Which Can Harm Your Relationship: Privacy or Secrecy?

In a committed relationship, a little privacy is a good thing. It fosters an element of mystery, which in turn fuels desire and attraction. Privacy has three main benefits:

* Reduces boredom because you can keep learning new things about your partner.
* Spares your partner from useless knowledge about your past that could be painful.
* Prevents you and your partner from feeling more like siblings than lovers.

Maintaining healthy privacy in your relationship can be as simple as routinely dressing and grooming in private, so that your partner associates seeing your body with feeling erotic. Or avoiding the “too much detail” syndrome when talking with your partner. Or keeping the details of past relationships, especially the sexual parts, to yourself.

Secrecy, on the other hand, is toxic to relationships. Secrecy is when you withhold information that would have a significant effect on your partner or the relationship. Secrets have a way of getting out despite best efforts to cover them up. Secrecy, has three main drawbacks:

* Breeds an atmosphere of mistrust.
* Paves the way for explosive arguments and angry withdrawals.
* Can spell the end of the relationship.

Examples of toxic secrets include

* Spending a lot of money or making big financial decisions without consulting your partner.
* Hiding your use of alcohol or drugs.
* Misleading your partner about relationships with other people, such as coworkers, friends, and ex-lovers.
* Pretending everything is OK in the relationship when you have firmly decided to leave.

People keep secrets for all kinds of reasons. Secrets can help you get your own way, since your partner can’t argue about things he or she doesn’t know. They can be a way of getting distance from your partner, because they block emotional intimacy.

So think about the difference between privacy and secrecy when you are deciding what to say to your partner. A good way to tell them apart is to ask: “Would I want my partner to tell me about this if the shoe was on the other foot?” If your answer is yes, chances are your partner would feel the same way. In that case, I suggest you “fess up.” In the short run it may lead to emotional turmoil. But in the long run, your partner will give you credit for being proactive and upfront.

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