I am a 34-year-old woman in a serious relationship with a great man six years my senior. He's everything I've ever wanted in a man and I'm completely in love with him. We've been seeing each other for almost eighteen months and I know he is very happy in our relationship too.
The problem is that I have a secret that I've been keeping from him since the beginning. When I was much younger, long before I knew him, I committed a crime and got away with it. Not the kind of crime where anybody was physically hurt, but a crime that would have resulted in jail time if I had been caught.
When I first started seeing my boyfriend, I thought about telling him, but I didn't have the guts, and then, as time passed, it became less and less possible. It became a self-fulfilling thing where the more time passed, the less I felt able to tell him. The longer I waited, the more not telling him felt like I was deceiving him. But it's circular: I can't bring myself to tell him for the very reason that I haven't told him yet, if that makes any sense.
I know the logical response is to say "tell him now and get it over with," but the very thought makes me sick to my stomach. He is an extremely honest, honorable person (this is a big part of why I love him) and I think he would be so disappointed that I'd ever done something so wrong that he would break up with me on the spot. And even if he could somehow get past the crime I committed, he'd probably break up with me for not having told him about it before now.
I don't want to lose this man, who is the best thing that ever happened to me, but the more serious we get the more haunted I am. I feel completely paralyzed. What do you think I should do?
Girlfriend with a Secret
I know this isn't what you want to hear, but you're going to have to come clean, and soon.
If you are contemplating a life with this man, you have to do him the courtesy of letting him know exactly who you are. I know it's hard (and I know this is a lot easier for me to say than for you to do), but you will have to take the risk that he will leave you after he knows the truth.
Remember, this problem will not go away with time. As you have seen, it has gotten worse, not better. Imagine how you will feel if you become engaged with this secret still between you. Imagine being married, knowing your husband trusts you implicitly but that you are keeping something huge from him. If you are haunted now, you will be positively tormented then.
I am not saying partners are required to give one another laundry lists of everything they've ever done in their lives. Details here and there are unimportant and can occasionally be left in the past. But this is not a detail; it's too big to let lie. It is clearly significant enough that it affects how you perceive yourself, so much so that you fear it will fatally alter the way your boyfriend perceives you. I suggest that you use exactly that approach when you bring this up with him.
Explain that what you are going to tell him will come as a shock, and apologize ahead of time for keeping it from him for so long. Explain that you understand that this might change the way he feels about you, and that you are prepared for the consequences -- but that you love him too much, and respect him too much, to keep it from him any longer. Tell him honestly that you don't want to lose him, but it is your very love for him -- your desire to be fair to him -- that compels you to tell the absolute truth about yourself. He may well be staggered at first, but he won't necessarily run for the hills. You can't be sure how he will respond. The critical thing is that he will get to respond for himself, in the way that is best for him. You will have to take the consequences, whatever they are.
You say you got away with the crime you committed. Perhaps the loss of this relationship will mark a balancing of the scales after all this time. Either that, or your boyfriend will be able to look past the crime and you can move forward together on a more honest footing. In either case, tell your man the truth. Do the right thing, Girlfriend.
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