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dear fifi

Dear Fifi: My boyfriend wants to keep our relationship a secret

Dear Fifi? On a Tuesday? It’s more likely than you think.


Do you ever feel like time is passing just far, far too quickly?

Weekdays punctuated by weekends, speeding on by, then somehow it’s the middle of July. I read somewhere that the reason years seem to pass quicker and quicker as we get older is that a single year is gradually simply less time relative to our overall age. When we were seven or ten or whatever, a year was a huge chunk of what we knew as a whole. And now? Not so much. (Don’t dwell on that for too long.)

If you’ve got a problem with the passage of time like me, or pretty much anything else, you can talk to me about it. I’m here to listen


Dear Fifi,

I’ve recently started dating a good friend of mine. We have been on numerous dates and get on really well, as we always have. In the beginning I thought it would have been awkward because we were so close before, but it has been great for the past six months. He is six years my senior and is afraid to tell anyone in case he gets a name for himself, a) for being much older than me and b) because we are good friends. I’m 22 and see no problem with the age gap. We’ve been sneaking around to avoid being spotted when we are alone, but when in our regular group of friends it’s normal.

He insists that he will eventually tell people but I fear it may not be in the near future. I really like him but feel I’ve put my life on hold for someone who may never want to tell anyone. I don’t know how to bring this up again as it’s something we talk about frequently and I don’t know whether to continue or not.

He’s being really unfair to you and – considering you’ve been accepting this relatively peacefully for six months – I think it’s time you started expressing yourself and making clear what you need from him in order to continue the relationship.

His reasons seem pretty flimsy to me, really. 22 and 28 isn’t a massive age gap in the grand scheme of things, especially considering you share a pool of mutual friends. I often think that the more important yardstick is life stage rather than age, anyway. Once you’re on an even keel in the ways that matter, an age difference of 6 years isn’t a huge stumbling block. Plus, think of it this way – the age gap is never going to close. If he has a problem with it now, he has a problem with something neither of you can ever change, so that must be properly addressed.

As for his second reason? Friends get together all the time! In fact, it’s a great foundation for a relationship! I’m really not seeing where he’s coming from here.

The fact of the matter is he’s keeping your relationship secret for reasons that suit him, but this arrangement no longer works for you. You have to express how you feel. While he might be being unfair, he’s also not a mind reader. You must communicate what’s bothering you to him so he can have the opportunity to make it right.

One of the nicest things about a new relationship is being able to share the happiness and connection with other people, or at least in public. The fact that you’re being put in a position where you have to sneak around, despite having done nothing deserving of being hidden, is not great. You deserve to have a partner who is delighted to tell people you’re a team, and wants to let everyone know that you’re exclusive, if that’s what you want. Being kept a secret will eventually erode your confidence I think, and also lead to building up of resentment towards him.

Buckle up, sit him down and ask where it’s all going and how it can work out. You can never change your age or the fact you were friends before, so they can’t be held up as reasons not to get together – because you already have. You’re together in all but name. Explain how you feel and make sure he hears you out and understands where you’re coming from. Give him the initial benefit of the doubt: he may not realise you care as much about this as you evidently do. Give him a chance to see it from your perspective.

It’ll be a tough conversation, granted, but it’ll be tougher in the long run if you spend more time with this person and realise slowly that it doesn’t have a future. Text him to say you want to talk. That way, even if the temptation to chicken out is there, you’ll be held accountable by that message and the conversation will begin.

That said, if you tell him how you feel and he does nothing or disagrees? Then you’ve got problems. Then he’s wilfully ignoring your needs and desires and – crucially – doesn’t share your vision of how your relationship looks in the future. Then I think you’d be well within your rights to tell him to hump off, and go find someone who wants to do the whole gross couples profile picture, doe eyes from across the Luas, hands in the jeans back pocket in the cinema queue, flowers to the office on your birthday, lovey-dovey shit with you.

If you want all of that and he can’t (or won’t) give it to you, then you should move on. You need to find out what this is to him – and the sooner, the better.


Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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