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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 01-Sep-16 17:42:07

How well do you know your partner?

After a small but deeply unsettling discovery, author Ann Turner wonders just how well you can ever know another person...

Ann Turner

How well do you know your partner?

Posted on: Thu 01-Sep-16 17:42:07


Lead photo

How well can you know someone?

I’ve always thought that I could read my partner of twenty years like a map. I keep no secrets and felt comfortably assured that was reciprocated. In the past I haven’t been as perceptive as I thought, and this should have acted as a warning.

In my twenties, my colleague Michael was my best friend. He was supportive, and always there when I needed him. We'd stay up talking, confiding everything. When Michael met his wife-to-be, I was thrilled. Jenny was bright, with a quick humour and a warm heart that matched Michael's. After they married and Jenny became pregnant, I was so pleased for them. Until one day, Michael and I had lunch on a sparkling spring day and he told me that he was having an affair. Horrified, I said he must stop. He then confessed he'd had several affairs with married women he hadn't told me about. I couldn't believe my ears. I was very worried for Jenny.

Should I tell her? I didn’t think that was my business – but I did feel strongly that it was my duty to get Michael to tell her, and to commit to not being unfaithful again. But Michael didn't confess; he ran away, and stopped talking to all his friends, including me. At first I'd still see him at work. We'd pass in corridors, see each other in meetings, and he'd pretend we barely knew each other. And then he left work too. In spite of Jenny trying to contact him after their gorgeous little girl was born, he refused to see his daughter for the first years of her life, and after that only sporadically. How wrong I'd been about him. How little I really knew Michael, after all.

There's a shadow in me, a doubt. Secrets don't have to be big: small ones can cut deeply, like a sliver of glass.

Years later, I discovered my own partner had a secret. I was rummaging around our shed for gardening gloves when I found, tucked away in a dimly-lit corner, a beautiful little oil painting of the sea. What was it doing there? I’d never seen it before. Turning it over, slipped into its frame, was a card. From the ex-girlfriend of many years before, Fiona, wishing happy birthday, with kisses.

I supposed she had given it before we met, but I was concerned that it was hidden. I looked again at the front. The artist had signed the date – 2013. Only three years ago. Churning with shock, I rang Jenny, now a dear friend. She came
straight over, we walked around the park, me crying, she giving advice.

I found I wasn't up to a direct confrontation, I felt too raw and vulnerable. Instead, I hung the painting in our family room, near our dining table, where it fitted perfectly with our other landscape art. A chill ran through me – had Fiona been to our place, to know our taste so well? Two days later my partner noticed the painting, and froze. I asked what was wrong? Nothing... After dinner there was a visit to the shed.

I was washing the dishes when the altercation began. My partner had been seeing Fiona, but promised that it was just as a friend. They were both historians – it was logical their paths crossed, but not wanting to upset me, I had been kept in the dark. I wasn’t fond of Fiona, a game-player who had tried to inveigle her way into our relationship when we first met, with odd invitations. She was peculiar, and deceptive. I was distraught that deception had spread. The painting was taken off the wall, with an apology. It went back to the shed where it was quickly lost amongst the mess and detritus of our lives that inevitably ends up there. I've always trusted my partner. Did I believe it was only friendship between them? I wanted to keep trusting – I had to keep trusting.

But there's a shadow in me, a doubt. Secrets don't have to be big: small ones can cut deeply, like a sliver of glass. I wish I'd never found the painting, because sometimes now I look and wonder: how well do I know my partner? I hope better than I knew Michael.

When we look into their eyes, hear their words, do we ever really know what's going on inside another person, or is there something unreachable in us all?

Ann's book The Lost Swimmer is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now from Amazon.

By Ann Turner

Twitter: @Gransnet

Grannyknot Thu 01-Sep-16 21:35:22

My partner (a) says what he thinks (doesn't really have filters) and (b) is honest to a fault. So I have always thought that if he did fall for someone else (even transiently) - I'd be the first to know.

Now, how much he spends on golf, is a different matter altogether.

gettingonabit Fri 02-Sep-16 13:19:15

When I found out that my long-term partner had been seeing someone else, I was shocked. Things hadn't been great for some time but somehow unfaithfulness crossed a line.

So yes, I thought I knew him, and I was wrong.

