Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

My Lips Are Sealed

Love, Heartbreak

Is it okay to keep "little" secrets in your relationship?

Oh, the secrets we keep...even from the one we love most.

Especially from the one we love most.

You might be under the impression that there's nothing wrong with keeping a few secrets. It may even be a conscious decision for you. After all, you don't want to reveal too much too soon about yourself while you're dating. Even in a long-term relationship, staying a bit mysterious may be one of your strategies for keeping passion alive.

You could also be keeping secrets to avoid rocking the boat or possibly even as as way to keep your relationship intact. You may leave out certain details when telling your jealous partner about your day-- and who you had lunch with. You might hide away aspects of your past or even your current private life because you worry about how your partner will react if he or she finds out.

When the subject of “keeping secrets” comes up, cheating and affairs come to mind. True, infidelity is one BIG thing that some people keep secrets about. It's probably clear to you that not only keeping a secret about cheating, but having an affair in the first place is detrimental to your love relationship or marriage.

The betrayal is two-fold. Not only is the cheating itself a crushing blow, the continued lying and cover-ups about it only add more pain to a painful situation.

But, if you believe that keeping “little” secrets about anything other than infidelity is okay, think again. Even those moments when you lie or alter facts that seem like no big deal, really can become a big deal.

Keeping secrets-- even those that seem small and insignificant-- can seriously damage relationship trust. As careful as you think you're being, the truth is bound to come out. When it does, your partner will look at you differently. He or she will wonder what else you are hiding.

There are many different names that people use for their secret-keeping:

-- Withholding information.

-- Telling “white lies.”

-- Pretending about true thoughts, opinions and feelings.

-- Sharing partial facts (or no facts) to prevent a fight or to save face.

-- Keeping your lips “sealed” and remaining silent.

There's no denying it...

Secrets take you further away from the one you love.

When you're tempted to keep a secret...

Stop and really think it through first. There are times when it's easier, more comfortable and maybe even seems kinder to withhold the truth from your partner. Take a moment to ask yourself whether the initial “benefits” are worth the probable damage of keeping that secret.

Get clear within yourself first about why you feel like you have to keep secrets.

There might be dynamics between you and your partner that make it seem unsafe for you to be completely honest with him or her. Jealousy and anger are two common examples. If you're afraid that your partner will explode because you did ______, this is something to pay attention to.

We urge you to maintain your safety and be as honest as possible.

Create some agreements about how you two will communicate with one another and what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment of each other. This might also be a time to set some firm boundaries with your mate and possibly to seek help from a professional coach or therapist.

As we remind you to stop keeping secrets, we're not recommending that you simply say the first thing that comes to your mind about your partner, your relationship or the situation. You don't have to be hurtful or crass in order to be honest and open.

One strategy for telling your truth is to talk primarily about how you feel and what you want. Avoid labeling, put downs or name calling.

For example, Instead of pretending that you enjoy spending time with your in-laws, say something like this: “I can tell how important your family is to you. I honor that you want to regularly visit with them and I support that. I would like the option to join you or to stay home some of the time when a visit has been planned. I'd like to hear how you feel about this.”

You don't have to flat out say that your partner's mother grates on your nerves or that you can't stand his or her father. You can focus in on what you want which is to choose how much time you'll spend with them.

What to do if you've been keeping secrets...

Keeping secrets can also be a lot of work! You might be spending quite a bit of energy protecting information about yourself, your feelings, opinions or things that have happened. This can be draining and put you on edge.

The irony is that you might have decided to keep a secret in order to keep the peace with your partner, but the results are the same. You are upset, tense and maybe feel defensive. Your relationship is strained and unhappy.

Encourage yourself to be more honest with your partner.

This can feel like a scary leap so, remember, you don't have to be dramatic about this or open up all at once. Be aware of your secret-keeping habit if you have one and take steps to change.

The next time you are tempted to keep a secret, do as we suggested above-- figure out why you are compelled to withhold the truth and find words to tell your truth that won't close your partner down.

We can't promise you that your partner will be happy with everything you have to say. However, we reassure you that your honesty will make for healthier trust and a stronger, deeper connection between you and your love.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the relationship they desire.  Click here to get their free ebook, Passionate Heart-Lasting Love.

Explore YourTango