We have all had a secret at least once, right? The question is, should we be keeping secrets in our relationships?
Relationships are a bond between two people built on a foundation of trust. If we keep secrets and lies, we risk damaging that foundation of trust. Without trust, the relationship has little chance of survival. This article will look at secrets and why they aren’t good.
This article addresses couples who share a life together and want transparency in their relationship. Those who have moved to the next level together. This is about honesty and about trust. It is about being open and truthful about our daily activities. I’m not referring to a couple who keeps something secret from others, rather, when a secret is kept between partners.
What we want to avoid is creating an environment of suspicion in a relationship. The last thing that will help a relationship grow is keeping our partner in the dark about something. Relationships mean sharing our life experiences with each other. It is essential for a couple to be completely open with each other to build a healthy life together.
Someone once said, “Our home is our castle”; castles are supposed to be safe and secure. This is true of our relationships. We want to build a life with someone whom we can trust and confide in. We want to be able to come home from wherever and know that we are in a good place with someone we love.
If we are keeping stuff from our partner, this means that we don’t trust them with the information. This means that we must not feel safe within that relationship, or with them.
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Let’s look at what secrets are, and what effect they have on our relationships
I will try to answer some questions about secrets and how they are potentially damaging to ourselves and our relationships. I don’t have every answer, but have tried to maintain secrets in my own marriage throughout the twenty years we’ve been married.
What I have learned is that it breaks down the trust that we work so hard to develop. Once there is insecurity within the relationship, we really are left treading lightly. Everything we do becomes a point of question. When we get home, we face investigation of our doings and whereabouts.
This is not a good way to try to live with someone. We are supposed to love our partner, and this means that we don’t want to see any harm done to them, by anyone, including ourselves. By educating ourselves on this topic, we can make the choice for honesty in our relationships and have a fighting chance of growing something good and long-lasting with someone special.
I have 9 topics pertaining to secrecy;
- Secrets and lies
- What is the difference between secretive and private?
- Why do we keep secrets?
- When did we learn to keep secrets?
- What is a transparent relationship?
- What kind of secrets will ruin a relationship?
- How long can someone keep a secret?
- Living with a secret
- Confessing secrets
1. Secrets and lies
Secrets and lies are similar and destructive. A secret is often something we do to prevent ridicule for past behaviors or to protect the confidence of another. Sometimes we keep a secret to maintain a habit and some of these affect others, and some only affect us.
We might go out and eat a fast-food meal in secret so that we can cheat on our diet without someone getting on our backs. Is this damaging to others or to our partner? No; in this case, it is only damaging to our own health.
On the other hand, if we go out for a burger and keep it a secret from our partner who is under the impression that we are vegan or vegetarian, they might be hurt by the situation if they find out. This is especially true if they are appalled by the thought of a meat-eater.
A lie is often something we say as to avoid punishment in some form or to sound better than we are.
Some lie to gain trust of others, even though this trust is often temporary. Some lie because they grew up in lack and are trying to compensate for something they didn’t have in life.
Both secrets and lies are generally forgivable. Both are a poor habit that will often end in the distrust of someone. If we lie to get a job, we risk losing that job. If we lie to get a loan, it’s possible that we might not be able to afford the loan and risk defaulting. If we lie in a relationship, we risk losing peace in that relationship.
2. What is the difference between secretive and private?
Keeping secrets is often a result of feeling ashamed of something. Perhaps we have a long history of some form of bad habit. Maybe there is something that we’ve done that might be damaging to our current relationship. Maybe our reputation is at risk so we choose not to tell someone something.
Relationships can’t often tolerate secrets and lies. However, privacy is different. We are all entitled to privacy. This might be a time for privacy during the day, or it might be the thoughts within our own minds.
We like to have privacy when we go to the washroom, and sometimes we prefer privacy when bathing and dressing. These are all harmless.
There are times however when we can’t have privacy in relationships; one example is when one partner has an opposite-sex friend and they spend time together. If one partner asks where they were and what they did, and the other partner says, “It’s private,” expect some issues to rise from this.
We should be able to enjoy the privacy of our thoughts. Sometimes we are sad or upset; do we have to always give account for every single thing in our life? No.
We are entitled to have our thoughts and ponder various things. In most instances, our thoughts aren’t damaging to others, or to our relationship. Even if the thought is bad if manifested into reality, as a thought only, it generally isn’t destructive.