I'm wondering what else I don't know.

kittylester Fri 02-Sep-16 14:47:48

I don't think any of us can entirely know someone else. I trust my husband not to spoil what we have but he can still surprise me about all sorts of things.

rosesarered Fri 02-Sep-16 15:05:42

What kitty says.

Lili2 Sat 03-Sep-16 08:36:57

That experience would also shake me to the core. It changes everything because of the lingering doubt.... some women are predators, would think nothing of stealing somebody's else's husband....the husband is also responsible of course but it is still a betrayal....and lack of trust results.....It is so very flattering to the ego to be given attention by the opposite sex.....hard to resist particularly for men for some reason....they seem to be oblivious to the manipulation....
The moral of the tale is to develop independence of soul, not to lean too much on someone else, not to build your whole life around someone.....not to give too much either as women inevitably do......keep your Self in reserve so you can survive the inevitable disappointments... Pain is the price we pay for Love.
Now that is another subject....

Im68Now Sat 03-Sep-16 09:01:27

We've been married since 1972, like most couples, had our up's and downs, but infidelity has never came into it.

Anya Sat 03-Sep-16 09:46:07

And the wife is usually the last to know....

gettingonabit Sat 03-Sep-16 09:46:14

lili that's so true. I can never trust him again. I feel as though I've never known him, and I'm wondering what else he's been getting up to that I've not known about. It's unsettling and, of course, very upsetting. I have a child with this man. She adores him.

I've become very steely now and, I'm afraid, very cynical about people's motives. I'm definitely "independent of soul" which, I've come to accept, is the only way to be.

M0nica Sat 03-Sep-16 15:12:22

How can anyone completely know any other person, even someone as close as a partner? I am just amazed that anyone should even think they could know everything about another person.

I am not talking about straight forward items like infidelity. How many marriages break up with one spouse completely unaware that there is a problem. Not because they were purblind, but because the break-up took place entirely in their partners head.

How many of us really know what our partner is thinking, the conflicts of view going on their decisions and the real reasons for them, the things they do not say? Who among us doesn't have thought processes and secrets to which no-one is privy?

DanniRae Sat 03-Sep-16 17:45:07

I've always thought that the only person who truly knows what is going on in your mind is YOU. So I agree with your last sentence MOnica.

creativz Sun 04-Sep-16 10:31:36

Wise words M0nica, one should never implicitly trust the skill of reading another person like a book, if only we could, but there are far too many variables, people are more like incomplete jigsaw puzzles, far better to spend time trying to figure out ourselves than to become complacent in the premise of unreservedly knowing another ! hmm

Ginny42 Sun 04-Sep-16 10:54:16

I found my ex's affair with my friend was unforgiveable and it changed my life for ever.

I looked at him wondering 'Who are you really?' Had he meant anything he'd said in all those years or was it all a big lie? When did the lies begin? I did not recognise the man I had loved all those years.

He then morphed into a total stranger and we divorced.

For anyone going through this heartbreaking situation flowers.

inishowen Sun 04-Sep-16 11:35:52

I know almost nothing about my DH's childhood. He won't talk about it and I've learned to let it go. It upsets me that whatever happened he hasn't trusted me enough to tell me. So, I don't know him completely even though we've been married over 40 years.

grannyactivist Sun 04-Sep-16 12:13:43

I don't know every thought that goes through my husband's head, but I do know that he would need a complete personality change in order to be unfaithful to me. He has more integrity than anyone I've ever met and whilst he's not particularly judgemental of others he holds extremely high standards where his own behaviours are concerned. Also, we talk constantly - I know all the details of every job he works on and who's who in his life. So yes, it's possible that he could have an affair, but I truly cannot imagine it happening. (And yes, I know that's what they all say until it happens.)

GrandmaMoira Sun 04-Sep-16 13:43:04

There are some people who you know absolutely would not have an affair and are what people say about my youngest son "what you see is what you get" - he's very open and never devious. Some others you would not really expect but it happens sometimes. If a wife forgives, I don't think she can ever have full trust again.

kittylester Sun 04-Sep-16 14:10:15

I'm sorry that some of you have had your trust abused. I have some u dear how you must feel as it happened to DD3, DS1 and one of my neices is currently trying to cope with having it all taken away from her after 25 years.

I realise that those of us who have escaped that particular he'llw are very lucky!

