In the last two years I moved across the country, started a new career and got engaged. Huge milestones for any thirty-something year old woman. Everyone applauded the first two changes, calling me brave and adventurous. When it came to the ring on my finger though, I was politely told to be quiet and not to mention it again.
Why did I have to keep this part of my life a secret? It’s because I am marrying a fellow employee and my co-host of my morning radio program.
Although disheartening, this response was something we had grown accustomed to. Having met on a radio show in Las Vegas, Nick and I began dating in secret. If people asked, we would deny it saying we were just close friends. It was the right thing to do at the time. The relationship was new and we didn’t know where it was going. After that first year however, we knew our lives would be spent together so we had a decision to make. Do we tell our employees and company or keep it a secret?
Why was this a difficult decision? It’s because the radio industry is built on having the right “personality” or having a “likeability”factor. Could an audience connect to us if they knew we were a real life unit? No company wanted to take the chance on us and experts in the industry told us to keep it to ourselves.
This decision not only made our professional lives suffer but our personal ones began to change.
If spotted in public people would ask, “Why are you here at the movies together?” Flippantly, we would brush them off making an excuse about having to research a particular topic for the show or saying that our current significant others were busy. It got old and to be honest the excuses were terrible. Planning our wedding suddenly became coded secrets that could only be shared deep in the bunker of our own home.
When a position in Sacramento with 101.9 The Wolf was offered to us we promised ourselves to be upfront. If they didn’t like our relationship then they weren’t the right station for us. We told them straight away and initially they were shocked but after getting to know us better they grew to be accepting. They agreed to hire us but now the question remained, what would they do with us?
Would they introduce us to the world as a couple or would they want to keep it secret? No one knew what to do. We begged them to allow us the chance to be a couple on the air but again, they were concerned that we would turn people away. The final decision was made. We would be given a six month test on the air. If we survived, the discussion of sharing our relationship with the public would be renegotiated.
Despite losing this particular battle in our love war we agreed. It was only fair for them to see if they liked us as individuals first before we ask them to like us a couple.
So we kept up the charade. On the air, Nick announced he was single and I told people I was engaged to a man who wanted to keep his name a secret. As far as the audience was concerned, we led separate lives. On Monday mornings, I would ask him how his weekend was and then pretend to act surprised at the answer. He would ask me about the wedding planning and fill him in on the latest quarrel my “fiance” and I had regarding the decorations. It proved exhausting having to wonder if we said the right thing or if we let too much slip.
Settling into this routine soon became easier and easier until finally it didn’t feel like work at all. We were simply Nick and Kristen in the morning. Two different people with two different lives. During this time personal changes were taking place. At the office, we related to each other as co-workers not boyfriend/girlfriend. There were days we got under each others skin but most days we were compassionate and respectful. We would stop before anything hurtful could be said and we treated each other with love and understanding. We knew we had to go home with this person.
Doing this changed the way we interacted with the entire office. We addressed issues immediately and did not allow bitterness or resentment to fester. This made it easier to avoid conflicts and relate better to our co-workers.
The six months in Sacramento flew by and soon a meeting was called. Biting on our fingernails we sat on our boss’ black leather couch in front of a team of higher-ups. They had come to a decision about us. They first thing they said was that they had made a mistake. In my heart I was panicking but I kept listening. They told us that it was time to “come out” as a couple. Shocked we asked them to elaborate and they told us that not only could we stay on at the radio station as employees but we could announce to our listeners that we were a couple. It was also their hope that we would share wedding details and photos on our station’s website and social media. Grinning from ear to ear we nodded enthusiastically at the idea. Then the planning started.
A date was decided on and we created a whole segment around it. We asked our listeners to share a secret with us, if they did, we would give them ours.
The plan worked brilliantly and the response we got filled our hearts. Congratulations and loving messages came through our phones and confirmed to us that we had made the right decision to be open and honest with our listeners. They wanted to be a part of our lives just as much as we wanted to be a part of theirs.
Since then the dynamic has changed on the air. Nick and I have to remind ourselves that we are allowed and encouraged to fight playfully and call each other out. Living more openly has been freeing for both of us and has improved our show immensely not to mention our personal lives. It’s also nice to know that come September 19, 2015 I will not have to blur his face out on my Facebook page.