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When He Throws You A Relationship Curveball

It's an inconvenient truth: no matter how well you think you know someone, there's always room for a nasty surprise. "Relationship curveballs can be a common issue for couples - particularly if you rush in and don't stop to ask key questions about your expectations and baggage," says relationship psychologist John Aiken. But probing questions about sexual health and past flings don't exactly make for romantic dinner conversation, which can leave many of us reeling months down the track. In the name of being prepared, we asked the experts for advice on coping with some common relationship revelations.

The Marriage and Kids Curve Ball

You grew up imagining your wedding: the dress, the flowers, the rings... but what if the guy you currently picture as The One turns out to be The One Opposed To Marriage? This is a bruiser of a curveball and, according to Aiken, needs to be sorted fast. "Have this conversation before getting serious and moving in together," he says. "This is a key deal-breaker, and you need to be with someone who has the same future couple goals as you." It's a lesson Nikki, 20, learnt the hard way, when the guy she was dating revealed his unconventional marriage plan.

"One day we started talking about the future and marriage," she recalls. "He told me he wanted to live in separate houses with his wife because living together would cause problems. I laughed, thinking he was kidding, but when he didn't laugh with me i realised he was serious." It spelled the beginning of the end. "l just couldn't see myself with him anymore," Nikki admits.

But different ideas on issues such as marriage and parenthood don't have to be a dead end. "See if there's any ground for compromise," Aiken recommends. "Have an open-minded conversation with your partner to find out of if there's any room for change. If not, it's over to you as to whether you want to put up with it."

The Secret Addiction Curveball

Finding out your partner has concealed an addiction can be as painful as discovering they've had an affair. It certainly felt like a deep betrayal for Kate*, 19, who was two years into a relationship when her partner confessed he was addicted to pot. "I knew he'd smoked it in the past, but he'd told me he quit," she says. "Turns out he was doing it almost every day. I was so shocked that I was almost sick." The way Kate handled the situation - taking a couple of weeks out to process everything - could be what saved their relationship. "When a big secret is revealed you'Il go on an emotional roller-coaster, so it's important you don't make any decisions until you can think clearly," says relationship counsellor and sex therapist Desiree Spierings. Rebuilding trust wasn't easy, but Kate says the experience strengthened her relationship. "l think it helped my partner to know I believed in him," she says. Support is critical for a recovering addict, Aiken agrees, but don't fall into the trap of attempting to fix the problem yourself. " it's not your responsibility to make your partner better," he says. "instead, support them by making sure they get professional help."

The Guy-On-Guy Curveball

No doubt Russell Brand was stoked to hear his wife kissed a girl and liked it, but when It comes to the reverse, most of us would admit to being thrown by the idea. "lf your partner has had a same-sex experience, you might begin to question if he's really attracted to you," says Spierings. Leanne*, 29, has been dealing with doubt about her man's preferences. "About a month in, my boyfriend told me he'd had a threesome, but left me hanging as to whether it was with two girls or a guy," she says. "I’m forever contemplating the possibilities, but I don't know if I actually want to hear the full story. "It's important to face your fear with any curveball, says Sex and Relationship Counsellor Pamela Supple. "Don't be afraid of asking questions," she says. "Honest responses are much more pleasant to deal with than lies or half-truths. Failing to understand the situation can send your mind into overdrive with what-ifs." It's equally crucial to remember that your guy's same-sex experience does not automatically mean he plays for the other team. "Some people like to experiment," Spierings explains. 'Australian research” has shown that almost 50 per cent of men who reported a same-sex sexual experience identified themselves as heterosexual. The fact is, if he was hiding something about his sexuality, he probably wouldn't tell you about a same-sex experience."

The Cheating Curve Ball

"I was mortified. I felt I'd given him everything i had and he'd thrown it back in my face"

If your partner has cheated before - even in a previous relationship - you can't help but wonder whether he'Il stray again. "It's absolutely valid to question his fidelity," says Aiken. "You need to know what his values are around staying faithful, the circumstances of his past cheating, and how you can work together so it doesn't happen again. If he's defensive or aggressive, it's a bad sign of things to come." Loren,22, was rocked when her boyfriend revealed he wasn't a one-girl guy. "l was mortified," she says. "l felt I'd given him everything I had and he'd thrown it back in my face," she recalls. His remorse helped Loren work through it, but if your perception of your partner has shifted fundamentally, it will take more than a heartfelt apology to put things right. "Try to discuss it with them," says Supple, "but don't begin by blaming them or they'll feel attacked. Tell them how their confession made you feel. It can open the way to a more positive exchange."

The STI Curveball

The stigmas surrounding STI's mean that if your partner has one, you probably won't be as sympathetic to it as, say, the flu. "But you shouldn't blow it out of proportion," says Spierings. 'An STI is like any other infection or virus, and chances are it's easy to treat." Try to be sensitive to how difficult it might be for him to talk about, stay calm and ask questions, says Supple. "Don't make him feel ashamed - he probably already feels that way and it can create a block for future honesty and trust." With professional advice, counselling and proper precautions, you can continue on your saucy way with your partner; but if he's kept his STI hidden from you, then it may be better to move on. "it's mainly about safety," says Spierings. "lf they really care for you they would never put your health and safety in jeopardy, no matter how much shame and guilt is involved." Unfortunately for Anna*, 27, her ex-boyfriend's embarrassment about having genital warts outweighed any concern of passing lt to her. "l confronted him twice after finding the cream used to teat it in his room, and he finally said he 'forgot' he'd had it," she recalls. "l didn't continue the relationship - I didn't want to waste my time with someone who didn't respect me enough to be truthful and considerate."

Have you got a curve ball?

Soften the blow with these responses. Timing is everything says Aiken. '’Avoid busy times with lots of distractions, and wait until you know your partner well and have a sense of trust in them.”

Don’t waffle, Spierings tips. "Tell them exactly what it is and make sure you give them the opportunity to ask questions."

If revealing an STI, “make sure you really want a sexual relationship with this person,” Supple advises. "By law, some STls have to be disclosed if you know you're going to have sex, and its a sensitive topic. Be prepared for different reactions.”

Penny Carroll

 

Cosmopolitan Magazine,  January 2012