Are YOU keeping a big secret from your partner? Tracey Cox advises how to handle the trickiest dilemmas – from a 20-year lie about a child’s REAL father to a hidden STI
- Tracey Cox listens to people’s uncomfortable and difficult personal situations
- British expert gives advice on dilemmas such as having a secret STI
- READ MORE: What does YOUR orgasm face say about you?
Everyone has secrets from their partner and most are inconsequential and relatively innocent.
But not all.
Like your partner having no idea that mate of yours they now count as a close friend was once your lover.
Like pretending your parents died young because you were embarrassed about them, when they’re very much alive and kicking.
Like you don’t really have that university degree they’re so proud of you for getting.
These are just some of the sex and love scenarios no-one wants to be in – or has a clue how to get out of.
Tracey Cox listens to people’s uncomfortable and difficult personal situations and offers advice on how to get through these awkward moments of honesty (stock image)
I asked people to tell me the guilty secrets that keep them up at night with the promise of helping them find a solution that suits.
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these dilemmas, but there are good points to consider if you’re in a similar situation.
We all like to think we’d always do ‘the right thing’ but there are always situations when we just…don’t.
I HAVE HERPES AND HAVEN’T TOLD MY LONG-TERM PARTNER
‘I got herpes when I was very young: about 24. For years, I had awful attacks but then it disappeared.
‘For about ten years, nothing! When I met my partner of five years, I didn’t even think about it. But then the outbreaks started again, and it’s become a real problem.
‘I should have just told her the minute it happened, but I felt ashamed. That was two years ago. I swear the stress of not telling is what’s causing the reoccurring attacks.’
WHAT TO DO:
Some infected people choose not to tell casual partners: they don’t have sex during an outbreak and use condoms the rest of the time.
But not telling a long-term partner puts psychological stress on the relationship.
Why are you keeping quiet? Because it insinuates you’ve slept around? That’s simply not true. You can be unlucky enough to have had one partner and contract the virus.
Hiding it compacts the shame; avoiding sex leaves your partner confused. Why don’t you want to have sex with them? Don’t you fancy them anymore?
If you don’t tell, she’ll think you’ve cheated if she does get infected. She’s far less likely to believe you had it all along in this scenario.
She has a right to know. Most sufferers get warning signs of a herpes attack: a tingling usually precedes the painful ulcers.
But it is possible to shed the virus, and infect others, even if you aren’t having symptoms (though taking daily medication like Acyclovir helps reduce the chance of this happening).
One study showed transmission between couples is about 10 per cent per year…but about 70 per cent happened when the infected partner had no symptoms.
Lots do take the risk. Having said all this, if you avoid having sex during outbreaks, it’s entirely possible you will never pass on the virus to your partner.
Herpes is incredibly common. I know and have known a lot of people who carry the virus: there’s a chance your partner also has it, without knowing.
Roughly half haven’t told a long-term partner and I know of only one case where it was transmitted.
If you think telling will disrupt your relationship and you aren’t willing to take the risk, that’s your decision.
There is a way to tell retrospectively. Some people don’t find out they’re a carrier until years after they caught the virus.
They only find out when it shows up on a blood test. (You can only determine whether it’s a new or old diagnosis by getting a swab test of active lesions.).
Tracey Cox (pictured) offers advice on situations including not telling a long term about an STI and revealing that your daughter isn’t your husband’s
If you want to confess but don’t want to say you’ve had it the whole time, one way out is to say you got a blood test for something else and it happened to show a positive result.
MY PARTNER HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY LOVERS I’VE HAD…BUT ALL MY FRIENDS DO
‘I am happily partnered up with a great man who has never asked about my sexual past.
‘Let’s just say I was wild. I’ve had a lot of lovers and a lot of one-night-stands and experiences.
‘My friends joke about what a “slut” I was in my “old life” and I am terrified one of them will tell my partner and he will leave me, thinking I’ve misled him.
‘I haven’t lied because he’s never asked how many before him, but I haven’t come clean either.
‘I’ve asked my friends not to tell but they’re big drinkers and I don’t trust that they won’t blurt something out.’
WHAT TO DO:
What happened before you met your partner is your business and no-one else’s. The fact that he hasn’t asked about what you got up to before him, signals to me that he agrees.
Why would your friends sabotage? They might be big drinkers but why would they want to ruin a good relationship by saying something out of line?
If they do make a comment that suggests your ‘number’ is high, laugh it off and say something like, ‘I remember that.
That’s when I was going through my ‘bad girl’ stage.” Then change the topic.
If your partner asks you about it privately later, ask him what it is he’d like to know. Tell him you went through a period of sexual exploration which suited you at the time but that he already knows about any significant partners in your life.
Numbers mean nothing without knowing the circumstance behind it. I am strongly against telling each other how many lovers you’ve had for this reason.
Twenty sounds high but it’s not if you’re 35 and been single most of your life.