Keeping a journal should be allowed in relationships. Journals are often private, as they are our thoughts written down about various things.
If our partner asks for something to be private, we should be okay with this. If there are no trust issues that exist, and no reason for concern, then we and our partners should be able to enjoy some privacy.
3. Why do we keep secrets?
As mentioned above, we might keep secrets to prevent others from knowing the wrong we’ve done. We might fear that we will be made fun of, judged, abandoned, or disciplined in some way.
Once we form the habit of doing this, we can slowly start to become desensitized to this behavior. We can get the idea that it’s okay and that it’s harmless. We can sometimes start to think that the other person is overreacting if they become offended by it.
We have a way with appropriating various mindsets and habits and gaining confidence in those, even if not acceptable to others.
For the person who steals, this becomes easier to do without concern for people’s belongings or loss; for the person who lies, one lie builds on another and soon, a massive web of lies; for the person who cheats, re-offending is likely if not dealt with appropriately.
We develop a hardening of our heart towards these things and they soon lose their effect to wear us down. It’s like our conscience loses its strength. When we are in tune with the little voice inside us, we will often feel bad when we wrong someone or do something damaging.
Over time, when we ignore this little voice, the voice gets quieter and quieter. Soon, this little voice has no effect on us whatsoever.
We essentially become detached from right and wrong and we just do what satisfies self. If we get to the point of only being concerned about ourselves, then we can effectively lie or keep secrets from people we love. We just don’t think about it.
4. When did we learn to keep secrets?
I would say that as soon as we are able to think on our own, we are able to keep secrets. Kids can be very secretive; especially toddlers who are getting into something they shouldn’t be.
We are born in a very selfish state. If this isn’t trained out of us right away, it becomes ingrained in us. We tend to naturally default to bad habits when we stop caring and stop trying. If we give up on trying to be healthy, we are likely to indulge in all sorts of fatty foods and drinks. If we give up hope for our future, we are likely to not care about school and work and a good reputation.
However, developing good habits, which includes honesty, takes effort and the need for that effort doesn’t truly go away. Just as we grow accustomed to certain poor habits, good habits can get easier to stick to after they are well-developed. Even if we have grown up as secretive, we can break this cycle through consistent effort and awareness of our actions.
So, where else might we have gotten this poor habit from?
If our parents were secretive, or someone influential to us was secretive, we are likely to have adopted some of that habit as well from them. We often learn from others, and who we spend the most time around, we can pick up their habits and become like them.
As this habit grows in us over time, it won’t matter what situation we are in; we will keep secrets if it suits us.
5. What is a transparent relationship?
Most couples strive for transparency in their relationships. We want to know who we are hooked up with, and we don’t want to be left in the dark about anything when it comes to our partner.
Complete transparency in a relationship requires constant open communication. It means to not be prideful. When we are prideful, we can develop the attitude that we don’t have to give account for our actions; we don’t owe anyone an explanation.
When we enter into a relationship with someone, there must be a mutual agreement. Openness and honesty are generally expected, even if not said. We want to trust our partner, and we want our partner to be able to enjoy their life.
Once this trust is broken, whether through lies or secrets, the relationship will stand on rocky ground for a considerable amount of time as trust is regained; if regained.
Where we go, who we hang around with, what we spent money on, what our bad habits and addictions are; these are things we must share with our partner if they want to know. Of course, we should be entitled to some freedom and privacy, but if it is something that affects the relationship or causes insecurity in the other, then all should be exposed to ease the situation, and the other’s mind.
Some partners won’t want to know everything. It’s best to give them the chance to know instead of simply withholding information. By letting them in on our secret, we are giving them the respect that they deserve and showing them that we love them enough and trust that they won’t attack us for our shortcomings.
6. What kind of secrets will ruin a relationship?
Clearly, anything adulterous would be damaging. Trying to manage multiple families or lovers at once will generally ruin the relationship when found out. I say, “When found out” because it is difficult to do this for any length of time.
Soon, someone is going to get jealous and want more time. Affairs might start out without emotion or strings attached, but in time, as we are all human, emotions grow. This is the point where the lover on the side becomes attached and wants that partner to themselves. This is when that person starts interfering with the couple’s relationship and that partner becomes exposed.
