"NO TRESPASSING.” Secreting of the true self: Fear, sin, low self-esteem, insecurities, etc. cause us to hide/protect our true self.

My college roommate (who was raised by a single mom) and I shared many secrets. We were so close that we were the "Best Man" at each other's wedding. One day during our freshman year, I saw a document that had his middle name on it. To tease him, I called him "Edward." He nearly came unglued. He turned red with anger, clenched his fist in a seriously threatening manner, and informed me in no uncertain terms that I was never to use that name, his father's name, in his presence again. Though after that, we shared many confidences, I never once used his father's name or asked him what happened between them. I wisely observed the emotional "No Trespassing" sign he had erected.

We all hide something. No matter how honorable or innocent we seem, each of us has hidden fears, private insecurities, ghastly memories, shameful sins, and awkward self-esteem issues that we secret within the dark rooms of our hearts. We're afraid if anyone finds out we are scared rather than brave, were abused rather than chaste, or are not as kind and gentle as we appear, that even those who say they love us would mock, shun, or even abandon us completely.

An example, though perhaps extreme, is the Michelle Pfeiffer/Harrison Ford thriller, What Lies Beneath. The movie's tagline is, "He was the perfect husband until his one mistake followed them home." In the film, the "perfect husband" tells his beautiful wife about his affair with a college student and his murder of her. He warns her, "We can put this thing behind us," but they really couldn't. Later, as he tries to kill her, he says, "The first time I met you, all I wanted was to spend the rest of my life with you. (Shaking his head) Not gonna happen now."

I know that most people aren't involved in criminal activities, nor do most folks have a bloodcurdling, cantankerous ogre lurking within, held in check by a few tender emotional threads ready to explode if ever exposed.

Most couples live their lives together in honor and respect. But that doesn't keep the most honorable or most respectable from secreting certain parts of their past or present. It's a matter of self-protection. We don't want to get caught or be exposed for the person we fear we might be. Our weaknesses, failures, mistakes, injuries, or other emotional trauma cause us to hide a portion of who we are.

And it's not all wrong. Your mate does not have to know all the naughty details of your college dating experiences. Neither of you wants to hear the other blurt out, "You did what to whom?" and then watch your relationship tank.

Nevertheless, love relationships can be harmed when things that can be shared remain hidden by emotional camouflage. In many cases, the secreting and the masks are all about self-protection and are, therefore, acts of selfishness. When our desire to not be hurt prevails over our willingness to cultivate a love relationship, something is wrong. A conflict arises between self-protection and love. Barriers go up, No Trespassing signs are erected, and love takes a back seat to personal safety.

This self-protective relational style is not easy to identify because it is cloaked as normal, attractive behavior: rage can be covered by kindness, guilt by morality, anger by gentleness, fear by daring, etc.

A loving relationship is the best way to true happiness, but a relationship also has the potential for pain. Examine yourself. What are you secreting from those you love that you could reveal? What mask(s) do you wear that is tiresome to you and frustrating to your mate? Do you need to open some of your heart's dark corners so you can truly love and be loved?

©2020 Ronald D. S. Ross All Rights Reserved

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Ross is an author, publisher, and speaker. He is the co-founder of PowerfulSeniors.com. He lives in Loveland Colo.