Zoe Coetzee, 27.10.2017

Keeping secrets: 12 real secrets people have kept in relationships

Secrets can be tantalizing or terrible. They can be yours to keep or yours to share. But does that apply to love? What are the secrets we keep in relationships? EliteSingles’ latest survey of 2400 singles revealed some unexpected truths. We share 12 real relationship secrets and find the real low down about secrets in relationships.

I'll never tell: the allure of keeping secrets

Ever since Greek mythology, opening Pandora’s Box and uncovering the unknown has been an enduring human temptation. Today, with websites like postsecret.com and the Whisper app allowing individuals to anonymously post their secrets online, secrets have again stepped into the spotlight. On top of all this, secrets convey their own sense of mystery, and inspire insatiable curiosity to know the truths that others want to hide, meaning that secrets have, perhaps unfairly, a bad reputation.

While some secrets are undeniably hard truths to tell, after surveying over 2400 EliteSingles members we discovered that the secrets people keep in relationships can also be a charming collection of relatable anecdotes, and that perhaps the little secrets we keep are actually a personal way of loving your partner. But would you want to know what your partner is keeping secret? Do you ever wonder what secrets they have or how would they feel if they knew your secrets? Our survey revealed an interesting truth - although honesty is highly valued; there may just be a healthy space for keeping secrets in a relationship.

Telling the truth about keeping secrets in a relationship 

The good news is that, despite this appetite for keeping secrets, honesty hasn’t become old-fashioned just yet. It is still prized in relationships, with 92% of men and women rating honesty as important for a happy relationship. That said, a majority of the participants from the survey (58%) believed that telling secrets in a relationship should depend on what the secret is, as some realities are better to avoid.

This is echoed in a split down the middle when it comes to fessing up: 47% of participants believe that some topics are private, while the other 53% claim that they share everything with their partner. However, the secrets the 47% are keeping are most likely quite benign, with 46% agreeing that white lies are sometimes necessary for a relationship. These results establish that honesty and secrecy are not actually at odds with each other. Your partner may be honest with you, even while keeping a secret.

What kind of secrets are ok to keep?

Digging a little deeper into the secrets people keep, certain topics came to the fore. Details about your ex (33%), and sexual history (28%) are the most common subjects people avoid sharing on dates or in a relationship. And when it comes to friends, it is widely understood that people don’t share their friends’ secrets with their partner, with 47% agreeing that it is ok to keep your friends’ secrets in a relationship. However, secrets can also be a valued tool to foster closeness in partnership relationships, with 34% of men and women believing that sharing secrets with your partner is part of the intimacy in a relationship.

The truth about how people perceive secrets bring to light, maybe not so surprisingly, that there is a space for secrets in a relationship. Two-thirds of participants (66%) said that they would be accepting if their partner had kept a secret from them, saying that they would understand that there was a good reason to do so. And a further 62% agreed that they would not break up with their partner if they found out that they had kept a major secret in the relationship.  

The truth about keeping secrets is also tied to trust in a relationship. It’s widely accepted that sometimes we need to keep secrets. If you trust your partner, you can also trust that the secrets they keep from you are sometimes for the best of both of you. That being said, 75% of people don’t keep secrets in their relationship, but a quarter (25%) said they do. They shared some of their secrets with us below. Taking a closer look at some real relationship secrets, it’s easy to see that sometimes these truths could be exactly the kind of secret you would want your partner to keep!

12 Real Relationship Secrets

Surveying numerous real relationship secrets revealed the intimate nature of keeping secrets in a relationship. It turns out that the very truths people keep secret arise in the big and little moments, the monumental and the mundane.

In the below slideshow we share 12 secrets people told us from real relationships. They answer a range of familiar questions, from the dreaded "Do these pants make my butt look big?" to "Are my secrets safe with my best friend?". Read on below. 

12 Secrets from Real Relationships

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  • keeping secrets about dentistry12/12

Life lessons: learning from the secrets we keep

It turns out that that keeping secrets can teach you important life lessons and improve your relationships, at present or in the future. Let’s take a look at some real relationship lessons from the survey, and the consistent themes people learned from keeping or sharing their secrets.

I’ve kept secrets about money, and learned I won’t be keeping something so essential from a partner again

 - Anonymous response, EliteSingles secrets survey

Consistently people admitted that they had learned lessons from keeping secrets about money and finances in a relationship. Zoe Coetzee, EliteSingles’ in-house relationship psychologist, explains that money can be a form of security, and not disclosing the full truth with your partner about a financial issue can be a cause of friction as it can undermine the security in the relationship.She goes on to say this is not to say one shouldn’t be financially independent in a relationship, however, you should share information that can have a significant impact on your own and your partner’s life: ''money and finances are sensitive subjects in relationships, and a majority of the time it is in both your best interests to be open and honest in such a key area, especially when you are living together.''

I have made the mistake in the past of not saying what’s on my mind and then forming my opinions based on incorrect perceptions. I don’t do that anymore

 - Anonymous response, EliteSingles secrets survey

At times in a relationship, people feel unconfident about sharing their own point of view and perceptions. However, multiple participants disclosed that keeping their thoughts to themselves had been detrimental to their relationships in the long run. Coetzee explains that ''not sharing your true opinions, thoughts and feelings actually amounts to not sharing your true self in a relationship. However, real compatibility only arises in sharing real thoughts and feelings. As a result not being open with your partner, even about the challenging topics, can hinder, rather than help your relationship.

In a relationship, you should feel comfortable to express your opinions. Your point of view is valid and relevant. If you do not feel comfortable to communicate openly, look at ways you can improve the communication patterns. However, if you still feel like you can’t be yourself, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship.''

I keep secret anything that would hurt him and not necessarily help the relationship

 - Anonymous response, EliteSingles secrets survey

When it comes to keeping secrets, it can be useful to look at your motive for keeping the secret, or choosing to tell your partner. Would it be beneficial for your relationship to share it with your partner? If the secret you are keeping is not relevant to your current relationship, it might be preferable to keep your lips sealed. That is not to say that dishonesty is acceptable, or that you should keep relevant information secret from your partner. However, details about the past may be more painful than helpful.

Sometimes in a relationship, it is unnecessary to expose your partner to a hurtful truth. As one of the participants said, there is no need to say that those aren’t the most flattering pair of jeans! But if you have a secret to share, the most popular way to tell your partner a secret is to break it to them gently, with advance warning that you need to tell them something (52%). Not far behind, 44% of participants agreed that you should rather just be direct and come right out with it. When deciding how to handle secrets in a relationship, Coetzee advises that you put your partner’s best interests at the center of your decision making. If it will be beneficial to your relationship and important for your partner to know the truth about your secrets, be honest, even if it is a hard truth to tell.

So what's the final word on secrets in a relationship? Research has shown that some stories are best kept a secret, but with love and secrets, it should never come at the cost of honesty. 

EliteSingles editorial October 2017

If you have further questions about this study or would like to get in touch with Zoe, please let us know by commenting below

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