Is it healthy to keep secrets in a relationship?

Is it healthy to keep secrets in a relationship?

Which secrets should be kept and which should be told? The question of privacy among couples is a grey area – “lets tell each other everything!” is the usual pact of love one hears and believes. “If you keep anything from me, I won’t love you anymore!” is the more immature threat that young lovers throw at each other. But is this realistic?

In midlife, I sit back and think of how silly that threat sounds and how destructive it can be. How many relationships have been ruined by a secret gone awry, by a believer in the “Lets share everything!” mantra? The most common complaint I hear is, “I saw a text on his cellphone from another woman!” Or, “I looked through her bag and saw another man’s handkerchief.”

To these couples, I can only sigh and say, “Why invade your partner’s privacy in the first place?” There is no excuse, not even among the closest of couples. If there is any hanky-panky going on, believe me, you will know it without having to relay back to your partner the exact SMS you saw that sounded oh-so-lurid and incriminating.

No peace of mind

Our secrets are our secrets, and when the time is right, we will open up. Or maybe, we will carry our secrets to our resting place, where all is known and all is forgiven. To betray another is not kosher, even if one’s goal is the liberation of the secret-keeper.

Just think back on the times you divulged something confidential and that gnawing feeling you got right after in the pit of your tummy. Our conscience is seldom wrong. A bad feeling simply means you did not do what was right.

If someone tells you a secret, it is a gift of a part of oneself. “I will tell you who I am at the risk of your judging and not liking me for it.” How can we hurt this person by spreading chismis what was faithfully trusted to us?

Weighing the odds

If you have a secret that is hurting you, such as the possible infidelity of a spouse or a lover, weigh the odds of a confrontation and look deeply into your heart as to why you are in such a situation. Do you follow inherited, destructive patterns of behavior? Are you attracted to other people? Do you set yourself up for failure? This self-analysis is crucial, if you have been betrayed more than once.

If you are one of the many who believe that “you and I are one, and all things must be shared”, then you had also better check your inner beliefs, as this is flawed thinking. Boundaries are necessary for all of us.

Lessons from a Clint and Streep movie

We are all entitled to our own secrets, kept from spouse or lover, partner or friend. Remember the Clint Eastwood movie, Bridges of Madison County? Meryll Streep carried her secret– three days of angst and love–to her grave, and, when discovered, it took her adult children some time to forgive her. What good would it have done to rock the boat while she was alive, as she continued to be good wife and mother?

Years go by, we get older and gain experience, and then, hopefully, we understand one another just a little better.

Secrets are ours until we decide to give them away, when we believe that the person we divulge our secrets to, can be trusted and that he or she loves us in return without judgment.

Respect as the root

At the root of keeping our privacy is a respect for the other, for his or her own growth, knowing we are all on the road to a better place, alone or together, but at different paces. The more mature ones will get there ahead. Those who carry baggage will need to go along a longer route.

If your partner stumbles along the way, don’t force him to run in your direction at your pace. You will meet again somewhere along the road, or at the finish line. If not, there may be different roads, different goals for him and you.

So, before you use your partner’s password to get into his email, before you get the urge to read your lover’s texts, remember–each to his own. Privacy is key. Your secrets are yours and his are his.

That, my friends, is one secret to a peaceful life of respect and unconditional love.


Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.