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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
Ask Dr. Eldritch Secret Life     I suspect my boyfriend has a secret life I don't know about, should I be worried? I mean, I am worried, but should I try to learn about his past, or pretend it doesn't matter?

My boyfriend, "John," and I have been living together for six months, and I thought I knew him really well. Everything was fine until a college friend of mine sent an invitation to her wedding in Denver. I was excited, but John was reluctant. The more I wanted to go, the edgier he got. He said it was because he didn't want to be at a party where he didn't know anyone, but he's always been fine with that before. I pressed, but he'd never give me a believable excuse. I finally played the "if you really love me" card. I'm not proud of that, but we booked our tickets and flew to Denver for the wedding.

John was tense on the way there, but he relaxed once we got to the hotel. He even had a good time at the reception. That lasted until one of my friends suggested that all of us from out of town should go to brunch together the next day. John didn't want to go, and got defensive when I asked him why not. He couldn't give me a good reason, and we got in a bit of a fight over it.

The next morning I was getting ready to go to brunch, and he decided to go too. He seemed nervous until we were seated, but then acted like nothing was wrong. It annoyed me that he had made such a fuss over it, but I would have forgotten about the whole thing if something strange hadn't happened as we were leaving.

We were on the way out, and a man coming in did a double-take at John, and said "I didn't know you were back in Denver!" John went white, and said he must be mistaking him for someone else. The man insisted he knew him, and John practically pulled my arm off dragging me out of the restaurant.

Since then, John refuses to talk about it. He denies ever being in Denver before this trip. I want to believe him, but I realized how little I know of his life before we met. While he was at work, I did some snooping. His photo album only has pictures from the time he moved here, about two years ago. He has no school yearbooks. No souvenirs or mementos of any kind. He doesn't even have tax records from before. I did find a tattered photo of a woman and a small child that could have been John when he was young. On the back was written "Mom and Andy." The stranger called him "Andrew," could that be John's real name? I thought I trusted him, but now I feel there's a big secret he's keeping from me.

I'm a bit freaked out about it. Should I try to dig up his past, or is it better to just let it be?

-- Kim, from "John's" New Life

Dear Kim,
    It's perfectly natural to keep secrets from a life partner. Granted, those secrets are usually more like "what really happened to your antique stained-glass lamp," or "he wears your dresses when you're out with your friends." Now, don't panic! I'm not saying John actually does this. You should probably ask him about it, though, especially if things in your closet seem to shift around mysteriously. Lots of men like cross-dressing, particularly the British. Nobody knows why. But I digress; the point is that having secrets is normal, and in itself, is not cause for alarm.

Most people don't realize that approximately 50% of the American population is using an assumed name at any given time. This would be more widely known if the census included a question like "Have you changed your name or identity to conceal your past?" (Assuming that anyone would answer the question truthfully, that is.) But there are many types of people who assume new or false identities:

- Retired intelligence agents,
- People who have faked their own deaths,
- Underworld and criminal types escaping from their past,
- Witnesses to horrible crimes,
- Con artists and grifters,
- Those escaping debt,
- People in the Witness Protection Program,
- Those who have gotten too close to government conspiracies,
- Active undercover agents,
- People embarrassed by their bachelor's degree in philosophy,
- Superheroes,
- And those who are just doing it because everyone else is.

So should you worry that he may have changed his identity and fled his past? Absolutely. Everyone who starts a new life under an assumed name will eventually have the issues from their old life come back to haunt them. It appears that you've started that ball rolling with the trip to Denver, and once that train leaves the station, the chickens are going to come home to roost. Unfortunately, the girlfriend of a guy trying to escape his past usually gets kidnapped by his pursuers so the guy has to rescue her. You don't want that. Too many things can go wrong.

Show John this letter. John, you need to tell Kim the truth so the two of you can deal with the aspects of your previous life that are coming to find you. If you don't, she's going to get out of town until this is over, because it's no fun to be kidnapped.

Okay, back to Kim: The good news is that this can be the bonding experience that cements your relationship. Nothing brings two people together like a life-and-death struggle against individuals intent on causing you grievous bodily harm! Once you make it through this adventure, the actual fate of the lamp will seem trivial, and you won't mind that he looks better in your velvet gown than you do.

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

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