Elysium Sun 04-Sep-16 16:41:20

As M0nica so rightly says, we do not know the workings of our partners or anyone else's minds - however, it's not so much the betrayal or loss of trust, but sometimes the impact of how they manage to insinuate or control the situation when it all blows up in their faces. I was actually relieved when the husband of the girl who was having the affair, informed me. I thought I was going truly mad at the time as he was using "coercive control" to explain that I was ill and imagining things. I lost a huge amount of confidence and it shattered the belief that I thought he would have the guts at least to tell me. Having a 'lightbulb' moment when he finally left made me take control and never feel that duped again.

M0nica Sun 04-Sep-16 16:54:58

I have never had my trust in anyone abused, but I know that an awful lot goes on in my head that would shock or upset those dearest to me if they ever realised.

We all attribute the best motives to people who appear honest, open and sincere - and they may well be, but you do not know what is going on in the inner recesses of their mind that drives their honest, open and sincere behaviour. If you did it might be a shock.

It is not the hidden behaviour that leads to bad behaviour, it is the hidden thought that never outs itself in anyway that all of us do and must accept that others do also. You can know your partner very well adnd not know them at all at the same time.

Spangles1963 Sun 04-Sep-16 19:27:05

About a week ago,my DP and I had an argument about something relatively minor that quickly escalated into something much bigger. The initial issue was that I was in the bathroom,brushing my teeth,when he wanted to get in there to shave before going to a job centre appointment. I apologised,but also got a bit narky,saying that 5 minutes was not going to make him late (he always allows more than enough time to get ready). Within seconds,we were shouting at each other and then he said ' You don't really know me. You know nothing about me'. He refused to explain just what he meant by this remark. We have been together 3 and a half years,so I thought I knew him pretty well. Well it ended up with me slamming the door on him as he left. He disappeared,didn't come back that night,but text me saying he was staying at his cousin's. Said he wasn't coming back until I apologised.confused I said 'OK,I didn't want him back until he explained what he meant by that remark,that I know nothing about him'. First,he denied having said it,then when I persisted,he back-tracked and said it was 'a throwaway remark',he meant it in relation to the argument,that I didn't know his character,that he liked to get ready in plenty of time. I don't know what to think. He came back after staying away 3 nights,saying he loved me and missed me,but still wouldn't enlarge on his remark,despite me trying to get him to talk about it. Just says he has explained what he meant,end of matter. But I am not happy with this. AIBU thinking there was more to it than what he says?

123gran Sun 04-Sep-16 19:51:44

So agree with the posters who counsel never wholly trusting another. Very sad but the alternative and the devastation that can follow can be truly horrendous and damaging for life.

Sharon1612 Mon 05-Sep-16 10:37:45

I have read the above with much concern, however, realising that I am far from alone. I have been with my 2nd husband for nearly 20yrs. The earlier years were wonderful. But as time went on the physical distance was becoming apparent. He has always told me how much he loves me, but for the last 8 years he has never touched me or looked at me with any longing. I have quizzed him numerous times asking if he has had or is having an affair? He just denies it & says that he will go & see a doctor. What I have found out is that he has plenty of his mucky mags in his workshop & women are always attracted to him, even going as far as flirting with him right in front of me. He also does work for plenty of divorced women who think he is wonderful. One even said that they were like man & wife because of the things they talk about. This could all be in my head. Other than that, I love him dearly & I am sure he does me, but I cannot trust him. I have bought the subject up many times, always to get the same answer. I am nearly 60 now & he is a wonderful grandad to my grandchildren. Maybe its just best to leave things as they are

suzybe Mon 05-Sep-16 12:33:52

Nobody can know another person totally regardless of how long they've been together. It isn't even possible to know what your partner truly thinks of you only what they tell you and vice versa. All anyone can hope for is to get told the truth and to find someone they can trust. I've been with my OH more than 50 years and neither of us can honestly say we know what the other is thinking but we can say we trust each other to be honest.

kittylester Mon 05-Sep-16 12:53:20

I agree and I feel sad for people who have not had that comfort in their lives.. DH drives me bonkers at times (Eg currently angry) as I'm sure I do him, but I know he's there for me come what may!

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 05-Sep-16 13:06:55

I know my dirty old bugger DH inside out. The only thing I'd find hidden in his shed these days though, is his stash of choccie that he won't let me steal.