As Dana accurately points out in in her blog, Are Opposite-Sex Friends Okay, I am the one that had the “secret friend” that almost ended our relationship.
One of the most eye-opening and jaw-dropping epiphanies in my adult life occurred this month when Dana shared the First Things First article she showcases in her blog.
As Dana mentions, Dr. Todd Linaman created the following 20 questions to test opposite-sex friendships to determine whether they pose significant danger to your primary relationship. Please note you can interchange “spouse” with significant other, partner, and/or domestic partner as Dana and I are.
- Is your spouse unaware of your opposite sex friendship?
- Would you behave differently around your friend if your spouse were present?
- Would you feel uncomfortable if your spouse had the same quality of friendship with someone of the opposite sex as you do?
- Do you prefer to spend time alone with your opposite sex friend rather than in a group setting?
- Are you physically and/or emotionally attracted to your friend?
- Is your friend someone you would consider dating if you were single?
- Have you ever entertained romantic fantasies about your friend?
- Do you ever compare your spouse with your friend?
- Do you think about sharing important news with your friend before your spouse?
- Do you or your friend ever exchange highly personal details about your lives or complain about the marriages that you have to each other?
- Do you often reference or talk about your friend with others?
- Has your spouse ever expressed concern about your friendship?
- Is your relationship with your friend ever a source of tension or conflict between you and your spouse?
- Have you ever ignored or minimized your spouse’s request to end or modify the relationship with your friend?
- Have you ever deceived of misled your spouse about matters concerning your friendship?
- Has anyone other than your spouse ever cautioned you about your opposite sex friendship?
- Do you do things with your friend that your spouse is unwilling or uninterested in doing?
- Does your friend fulfill needs that you wish your spouse would meet?
- Do you have unexpressed or unresolved anger towards your spouse?
- Does your marriage lack intimacy?
I realized after answering all 20 questions that I had significant challenges with acceptable boundaries. I had been carrying on an opposite-sex emotional relationship since meeting Dana. The truly distinguishing factor that added insult to injury was that I had also been romantically involved with this person just prior to meeting Dana.
The 20 questions were the proverbial Ton of Bricks that came immediately crashing down on me as I attempted to explain to Dana in detail what had been occurring during our relationship.
Not only had I compromised our intimacy by allowing an opposite-sex relationship to become between us, but I lost all trust and respect by failing to confide this secret relationship to Dana.
It was only through the grace of spirit and the assistance of a remarkable therapist that I engaged one on one as well as in couples counseling with Dana that we were able to persevere. This was not a linear easy path to follow either. I betrayed our agreement not to communicate further with my opposite-sex relationship on and off for an additional 6 months when confronted with either choosing Dana or ending our relationship.
I chose Dana as I can honestly say our relationship has provided the most profound learning lessons as it relates to being in relationship as I’ve ever had previously. In the past, I had always gone to a certain point in either my commitments to self or with another to go deeper. As Dana likes to point out, it’s the distinction of going into the “deep end” of the pool versus frolicking in the shallow end. The real growth always occurs in the depths of peering into and peeling back the layers to get to our core truth.
For me, I realized how I had consistently utilized “external” factors to run havoc with my relationships. In my relationship with Dana, I utilized her boys as the scapegoat to how and why our relationship continued to teeter on the slippery slope. My secret opposite-sex relationship was buoyed by my ability to cling to both relationships in order to have all bases covered. It was the exit ramp that provided me with the illusion of having choices when deep down inside, I knew what I was doing was wrong no matter how I choose to justify my actions.
Ultimately, I came full circle in my conversation with Dana to apologize from the bottom of my heart by admitting my transgressions of being inauthentic and lacking integrity in our relationship. It was by far, the most difficult and gut-wrenching conversations I’ve ever had to have with anyone.
I came face to face with my deceit and where I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not the man I intended or desired to be. I desperately wanted Dana’s love, admiration and respect. As I’ve said countless times, respect and trust are earned attributes with demonstrated actions taken over and over again.
It’s been a long road back to heal the wounds I created through my actions. The slippery slope almost cost me the most profound and heart-centered relationship I’ve ever had. My advice… think twice when answering the 20 questions and be painfully honest with your answers because as the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Always Choose Love!