On sharing the past


Pernille finally sent me a copy of the film. (quick background info: I took part in a documentary about love addiction in 2008) Once home from vacation, D and I had a long talk about whether or not he’d like to see it. Or, for that matter, whether I’d like to show it.

This topic came up in the forums a couple weeks ago: do you share your love addiction with your “new” partner? Operative word being “new,” and my answer was a resounding No. Absolutely not. It would be like telling someone what you do while sitting on the toilet. It’s not very self-flattering and let’s face it, it makes others immediately assume you might be a bit unstable. Like it or not, people want to remain in denial over other people’s baggage. Besides, some things are better left unsaid– at least at the onset.

However, love addiction is a big part of our lives–or at least for some of us, it was, at one point. But unlike sitting on the potty (which, I’m pretty sure never needs to be discussed), you may want to share this part of who you are and what you have overcome.

In the early months of us dating (about 2 months in, maybe 3) I did tell him I took part in a documentary on love addiction. I told him, rather vaguely, that “love addiction” and “codependence” were things in my past that I was not too proud of, but that I had overcome them. Of course I downplayed it–not the struggle to survive and recover, but the “addiction.” Again, potty talk.  I left out the messy details, save a few comments about my bad marriage and what I’d been through. And after that,  I never mentioned anything more about it. He knew that I spent some of my free time on a “self-help forum,” and he knew I wrote a blog, but I never shared any of that with him. Again, I believed (and still do) that as with any struggle in our past, it is ours and ours alone to conquer. It is my job to recover from the loss of a loved one. It is my job to snap back after a tragedy. And it is my job to get over my hang-ups and move on. It is no one else’s responsibility but mine. Why put that on someone new? Why invite them into our darker selves? And why expect them to understand what any of it means?

Every once in a while a story would crop up and I’d mention it, and D would nod, or pat me on the back. He was very respectful of my LA. But I always felt that it was something he was afraid of, like the unknown, and so never wanted to rock the boat or open Pandora’s box. But after our talk the other day, I learned that wasn’t true at all. He simply wanted to respect my privacy and thought If she wants to tell me I’ll let her do so on her own time, without trying to pry it out of her.

With that said, I asked, “So then, would you like to see the film?”

“Of course,” he said. “It’s a part of who you are.”

SO, we watched it together, and though I flinched–yet again– at seeing myself on the big screen, D was fascinated.

His overall comment about the film, this coming from someone who knows little to nothing about love addiction, was: Why include the extreme story of a stalker with the more realistic stories of individuals who seem to be merely struggling with bad relationships? It doesn’t seem like you have two ends of the spectrum, but rather, two different issues.”

Good point. Most love addicts don’t stalk in the traditional sense. Sneaking around on someone’s Facebook page pales in comparison to hiding out in the bushes, peering in someone’s window. And yet, stalking, manipulating, lying, dating and/or sleeping with a married individual, cheating, begging, wanting to commit suicide– these are all (according to society) freakish, ugly behaviors that some love addicts exhibit, like it or not.

I realized that D was harboring his own fantasies  and denial about love addiction. He loves me, so he doesn’t want to assign ugly qualities or acts to my past. He doesn’t want my reputation tarnished. He wants to continue to believe that while I am not perfect, I was never a “freak.” And while I was never a stalker and consider myself on the milder side of LA, let’s be honest. I remained in relationships with abusive, neglectful men, I gave up my career goals for booty calls, I had extremely low self-esteem and I did things that were sadly freakish.

Love addiction isn’t pretty.  On that, D and I agreed. But he was still convinced that Pernille added the stalker bit for ratings. Drama is, after all, the backbone of the TV and film world. She really had no choice. I partly agree. And yet, love addiction is what it is. In fact, we can even add drama in itself to the list of symptoms.

But that night, after watching the film, and after a long, wonderful discussion about it, we celebrated the fact that I’m not there anymore. Plain and simple. And to me, that far outweighs the shame of any ugliness in the past. While love addiction helped me become the strong woman I am today, whether I liked it or not, it no longer defines who I am and who I may be if I choose. Just like a broken leg or a traumatic event or the death of a loved one, love addiction  can help make us who we are, but it does not have to define our whole being. We can be other things. And we should.

My unsolicited advice: Share your past, but be selective. There’s no reason to tell a new partner right off the bat about the sordid details of your addiction.  We do not have to be completely open books to achieve intimacy with another individual. On the other hand, there’s no reason to lie or be so secretive to the point where your new partner can’t get to know you. If someone truly wants to get to know that side of you, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Likewise, if any information  from your past has bearing on who you are or who you are with, you need to come clean (i.e. I slept with your best friend last week). My point: be honest and respectful, but recognize that there is a proper time for this info to be shared (not on the first date!) and a proper level of expectation from you of the other person’s interest and understanding of your past.

7 thoughts on “On sharing the past

    1. WHat country are you in Lily? At the moment it is only playing in various cities in Denmark and Germany. Eventually, it will make its way through film festivals around the world. But it will not yet be available for sale as a DVD until it’s been released in the USA, and that has not yet been determined. Believe me, everyone is waiting! And Pernille (the Director) is really great at keeping in touch with me and letting me know what’s going on. Bottom line: I’ll keep you posted.

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  1. Gosh, your posts are so helpful. Really helping me gain insight. I identify with you–I am not sure I would’ve so clearly seen myself in the other more extreme situations like you describe in the movie. Would love to see the movie.

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