Clock up that many when you married at 19 (and still are at 35) and that’s a very different scenario. Agreed?
MY BEST FRIEND IS GETTING MARRIED TO A MAN WHO I KNOW MIGHT BE A CHEATER
‘She’s been my best friend forever and I really like her fiancé who she’s been with for a while.
‘But a few months ago, at a party at their place, I watched him flirting with another guest.
‘I kept an eye on them and at one point, they disappeared, so I followed. I found them in what looked like an about-to-be kiss.
‘They pulled apart when they saw me, but it looked dodgy. We had all had a lot to drink. I didn’t say anything at the time but now I wonder if I should.’
WHAT TO DO:
The saying ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ was coined for situations like these. If you tell a friend their partner is cheating – or a potential cheat – and they manage to convince them they aren’t, you will be seen as the person who tried to break them up.
If your friend knows you’re right but chooses to forgive her partner, every time she sees you, she’ll be reminded of something she wants to forget.
On the other hand, if he’s exposed as a womaniser and you admit what you saw, she could see it as a terrible betrayal.
In situations like this one and similar, these are the things to consider.
Who is it? If it’s your sister or best friend who is being cheated on, there’s a higher expectation that you would warn them.
If it’s a mother you see at the school gates, it’s none of your business. If you know them well, you’ll be able to answer this crucial question: What would they want me to do? Above all, be guided by the answer to this.
Not everyone wants to know: This guy is about to be married: lifelong commitment makes the most faithful person a bit skittish and panicked.
He may have been thinking, ‘This will be the last time I’ll ever be allowed to be sexual with someone else’, which made flirting with an attractive guest hard to resist.
Discovering an actual affair is even trickier. The person might already suspect or even know what’s going on but is choosing to look the other way.
Most affairs fizzle out. They might decide they’d rather wait and see what happens than confront and jeopardise their relationship.
Approach the cheater not the cheated on: If you know the cheater reasonably well, this can work. (I’d particularly recommend it for the scenario we’re discussing here.)
Take them aside, tell them you’ve heard rumours/saw them with another person and ask if they have an explanation. Who knows? They might do.
If it’s clear you were right, look them straight in the eye and say, ‘I haven’t told X. But if I hear or see anything else, I will be forced to. Do you understand?’.
Not only have they been warned, you also haven’t looked the other way and done nothing.
MY DAUGHTER ISN’T MY HUSBAND’S
‘I met my now husband at the tail end of my relationship with a guy I dated during university. It took me a while to break it off and there was a period when I was sleeping with my ex but not with my husband to-be.
‘I realised I was pregnant two months later. I know it wasn’t my husbands because we’d been using condoms.
‘From the moment she was born, my daughter looked very much like her biological father. I battled with telling the truth to both men but never did.
‘It seemed like it would cause heartache for everyone. No-one knows the truth. She’s now 20 and has a fantastic relationship with the man she thinks is her father.
‘I don’t think it wouldn’t matter to either of them if their relationship was biological or not. The older I get, the more it feels like I have done the wrong thing.’
WHAT TO DO:
Ageing has an annoying habit of making us more altruistic. But I wonder what possible good with come from you coming clean.
Yes, your husband and daughter will know the truth but that will come at a high, painful cost. However devoted to each other they might be, they will struggle with this knowledge.
There are lots of people who believe your husband’s right to know he isn’t the father obliterates any argument to not tell.
I am not one of those people.
This is my personal opinion, but what is the point of breaking everyone’s heart 20 years later?
If they weren’t close and had problems bonding, I could understand wanting to reveal a possible reason why but not in this idyllic scenario.
A few points to consider.
Hereditary health issues. Not knowing her biological father’s medical history could pose problems for your daughter.
If you know he’s suffering with health issues or has died early, it’s on you to find out why and deal with the implications.
How likely are either to find out? In your case, the risk is low unless you confess or your daughter gets ill and needs help from a family donor and Dad doesn’t prove a match. (The moment in movies when the truth comes bursting through the door.)
If you’re reading this and in a similar situation but someone is threatening to expose you, my advice would be to tell. Better a tearful confession than an unwanted discovery.
Is keeping the secret ruining your relationships? Is this stopping you enjoying your relationship with your daughter and husband? Or is it more a sense of conscience that’s playing on you.
Consider the impact on them, not you. It might be a weight around your shoulders but, quite frankly, that’s yours to bear.
You made the choice not to tell, now you must live with the consequences. This is life-altering news and a decision that could shatter the lovely life you are all living right now.
One final point: don’t even think about telling one and not the other. You don’t have to do it simultaneously, but if your husband knows, so must your daughter. And then does it follow the biological Dad should know also?
- Want some advice on other relationship or sex dilemmas? You’ll find Tracey’s blog on traceycox.com and details of her weekly podcast, SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey. You can submit a question for her to answer on the show at sextokpod.com.
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