Unless it involves the present you just bought your partner for her birthday, rarely is keeping a secret from your partner or spouse a good idea. No matter how innocent they may seem at the time, secrets between couples can cause problems both large and small—sometimes when you least expect it.
Here are a few reasons habitual secret-keeping can come back to bite you and undermine the intimacy and trust of your relationship:
The cover-up is usually worse than the crime.
Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket and, out of shame—not to mention regret over the $100+ hole will cut into this month’s budget—decided to quietly pay the fine and never mention it to your partner?
It seems like an innocent lie of omission. But one of the many problems with secrets is that they rarely stay secrets forever. Maybe one of your kids was in the car and spills the beans, or your partner checks the bank statement and notices the check you wrote to cover the fine. Now, a minor incident that probably wouldn’t have upset your partner in the first place—almost everyone gets a speeding ticket at some point—could plant a seed of doubt in your partner’s mind: Is he/she hiding anything else from me? It’s not worth it.
What They Don’t Know WILL Hurt Them
You tell yourself that what they don’t know won’t hurt them, but is that really your call to make? Maybe you attend a dinner party your girlfriend/wife opted out of, and when you reveal the guest list, you leave out that your ex-girlfriend will also be there. Let’s assume you have no interest in seeing her (beyond mild curiosity about how you stack up against her current beau). But people usually keep secrets, even small ones, for a reason. Maybe your partner would care about your casual encounter with an ex, or maybe she wouldn’t. But she has a right to decide and speak for herself how she feels about it.
Its a Bad Habit
Secrecy is habit forming. One common example involves spending. So many times you hear about a person who wants the latest designer handbag (or great pair of shoes, or whatever it is) so badly she decides (a) her partner will never understand, (b) they’ll never know how much it cost, anyway, and (c) it’s a relatively harmless purchase to keep to herself. For some, this can lead to a dangerous pattern of spending sprees that come to light only when they’ve run up massive credit card debt and have no way of paying it off. It’s an extreme scenario, but it’s not the only one. For others, it’s the platonic but surreptitious stop at a coffee shop with a colleague that leads to something far less innocent.
Anytime you feel the urge to keep a secret, that gnawing guilt you might feel is probably a healthy warning. If the designer handbag is not in your budget, talking it through with your partner can be a constructive reminder how hard you’ve been working to save for something far more important. If the secret is about that cup of coffee with an attractive colleague that seems just a teeny bit inappropriate, maybe it will help you be more honest with yourself about your true intentions.
When it comes to secrets and relationships, prevention is always the best medicine. If you’re in a committed relationship, both partners ought to make a blanket commitment to being honest and open about everything. It’s not always the easiest path—there will be hurt feelings, thorny differences of opinion and even painful admissions—but the outcome is always better than the alternative.
Have you been struggling with secrets kept from your partner or spouse, and why you’ve gotten into the secret-keeping habit? Please consider couples therapy. Discussing your concerns with one of the trained, caring counselors at the OC Relationship Center can help you work through the issues causing this behavior and help bring honesty back into your relationship. Give us a call today at 949-393-8662 to book your appointment, or use our online scheduling tool. We’re here to help.