Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do you have a secret life? Guest post by Navy Wife and author Amy Bird

I've been thinking a lot about secrets recently. Not because I'm harbouring any dark ones myself (honest) but because my new thriller, Hide and Seek, all about secrets, has just come out.

Hide and Seek focuses on a married couple and the secrets they keep from each other. The husband, Will, finds out that his seemingly rosy existence is based on lies his parents have told him. Worse, his wife, Ellie, knew some elements and didn't tell him. Before this, it was an honest, sharing marriage. Ellie's failure to disclose changes the rules. Suddenly there is a new distance between them, and they inhabit their own little worlds, to the peril not just of their relationship but their lives as they know them.

An extreme case, maybe. But it set me thinking about how much or how little we tell our sailors. It's an oddity of our relationships that we spend so much time apart. Does that mean we tell them less, or more, about what we do?

I'm not talking the big things here, like infidelity, or a hidden gambling addiction (not guilty). I'm talking about the extent to which we let them be part of our inner consciousness while they are away. Do we tell them everything in every email? Or is there a part of us that shuts them out emotionally while they are away, in self-preservation? Or that hides feelings of resentment, or that we're just not missing them especially, in order the protect the relationship?

Personally, I find I quite often have an inner dialogue with my sailor when he's away, when we're not actually speaking. You know the thing I mean (or rather, I hope you do, otherwise it puts question marks over my sanity!) -  that rather than thinking things to myself, I think them as if I'm telling them to him. Sometimes that might be the mundane details of my day, or other times it might be an emotional rant. By the time I actually email or speak to him, life has moved on, and the majority of those things I won't share. But in a sense that's not the point - because I have acknowledged the possibility of sharing them, my sailor is still part of my inner world. The default position is one of sharing, which means if something big or emotionally important came along, I would share that. And it means he's always there, so the question of a betrayal doesn't arise.

This works both ways, of course, or at least it should. Hopefully, your sailor is also keeping his inner life open to you. I suspect it works a little differently, for the main reason that your sailor knows when he is going to be able to call or email. You never do, and are constantly in a state of 'if he phones now I will tell him this'. Whereas he gets to martial his thoughts before calling.

So what would be my take away tips be, to make sure you don't fall into the Will and Ellie toxic marriage trap?
1.    Even if you can't talk to your sailor because he is away, keep open the prospect of sharing your thoughts. That way, you will feel closer to him and less isolated.
2.    When he does call, don't feel you just have to share 'news'. Just chat generally, share the thoughts you've been having. That's part of your inner life; share it.  
3.    This does not mean every email needs to be a stream of consciousness, or every phone call a monologue. The point of a communication may sometimes be to unburden, but more usually it's to have a bit of banter and fun.
4.    Let your sailor share too. It's not all about you.
5.    You are of course entitled to a secret inner life. Your sailor doesn't need to know you thought the guy at the bus-stop was cute, or that you had a mock tantrum in your head about long distance relationships, or that you've decided binge eating on pizza is to be a regular Wednesday activity. But as soon as your default flips to not telling him things, that's when the trouble starts. It may begin with little secrets, but who knows where it will end.     

Hide and Seek by Amy Bird is published by Carina UK (the digital imprint of Harlequin) in the three parts. The first part is free (!) and is out now. The other parts are available to pre-order. Check out Amazon and other good e-book retailers. Amy is also holding a blog tour to mark the release - follow her on twitter @london_writer or visit for more info.

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