Nobody wants to feel like their partner is holding secrets. Isn’t love all about sharing? Shouldn’t we be open books with those we trust most?
There is no doubt that when you find out there are secrets in your relationship, you can feel pretty freaked out. In relationships which are built on trust, we like to think that we know everything there is to know about our partners. But the truth about secrets might come as a surprise: they may actually be quite harmless and keeping them may even in be your best interest.
While you never sacrifice trust or honesty in your relationship for the sake of secrets, sometimes there can be a healthy place for a secret without it spelling doom and gloom for your relationship. So what should you share and what secrets are okay to keep? Use this guide to find out.
5 Ways to Handle Secrets in Your Relationship
1. Don’t equate secrets with dishonesty.
When thinking about secrets, the issue that can make us feel uneasy is the idea that our partner is not being honest with us. But the truth is that being honest and keeping a secret is not actually the same emotional process. Research has shown that people who value honesty highly and consider themselves honest in their relationship can still keep a secret without it influencing their honesty metric.
The fact is, the nature of secrets can be so diverse. This is not to say that it is acceptable to lie or be dishonest with your partner. That is generally a big no-no. However, you need to consider why is your partner keeping the secret and also, is the secret they are holding their secret to tell? For example, many people keep their friends’ secrets from their partner, seeing their action as being a loyal friend, not a dishonest partner.
2. Remember that trust takes time to build.
Some secrets are harder to share and come from a challenging time in life. To share these secrets with your partner, you need to know that they love you and be confident in the strength of your relationship. Especially with issues related to family, your childhood or difficult life experiences, it can make you feel very vulnerable to share these realities with your partner.
The result is that sometimes people only feel comfortable sharing these major secrets later in a relationship, once a solid foundation of trust has been built. When you are secure in your partner’s acceptance, it is easier to share the hard truths. So sometimes people might be keeping a secret, just waiting for the right moment to share it, and that could even be a year or two in.
3. You may not want to know.
Not surprisingly, the most common topics people keep secret in relationships are details about their exes and their sexual history. Ask yourself: Is that something you really want to know? Consider if it is really positive for your relationship to know what your partner did between the sheets five years ago? The reality is that those kinds of secrets can be mutually beneficial for both of you to keep.
The last thing you may really want is a visual of your partner with someone else. And sometimes leaving the past in the past can be the best thing for both of you.
4. Money matters so you should share it.
Certain subjects, like money matters, are best to be upfront with. Finances are a sensitive topic. Especially, if you are living with your partner and share finances, it can foolish to keep relevant financial state of affairs a secret. Reaching the point of sharing finances is a big step in a relationship, and it can feel like a real betrayal to your partner if you keep secret something that could affect both of you financially.
If your financial reality impacts your life, chances are it can impact your partner’s life, too. If you have debt, or even good news like an inheritance, you should probably be open with your partner about it to avoid conflict later down the road.
5. Ask what’s best for you partner.
When deciding how to handle a secret in your relationship, a guiding marker should be your partner’s best interests. Similarly, if you discover that your partner has been keeping a secret from you, a helpful way to unpack it is to try and understand why. Was it to protect you and your relationship?
When using your partner’s best interest as your point of reference, be sure to be honest with yourself. Don’t try convince yourself you are staying mum for their sake when you are actually just protecting your own interests.
Zoe Coetzee is the in-house relationship psychologist for premium online dating platform EliteSingles, a site for discerning professionals seeking meaningful relationships. Zoe provides support for online dating users by offering expert tips and writing about common relationship questions.