SE­CRETS YOU SHOULD NEVER KEEP

Ev­ery woman has her se­crets, bien sûr. But, there are times when spilling the beans is the right thing to do given that your very health and hap­pi­ness could de­pend on it. So, when should you ’fess up rather than shut up? Diana Bal­lon dishes on six key sce

Best Health - - CONTENTS -

WITH YOUR PART­NER

PEO­PLE OF­TEN KEEP SE­CRETS TO PRO­TECT THE other per­son — and them­selves — but some­times that can back­fire, dam­ag­ing the re­la­tion­ship in the process, says Rose­mary Carl­ton, a so­cial work lec­turer at the Univer­sité de Mon­tréal.

She re­calls work­ing with fam­i­lies where a gam­bling prob­lem came out only af­ter they’d lost ev­ery­thing — their car, their home — and were in a com­plete state of cri­sis.

When you make a de­ci­sion to keep your habits, like an ad­dic­tion, a se­cret from your part­ner, you take away their power to pro­tect them­selves, or, con­versely, to help and sup­port you through your cri­sis, Carl­ton says.

The same holds true when dis­cussing other is­sues, like a men­tal health prob­lem or ad­dic­tion that you may have had to cope with in the past. When you share this in­for­ma­tion, your part­ner can then be there to sup­port you and let you know of warn­ing signs that you may be slip­ping, or that the prob­lem is resur­fac­ing.

But the de­ci­sion to dis­close can also be quite nu­anced, and de­pends on how the past prob­lem in­flu­ences the present, says Eugenia Mess­ner, a reg­is­tered psy­chother­a­pist who works in a com­mu­nity health set­ting and pri­vate prac­tice in Toronto.

For ex­am­ple, a single in­ci­dent of self-harm­ing in mid­dle school may not nec­es­sar­ily be some­thing you need to reveal. And di­vulging in a new re­la­tion­ship that you are tak­ing an­tide­pres­sants might be some­thing you de­cide to share when you’ve been to­gether a while, and when more trust has been es­tab­lished.

“What you bring to the re­la­tion­ship is im­por­tant and it re­quires sen­si­tiv­ity, says Mess­ner. “Part of dis­clos­ing some­thing about our­selves in­cludes con­sid­er­ing how the other per­son may re­spond, ques­tions they may have and sup­port that might be needed by ei­ther per­son due to the dis­clo­sure.”

WITH YOUR MOTHER

WE ALL KNOW THE PLATITUDE “LIFE IS short.” It’s one that takes on new mean­ing as our par­ents age. We can’t pre­dict when we won’t have them. And we can never know for sure if this could be our last con­ver­sa­tion.

Things not to keep to your­self? That you love them and ap­pre­ci­ate cer­tain things that they’ve done for you or mem­o­ries they cre­ated for you.

Things to keep zipped? Well, that is not as black and white, but if there are times from your past when your parent has dis­ap­pointed or up­set you, says Carl­ton, you need to ask your­self two ques­tions be­fore you spew. One, will it make a dif­fer­ence, and two, what will the im­pact be on them? Of the lat­ter, you need to be care­ful when re­veal­ing a se­cret that it’s not a self­ish move. “Are you giv­ing pain to some­one else to carry and cre­at­ing more dis­tance be­tween the two of you, or have you opened up a place to talk?”

Mess­ner rec­om­mends that, in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, a health­ier way to deal with past hurts may be to “process some of those emo­tions with­out in­volv­ing the other per­son,” like with your ther­a­pist. It’s one thing if you feel you need to tell her things for your own self-re­spect, but an­other if you’re ex­pect­ing things to change when you open up about some­thing, but are in a sit­u­a­tion where that is un­likely to hap­pen.

“Some­times be­ing open and di­rect about past hurt feel­ings can be help­ful to the re­la­tion­ship, and other times it can be fur­ther in­val­i­dat­ing [to you] and dam­ag­ing to the re­la­tion­ship,” says Mess­ner.

WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND

PART OF THE PLEA­SURE OF HAV­ING A BFF IS KNOW­ING YOU CAN TALK ABOUT any­thing and they’ll un­der­stand. But what if your friend is in a re­la­tion­ship that you don’t think is healthy? Do you say some­thing, or does that risk your own re­la­tion­ship?

And if you do de­cide to tell your friend some­thing dif­fi­cult, how do you tell them? For in­stance, sup­pose you see her hus­band with an­other woman?

Carl­ton sug­gests be­gin­ning with this: “I’m go­ing to bring up a dif­fi­cult topic. I love you. I re­spect you. I am here for you no mat­ter what.”

Then, make it clear that re­gard­less of what she de­cides to do — or not do — it will not in­ter­fere with your feel­ings for her.

“Telling the per­son and think­ing they should ac­cept your per­spec­tive isn’t giv­ing the per­son credit,” Carl­ton says. They may have their own ra­tio­nale for why they would stay with a boyfriend who is cheat­ing on them, for ex­am­ple, or who you see is oth­er­wise not good for them.

“Peo­ple’s choices are tied up with all kinds of things,” says Carl­ton.

Let your friend know that you trust that the choice she makes is what is best for her and that you’re happy to talk it out with her.

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