Keeping heavy and expensive addictions secret can damage relationships, and eventually, the individual themselves. Most addictions are expensive. I spent thousands and thousands on alcohol. Some people can cover up their addiction in various ways. Eventually, the cost will catch up and the household budget will want to account for the money.
Trying to cover up children with previous partners, and support payments also tend to come up at some point. Sometimes, this too can result in severe damage to the relationship.
It really comes down to the couple, and how they each respond to these sorts of things. Some people won’t tolerate any form of secrets or lies and others are very forgiving.
Considering these create trust issues, and trust is the backbone of a relationship, secrets and lies can be quite crippling regardless of severity.
For the couples who believe that it’s okay to keep secrets in a relationship, I don’t believe they will experience the fullness that the couple who is transparent with each other will; at least not over a long period. Eventually, suspicion rises and eats away at us. Jealousy sets in and that is hard to live with.
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7. How long can someone keep a secret?
Some people live secret lives year after year. I used to drink heavy, and some people knew this about me, and others didn’t. I simply didn’t go around certain people when I was drinking. I might’ve been able to carry on with this lifestyle, but soon gave up drinking altogether because it was damaging my relationship with my wife.
I felt like I had a certain reputation to uphold with one group of friends and had an obligation to party with others. It’s like I was stuck on the fence and didn’t know which side to jump to. Would people have rejected me had they found out about my alcoholism? Probably not. They probably wouldn’t have wanted to be around me when drinking, but likely wouldn’t have abandoned me completely.
Lots of people try to live with various situations and out of fear of what could happen if found out, they keep it quiet. Sometimes, our minds can blow things up into big issues, even when they might not be that bad.
Generally, it’s not the secret itself that is so damaging, rather, it’s the fact that we kept the secret and broke the trust of our partner. Sometimes, the longer we wait to come clean, the harder it gets as we ponder how bad it will be.
There are numerous stories about people who pass away and in time, their secrets become exposed. This is difficult for the remaining family in many instances. We are better off in so many ways to simply confess and deal with the exposure instead of trying to live with it.
8. Living with a secret
Living with a secret life can weigh heavily on us. Like lies, anger, bitterness, worry, stress, and depression, trying to keep secrets has a negative effect on our own systems. It breaks us down as we struggle to sleep easy and get the rest we need.
Secrets can cause paranoia, which can wear us out too. When we are steadily trying to hide something, we are at risk of making a mistake. I believe that even if we might get in trouble, it is less damaging on us to come clean about the issue than it is to try to live with it.
Living in secret causes guilt. This messes with our self-esteem and this life is difficult enough with good esteem.
9. Confessing secrets
Confessing secrets takes courage. As we know that the result of exposing ourselves might be damaging, we often would rather live with it then expose it and get in trouble. However, if we choose to be honest about our doings, the healing process can begin sooner.
It’s like pulling off a bandage; a quick tear and the pain goes away quickly. If our secret is an addiction, this can be very beneficial as we can get help right away. Some people don’t want help, while others do want help but feel trapped.
In most instances, if there is an act of cheating, exposing ourselves will likely result in separation. However, trying to keep this hidden and live with it creates inner turmoil. In the event of exposure later by an outside party, restoration to the relationship is most unlikely.
Confessions of secrets is difficult, but the outcome is generally much better overall.
Practice honesty to build your relationship
So, if you have something that is secret, you need to address it. If you want your relationship to grow and be all it can be, you need to be honest. You need to come clean and tell your partner what is going on in the background.
If you can’t handle coming clean about it, then it is imperative that you put an end to it. I can’t and won’t promise the degree of reaction if you are open about something, but I can assure you, that even the healthiest relationship will suffer a hard blow from secrets kept.
I am not trying to sabotage you here, but chances are very high, that your spouse or partner will work with you on whatever it is if you are honest. If they find out about it on their own, depending on what it is, you might simply be in the doghouse for a bit or you might be on the street with your luggage.
Secrets have no place in relationships. They must be brought to light; they must be exposed. The penalty is almost always less severe when we come forth and confess. Don’t wait to be found out. The outcome is better for both involved if you’re open about it. It has less impact on trust and security for the affected, and for you, you will feel better emotionally, like a weight has been lifted.
If you have experience with this and have any pointers that might help someone out, please leave a helpful comment for others to enjoy and put to the test.
How to get your spouse to hear you, by Mort Fertel.