When You’re On a “Need to Know Basis”


Everybody’s got shit in their past they wish they’d never done and wish would simply go away, never to be discussed ever. A variation of that is someone that has something done to them that bring up terrible memories like rape or abuse. They think people will perceive them differently, possibly find them unworthy. Compound that with even a little bit of pride and you can create a vicious cycle in which secrets come between you and your partner. When your partner is on a “need to know basis” and you decide they don’t. How does that end up working out well?

My agent/writing coach would tell me that this would be an excellent time to provide an example from my own life as to how secrets have impacted my relationships. “How did it make me feel?” Well, I’m not one of those writers (at least not yet) that will bare my entire soul for the sake of my craft. I don’t begrudge anybody for that but it’s just not me. Most of the world for me truly is on a “need to know basis,” but if I’m forming a partnership with a woman. There comes a point where there is much that needs to be shared or I’m placing limits on intimacy and barriers to communication. I’m not talking about naming people you’ve slept with or divulging the deepest secrets of friends. I am talking about the events in your life that inform all that you do that you refuse to discuss.

These aren’t first date kinds of conversations although certain things probably ought to come up sooner than later. I’m talking about when you’re at a point where things are getting serious and there are some things that you should know and that you should share. The longer you wait though, the harder things are to bring up.

In my semi-player, manipulative days, I would casually reveal highly personal details about myself to create a false sense of intimacy. None of the things I really wanted to be kept hidden, but enough to accomplish my limited selfish goals. My goals have changed and I want more now than I ever did before. I recognize I have to give true and full access to myself and have also come to expect the same. It is normal for people to be reticent to reveal their deepest and darkest secrets. It requires great risk and facing your fears. If you choose never to… there may be a cost.

In the process of editing this piece, I made the mistake of showing it to the aforementioned agent/writing coach and then heard all of the things I expected. “This is a good beginning” (it always starts with faint praise) but you need to go deeper.” People need to have specific examples of what are deal breakers because nobody’s going to tell you everything. After an intense negotiating session, I compromised and agreed to produce a list of things that ought to come up in conversations early in your relationship, (I’m married, I have kids, I’m being stalked by my just released ex-husband). Things to discuss when things start getting serious, (I’ve served time, my credit sucks, that stalking ex-husband said he’d “kill anyone “ he saw me with or I’m transgendered). And the things you swore never to tell anyone ever but there came a time to share, (I was once a male prostitute, I murdered my last lover, I voted for Trump).

People can dispute at what point in a relationship various things should be shared. My point is that not sharing can ultimately force you to lie and may ultimately build walls between you that can’t easily be torn down.