Sharing Secrets
— Relationships —

Sharing Secrets

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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?


16 Comments

  • Esther Zimmer May 11, 2016 at 6:18 am

    “But once you know something, you can’t just un-know it”. So true. We long for deeper connections, but there are things that friends have shared with me, which I would have preferred not to know. A thought-provoking post, thank you. Esther xx

    • Sara Cornell May 11, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes I feel that I attract everyone’s karmic dirty laundry. The challenge for me is staying true to myself!

    • esrcornell May 12, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes I feel that I attract everyone’s karmic dirty laundry. The challenge for me is staying true to myself!

  • Jen Lawrence May 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I find people tell me their secrets as well, perhaps because I am so open about certain aspects of my life others tend to keep cloaked. It’s true about not being able to unknow it: I try very hard to not judge but sometimes it’s almost impossible. I adore your writing: “how do you tell someone what to do with their heart?” Beautiful.

    • Sara Cornell May 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      I too get lots of unsolicited information, perhaps because like you I put a lot of my own information ‘out there’. Which begs the question what is the difference between telling your secrets on the Huffington Post and telling your BFF over a bottle of wine…?

    • esrcornell May 12, 2016 at 11:22 am

      I too get lots of unsolicited information, perhaps because like you I put a lot of my own information ‘out there’. Which begs the question what is the difference between telling your secrets on the Huffington Post and telling your BFF over a bottle of wine…?

  • 1010 Park Place May 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    As friends, we often put one another in difficult situations, but I try and remember, someday, I may approach them with something they’d rather not hear! Brenda

    • Sara Cornell May 11, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      I find I’ve become more filtered and self censoring as I get older – perhaps because I wore out my own secrets welcome mat in crises past…?

    • esrcornell May 12, 2016 at 11:23 am

      I find I’ve become more filtered and self censoring as I get older – perhaps because I wore out my own secrets welcome mat in crises past…?

  • Jodie Filogomo May 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    You speak truth Sara….but I guess that is the whole idea of a “good friend”—it may not be the funnest part, but it is part of life!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • esrcornell May 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

      It is indeed part of life…and perhaps through sharing our darkest moments we find out who our REAL friend are…

  • Janne Hogan Aubrey May 11, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    ‘Secretly resenting…’ You caught me off guard. As someone who also feels privileged to share intimacy with my friends it had never occurred to me one might feel resentful over a personal revelation. Something to consider.

    • esrcornell May 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Friendships can be so wonderful and so tricky at the same time. Especially as we get older and our lives get more layered and more complex.

  • Susan Tolles May 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Love this, Sara. It is a blessing to have friends we can “get real” with, but there are definitely some things that are better left unsaid. I have known women whose lives are an open book, and I tend to stay away from them because of the drama. We need to choose our words wisely, and consider the burden they can be on those who hear them. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you to hear those two major bombshells! It’s no wonder your frienships waned. Thanks for the thought-provoking message!

    • esrcornell May 13, 2016 at 6:25 am

      Thanks for your comment, Susan. Sometimes when I think about wanting to put some distance between myself and these women I feel like a “bad” friend, but we each have only so much bandwidth to deal with our own shit. Thanks for validating my perspective!

  • Grace @ Heartful Habits May 13, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    I don’t know. I think it’s important to share secrets. And it’s a real gift to have a close friend who loves you enough to see you through your crap. It’s not healthy for anyone to suffer alone in silence and shame.

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