Columns Op-ed and Comment The National

Fibs and love

If I had read this, I would have called it a ‘cute’ piece and that really is what I was attempting. Inspired by the Huff Post divorce columnist’s list of what makes a successful marriage.

The National Conversation
The little fibs we often tell to those we love the most
Shoba Narayan
Jul 10, 2013

Recently, I read in an article that it is OK for spouses to have secrets from each other. This pleased me because my husband and I keep secrets from each other even though we consistently pretend that we don’t.

It didn’t start out this way. When we were newlyweds, we solemnly pledged that we would tell each other everything. Money issues, job trouble, family problems and even annoying habits like the fact that he always pulls the blanket to his side of the bed. Everything was out in the open. “No secrets,” we said. It worked in the beginning.
A month after we got married, I called my husband at work and said: “Sweetheart, I banged the car into the one in front of me. I didn’t brake in time.”
My husband couldn’t have been nicer. He dropped everything at work and hastened to my rescue: talked to the cops and took the car to the mechanic.
A few years into my marriage, I cut off the edge of my middle finger in the blender. It’s a long story and you’ll have to read my book to know it all. I called my husband at work.
“Darling, I cut off my middle finger,” I said, holding a piece of flesh in my hand.
“Sweetheart, I am in a meeting. Can you take care of it?” he replied.
You can imagine how I felt. That evening, I told myself that my responses to my spouse would be more considerate; more sensitive.
A few years later, my husband called me from work. I was right at the end of an exciting eBay auction in which I was bidding on a Chinese vase with blue dragons on it. In a few seconds, I would own the vase. Time was ticking. It was then that the phone rang.
“Love of my life, I have tickets to the US Open,” said my husband.
“Go yourself,” I replied and banged the phone down. The bell trilled. Some other bidder had outbid me in the last second because I was busy answering the phone. I lost the vase. I broke another one.
That was the day we began keeping secrets, my husband and I. Secrets in relationships occur for one reason and one reason only: because you fear the response from the other party. I imagine that if I have the part of the brain that feels pain and empathy cut off from my head, I would be as truthful as Mahatma Gandhi – more so, in fact. But unfortunately, my brain is intact (arguably, according to my family) and so I feel the hurt.
Nowadays, my husband and I have lots of secrets and make no bones about it.
We still pretend to be completely open and have devised a series of ingenious lines to explain things when we get caught.
“I thought I already told you about that trip.” Pause. “I did, remember? When we were with your parents? You don’t remember anything I say.”
“I didn’t think you needed to know about that meeting where I planned to give up my job. It wasn’t that important so I didn’t think to tell you.”
“I sent you a text saying that I would be two hours late to the party. Did you not get it?”
“It is saved in my drafts folder. I thought I emailed you the itinerary of that trip that I am taking alone with my buddies.”
Weddings are ripe situations for secrecy. When women gather, there are shopping trips. Men hate this. But then, what do you do in between the actual wedding and the reception?
The men in my family hate this even though we do our best to hide it from them. They make pre-emptive strikes. When a group of us cousins gather, my father will come into the room where we are giggling and applying henna. He will take one look at us and announce, “I don’t want our family to be late for the reception. The groom’s party can come as late as they want but we will show up on time.”
“Of course, of course,” all of us will murmur, before slinking out quietly and covertly for the shops. Just as Roald Dahl said, we have: “secret plans and clever tricks.”

Shoba Narayan is the author of Return to India: a memoir


  1. Humm…

    Shoba you once advised that I should be the “enabler” (on a different subject) and what I took from (Shoba akka, which is what my wife calls you!) is that I (and my wife) should communicate more and try to tackle the problem. I haven’t been married as long as you so can’t say that the “romance just goes away”, but what I find in my friends who’ve been married long time is one of two things.
    One – happy marriage where they have accepted each other for their pluses and minuses and have found ways to deal with the minuses openly and honestly. Two – “compromise junction” where they are, at root, unhappy but remain in the relationship as the happier compromise. Lots of “dark pools” of emotional capital here.

    So I guess my question to you is this. You are clearly a fully formed person and emotionally articulate and sensitive, and your hubby seems to be quite smart and sensitive as well (recalling the piece in your books about being nice to your parents etc). Why then haven’t you found ways to address this “secrecy” issue which, from a few posts, appears to be getting worse?! (I will add the obvious postscript with apologies for unintended offense and the usual caveats against unfair presumptions.)


    1. Vinay: Please take this post with a massive pinch of salt. We don’t talk like this– “love of my life.” I am channelling (unsuccessfully) David Sedaris.
      But spousal secrets are an interest of mine and fodder for an ongoing spousal conversation, not to mention columns


  2. As the marriage wears on, people take chances and get selective about what they reveal to the spouse since the eagerness to `seem’ upfront wanes fast. It is not because the `secrets’ are way too diabolic, rather it could be that on previous occasions they have experienced the nonchalance of the spouse towards such disclosures (like your finger injury). The fickleness gets all too evident and they grow up. You go up the CMM level as they say in IT industry… 🙂


      1. Capability Maturity Model – This is an index of maturity levels of various business processes… Businesses face different challenges as days go by and the processes will have to be designed flexibly to adapt to the changing demands of the customers and other stakeholders. Processes that are rigid will become a roadkill.


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