure at this point we have no secrets.

But there's always things people don't like discussing. I know there have been things that my husband has told me in an offhand way and with a tone of "that's the end of that conversation" and I don't pry. But I get the general shape of things, and that's enough so that I know what the nature of the thing is at any rate. It's important not to force someone into revelation. But if you keep obsessing over this, it's not going to help things.

If it were me, I would just ask. "Hey, what was that about when your friend was saying...?" If she won't say, drop it. But I would continue to ask when it comes up. Not forcefully, but gently or casually. To let her know you're interested, maybe even concerned, but not to push things. I believe in being totally straightforward in relationships, so I would probably just sit down some night with some drinks and say, "Hey, something's been bothering me and I understand if you don't want to talk about it, but I thought I'd get it out there...."

But that's not necessarily good advice, just what I would do. It works for me, in my relationship. Might not work for you.
posted by threeturtles at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2009

Her stopping a friend from telling a story sounds odd. It's one thing to be reclutant to go into details about your past, it's another thing to have your friends actively avoiding certain subjects so the SO doesn't hear details.

No it doesn't. Friends have a way being short-sighted especially when drunk. And some like to bring up controversial topics just for attention.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 3:10 PM on January 22, 2009

People have a right to privacy, they have a right to keep some secrets. Maybe you don't want to have any (though I honestly suspect you are deluding yourself about your total honesty with your girlfriend of one year) but that is your choice, you see. You need to respect her choice and remind yourself again and again that it is a fair and correct choice.

The real issue here is your lack of trust, which is a much more problematic issue in a relationship than an individual wanting to retain areas of privacy.

A year is not a very long time. The longer you are with the same person, the more vital it becomes to nurture areas of privacy and autonomy so that the shared experience can survive and flourish. The only way to acheive that is trust.
posted by nanojath at 3:21 PM on January 22, 2009

Try a new game. "I don't need to know about X in your past". Play it with yourself before asking her to join in.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:26 PM on January 22, 2009

you don't really want to KNOW, you just want to make her tell you

curiosity killed the cat

pandora's box

all of that.

Very few people want to know anything about their partner's intimate past. brings out the worst in all of us.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 6:41 PM on January 22, 2009

I remember situations in which I was perfectly willing to be honest and communicative with a potential partner, but their arrogant, insistent demands for information about my past--as if they were entitled to know everything about me-- left me alienated. I started to feel as if they viewed me as an extension of themselves, and only cared about me insofar as I made them look good in the eyes of others. Google "narcissism, control and enmeshment" if you think it might be helpful.

Another relevant topic:

Healthy Boundaries: What Are Boundaries?
posted by aquafortis at 7:01 PM on January 22, 2009

Do you really want to know all the details about your girlfriend's experiences before she met you? Are you sure you wouldn't be jealous, judgmental or wield information like a weapon for use in a future argument? Are you going to lay awake at night obsessing about something your girlfriend did years ago?

I made the mistake of over-sharing with an ex-boyfriend because I thought that I was being honest and because he had shared his own secrets with me, and even let me read his journal. Even though my own secrets were less scandalous than things he'd shared, the way he treated me began to change and he acted like I was damaged goods. We both regretted that I'd shared so much.

It is important to completely live in the present. You might consider stopping with the "tell me a secret" game and move on to something less confessional and potentially volatile.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2009

So, I had a similar thing with an ex and we had some major trust issues. It wasn't helped by the fact that I happened upon the folder of explicit photos of her and her ex doing it that she was saving ("neat vacation photos! oh hey, what's this folder called babes?").

I understand your desire to know things about her, and to be more intimate. But ultimately, it's about _you_ affirming _your_ fears, and you more you want her confide in you, the more she'll resent it.

The best way to get her to open up is to stop with any judgy, prying behavior, post-haste.
posted by dentata at 8:51 PM on January 22, 2009

PLEASE don't take most of the advice on this thread. You are absolutely within your rights to feel "off" about this. Clearly, your gf is not in the same place you are regarding your relationship. It's clear you have long-term plans in mind with her, yet she's still trying to figure you out. Since you do care for her so much, I say wait it out, but DO NOT take this relationship to the next level with this hanging over your head. Wait for her to find that comfort zone with you, that's the only way you'll have peace. Otherwise your relationship will be lopsided and there will always be mistrust on both ends. As someone who used to try to hide things about me and my past and who subsequently lost a lot of great guys who wanted more intimacy from me in the process, I can attest that there really is no way to the next level without honesty. It's true you'll never know everything about anyone, but some of the things you name seem like basic information anyone would ask. You're right to have pause about your girlfriend's inability or unwillingness to trust you enough to open up. So just wait it out, let her know this is bothering you, and wait it out. Don't sit on it, like most people here are telling you to do. You will NOT get over this. Express your feelings and wait it out--but only for so long. If after another year or so, she is unable to give you the intimacy you need and desire, it's clear you are incompaitble and you might need to make the necessary adjustments. But whatever you do, DON'T belittle your very legit feelings like many posters are advising, be true to who you are, that's the only way you and your girlfriend have a future. Trust me, I know from experience.
posted by GeniPalm at 10:22 PM on January 22, 2009

But whatever you do, DON'T belittle your very legit feelings like many posters are advising, be true to who you are, that's the only way you and your girlfriend have a future. Trust me, I know from experience.

This is bad advice. While you are entitled to your own feelings on the matter, they can not be assuaged at the cost of your fiancee's privacy. It's unfair to require this of anyone, and it will come back and bite you eventually, even if your pressure yields results.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:21 AM on January 23, 2009

The Light Fantastic: It's similarly unfair and unhealthy to keep someone like the OP in a potential emotional minefield. GeniPalm was pointing to the very real possibility that they are simply incompatible, and that was good advice.
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:59 AM on January 23, 2009

It's hard to expect people to be completely open with you if you're a judgmental person. If you want people to be open with you it's a better choice to be an accepting person.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2009

dont ask question to which you dont want the answer

there have been questions that have nearly killed me i wanted to ask so bad. if i got answer A i would be happy. if i got answer B I would have had major issues with other people involved.

i didnt ask the question and i kept my friends.
posted by phritosan at 8:33 AM on January 27, 2009

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