Leading a double life occurs more often than most of us would assume or think. However, some of us erroneously assume double lives and adulterous behaviors are on the rise, but this may not necessarily be true. In fact, with the advancement in technology, the rise as well as options available to us via social media it may be harder to hide a double life then it had been in the past. Leading a double life is not as uncommon or abnormal as it may sound. I am sure many of us have known or heard rumors about a someone that appeared to have another family on another side of time. I remember one of my neighbors’ husband would travel for work, often for several weeks or a month at a time. Although, the husband was gone a lot the family appeared to have it all, e.g., they appeared really close knit, enjoyed spending time together, and showed genuine affection for each other. What they appeared to lack in time together they seemed to make up for it in the quality of time spent together. Unfortunately, the husbands work wasn’t the only thing that took him away from his family. John had another family, a family he managed to keep secret from his wife for more than 13 years, a family that included other children. Both families appeared to be unaware the other existed until John’s untimely death. Who knows how long John would have been able to successfully live this double life had he not died. All the secrets he managed to hide, the people he was able to manipulate, and the people he managed to keep separate suddenly collided and he was no longer able control the outcome.
Living a double life can occur for many different reasons that includes but are not limited to the following:
- One partner feeling he or she is unable to get all of his/her needs met by one persons
- The thrill of having and maintaining such a large secret
- Destructive duality that stems from an individual’s inability to integrate two conflicting, opposite sides of a personality
- A form of self-sabotage found in people who don’t feel they deserve to be successful or happy
- Persons that are unable to be their true selves with their primary partner, so they create an alternate life to live out a fantasy, other aspect of self, or have compartmentalized their lives.
- Selfishly holding onto one relationship while starting and maintaining another one out of fear of being alone.
Characteristics that suggest your partner may be living a double life include:
- Changes in spending or secrecy surrounding financial matters
- They display a marked change in personality and behaviors
- Changes in clothing, self-care, or habits
- Excessive time spent on the computer
- More frequent trips away from home
- Late night calls, trips, or flirty texts
- Unfamiliar smells
- Intuition or nagging feeling
- Has difficulty remembering events, anniversaries or noticeably irritated when you discuss past personal or family events
- Mentions names of people you have never heard of or met
- Present physically but absent mentally
Psychologists and other mental health professionals say that thousands of people are living in dual worlds, caught in a web of lies, risks and shame that ultimately force them into secret behavior that is far different from their everyday existence. It is also worth mentioning that duality exists in some form in the lives of most people. Duality can be in the form of harmless daydreaming, fantasizing about an attractive person, feelings that are never acted upon. Experts say that it is also not uncommon for most normal, well-adjusted people to have a public self and a private self, but some people cross the line when exploring the darker side of their nature, creating a situation that is dangerous and destructive.
It’s important to recognize when duality is occurring, when you are manipulating the people you love for your own selfish gratification. If, for example, you notice yourself engaging in continuous high-risk behaviors such as making the same promises to two different people, engaging in multiple affairs, are unable to “show” your true self to one person but feel you need more than one partner to create “the perfect partner”, then it is time to change. One strategy is to break the pattern of secrecy, if possible, and to get some external input.
One thing to be mindful of includes the recognition that secret lives have power. The may consist of their own rules, codes of conduct, and may be motivated differently from the life that is portrayed to the world. Persons leading secret lives must confess and take ownership of their behavior in order to move forward and reconcile both sides of their personality. Duality needs to cease, and integration needs to occur. Counseling as well as self-exploration can help partners living doubles lives get to the root cause of their unhappiness, recognize no one is perfect, and understand how their behavior creates negative consequences for themselves and the people entangled in their web of lies.