Recently a friend told me that she was having an affair. Not long after that, another friend, after a few too many glasses of wine, told me she was living in an emotional and financial house of cards, just waiting for her life to implode. Over and above the immediate concern I had, for my friends, was the feeling of discord and awkwardness that permeated my psyche. I felt like I was privy to too much information and could no longer be objectively neutral in their presence. The problem was (is,) I am equally attached to both friends AND their spouses, and feel vested in the happiness and success of both parties. How do you have a meaningful, or even a superficial conversation with someone when you know a deep secret about them?
A number of years ago my then best friend told me she was no longer in love with her husband. I remember thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this information?” I couldn’t share it – who would I share it with? And I couldn’t really give her any advice because how do you tell someone what to do with their heart?
I remember secretly resenting her for making me part of her emotional black hole. Our relationship eventually dissolved for a number of reasons, but I can’t help thinking that her sharing, and my lack of appropriate response (at least in her mind), played a big part in our drifting apart.
As a writer I am always seeking issues and themes that are intimate and perhaps slightly provocative. As a friend, I want the people closest to me to trust me and feel we can discuss difficult and even taboo things that will foster greater affinity in our relationship. But how much is too much information? At what point do you cross some undefined line by making your friend complicit in your personal struggle? Or is the very nature of an intimate, emotional relationship; one in which no topic is off limits?
I’m glad the friends in my life trust me enough to share their innermost thoughts. I feel privileged I can be a part of their life experiences, but once you know something, you can’t just un-know it. Once you have shared something deeply personal with another person, you have created an almost spiritual connection.
How often do we think about the implications of telling our secrets to our best friends?