[Clinical Notes] Keeping secrets, self-awareness, and change
In this edition of Clinical Notes, clinical psychologist Margarita Holmes delves deeper into two issues raised by Two-Pronged readers who are struggling with infidelity. In one situation, he has a "sexual affinity" for his younger sister-in-law, while in another, he was a made a "mistress" by a Grindr hookup. Dr Holmes takes a look into the differences between the two situations and at possibilities of rehabilitation.
The letter was written by a gay man (Bong) who met a man (Joe) through the app called Grindr. However, given the issues and situation involved, the letter could have easily been written by anyone – lesbian, trans, heterosexual etc.
Bong is the counterpart of Dan’s sister-in-law and Al’s household help – people who became participants in a man’s attempt to having a sexual encounter with them. In other words, Al, Dan and Joe initially wanted his maid, his sister-in-law, and his Grindr date respectively to be, to quote Bong, “the third party. A mistress, if you will.” (READ: [Clinical Notes] Secrets and Lies)
We have already noted the differences between Dan’s and Al’s responses, so today let me focus on the similarities and differences between Joe and Dan in both their rationalizations, their intentions, and their potential prognoses.
One thing Dan and Joe had in common was thinking their mistake was the other person’s fault. Dan, in effect, blamed his peeping behavior on his sister-in-law (let’s call her Kate) because she was living with his family. Joe blamed his boyfriend (let’s call him Roger) for cheating on him within the first two weeks of their relationship.
Another was that both men didn’t even seem to consider the possibility that they too had some responsibility for what they did.
Joe not only hoped – but maybe even presumed – it would be okay with Bong to become his “mistress,” because Bong was obviously quite taken by him.
Happily, Dan had no such illusions. In fact, perhaps he encouraged Kate to leave their home (Dan and his wife’s) and to move back to her own place. It is probably because he hoped less contact between his wife and Kate would mean a lower probability that Kate would have less opportunity and be less guilty if she didn’t tell his wife (her sister).
But there is a problem with that kind of hoping.
This is yet another reason I feel Dan’s reaction to the person he chose to peep on, is much more of a problem than AL’s or even Joe’s.
That is because, to have even a smidgeon of that sort of hope means he actually believes, that given a choice between loyalty to him or to her own sister, Kate might choose him over her.
Look, I am not blaming a person like Dan for hoping things turn out in such a way that his wife never finds out.
If he truly believes that “… if I tell my wife, it will be the end of my career and my happy marriage,” then I can understand his "it’s either my wife never finds out or I am in deep sh*t" predicament.
Most people under as much pressure will grab at any seeming solution (encouraging his sister-in-law to leave his home, etc) and hope for the best.
Dan has not mentioned his career that might be destroyed by his wife’s knowing what she did, but I doubt very much he is a psychologist.
If he were, I feel he would not be as hasty in deciding the best option is not having his wife find out.
First, he would have examined what it says about his marriage that he believes his wife so unreasonable and unwilling to explore any contribution she may have made to what happened. If he truly believes his wife’s reaction would be so draconian that his career would be in jeopardy, then he might do better examining if this is a marriage he wants to continue.
But perhaps discussing the above issue more deeply is better left for another Clinical Notes. That is presuming, of course, that anyone wants to pursue it.
If there is no doubt Kate could keep this a secret without any problems, then Dan’s wife has not only a far-from-ideal marriage but also a far-from-ideal sibling relationship.
An immediate problem would be Kate’s worrying about the effect her sister’s finding out would have on her marriage and/or self concept.
But there are far more insidious problems involved here. Secrets between spouses can hardly ever be justified. Again, this is a subject that would benefit from deeper exploration, but beyond the scope of this particular CN. (Maybe a future one?)
A secret that only Kate and Dan would know about would lead to several (perhaps) unintended consequences:
- Dan would not encourage future meetings between Kate and his wife;
- Kate would start feeling uncomfortable not only with DAN, but also with her own sister – especially if they used to share everything together;
- To make sure Dan’s wife never found out, there would have to be some sort of collusion between Dan and Kate, even if neither brought up the topic again. Such a collusion would drive a bigger wedge between the marriage and the relationship between siblings.
I am fairly sure (but still ready to be surprised) where Dan and Joe might fall in the continuum of self awareness, of desire to change, and hence success at changing – close to (practically) zilch, zero, nada. I am fairly sure prognoses at this point would also be close to (practically) zilch, zero, nada.
However, should either or both Dan or Joe be interested in learning more about themselves or wanting their relationship to be better, the points discussed above might be some of the areas to be explored. – Rappler.com