Secret addictions; secret crushes; sexual overtures involving in-laws; eating disorders; attraction to a gender other than the partner’s; a mental health struggle; a difficult childhood; a terminated pregnancy; a secret money stash; secret debt; breakup plans; a double life.
And this: “My wife asked me not to pee in the shower. I told her I wouldn’t, but I do it every time.”
Ever read those anonymous confessions on forums like BuzzFeed or Reddit and wonder what your honey might be hiding from you? Your own partner may likewise be curious.
What’s done in the dark will come to light.
While that may not be true in all cases, most experts agree: Honesty is usually the best policy in relationships.
Related: Is Your Mate Keeping a Money Secret?
That said, you don’t have to bare your entire soul just because you’re attached. “There are various levels of revealing oneself in a relationship,” says Markesha Miller, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist at Holistic Psychological Associates in Columbia, South Carolina. “For example, when you’re dating someone, you may not be as open as you would be with someone you’re exclusive with,” she says. The same goes for an exclusive relationship versus a marriage.
Related: I Love Him to Death but He's Boring Me to Tears
There’s also a difference between keeping secrets and maintaining one’s privacy. A secret is something that’s intentionally kept hidden due to fear of consequences, says Dr. Miller. Think cheating or a gambling addiction. “Privacy is about being on your own with your thoughts, feelings, fears, etc.,” she says. So, your partner doesn’t need to know about the best sexual experience of your life or that you think the random guy at the grocery store is hot.
Related: My Husband Was Hooking Up With Men
“Secrecy harbors [relationship or] marital conflict; privacy allows you to keep your individuality while being in a relationship with someone,” Dr. Miller says.
Related: Here's What's In the Letter I Never Sent
What to keep to yourself
Your number of sexual partners
Of course, when it comes to any sexually transmitted infections you could pass along, be upfront. But you can keep your “number” to yourself, says Kasey King, a licensed marriage, family and sex therapist at Lavender Healing Center in Fort Worth, Texas. If you’re dating someone who’s insistent on knowing the number, ask why they want to know so bad. The person’s reasons for honing in on the number can tell you a lot about them, such as if they’re judgmental or controlling, King says.
You dislike your significant other’s relative
If it’s just that the person irks your nerves, keep your lips zipped. Sharing that info will only cause conflict in your relationship. However, if there’s been disrespect or other violations, discuss it with your partner, Dr. Miller says. Hopefully, your babe will be able to smooth things over so everyone can be cordial or, at the very least, stop trying to get you to be around said person.
Related: Worried About Her Daughter's Verbally Abusive and Controlling Husband
Your friends’ business
Please don’t be that woman gossiping with your spouse about your homegirl’s latest fight with her husband or your dad’s new prescription. “Your partner doesn’t need to know what’s going on with your best friend or anyone that has trusted you to respect their privacy,” says Dr. Miller.
You’ve got a secret stash
As Black women, most of us are told to have a little cash on the side in case ish hits the fan. King feels it’s OK to have a nest egg as long as you aren’t watching your family struggle financially while you’re secretly stacking. Whether or not to tell your partner about it depends on the relationship. “In certain situations [like if the person has a history of financial irresponsibility or it’s an abusive relationship], I think it’s OK not to say anything,” says King. In others, “It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, I have some money put away,’ but not really go in full detail about it,” she says.
Related: What Unknowingly Dating a Married Man Taught Me
Secrets you shouldn’t keep
You’re not sexually satisfied
If you don’t speak up, your lover may not realize there’s a problem, which means they’ll continue doing what they’re doing (or not doing) and you’ll continue being dissatisfied. When discussing bedroom problems, be kind and respectful. King recommends saying something like, “That’s not pleasing for me. Let me show you what works.” Or you could try, “I need more foreplay before we jump into it.”
If the relationship is serious (or headed that way), you should definitely disclose health problems. “Keeping it secret doesn’t allow your partner to assist and support you,” says Dr. Miller. Plus, “Holding this secret as you try to navigate the health issues can be mentally and emotionally damaging and could further exacerbate your illness,” she points out. The same applies to substance abuse, mental health and mental illness. Be truthful.
You’ve got serious financial problems
Finances are one of the main causes of divorce, so hiding unhealthy money habits isn’t a good idea, says King. If you’re in a serious relationship, be honest since your financial status and habits can impact the other person and your family. So, if you’ve racked up tens of thousands in credit card debt or need to rein in your spending, spill the beans.
Even though that little person inside of you says not to ever mention a peep about your indiscretion, King says the right thing to do is to come clean. At some point, whether it’s in six months or two years, it will probably be revealed, she says. It’s better for you to ’fess up rather than have your partner find out about it later.