When it comes to secrets and relationships, you really do have to be careful. There might be things that you don't want to tell your partner, but know you need to, things that you always rush to tell them, or things that you'd rather not tell them, but would like to share with someone. Though solid, healthy relationships do require honesty, occasionally, there might be some secrets you can tell your friends, but not your partner. Whether you need to talk something through with a friend or you think that you can tell your best friend anything at all without them getting upset, shaming you, or getting judgmental, for some topics, your partner just might not be the best person to share with.
Still, secrets can cause relationship problems in some cases, so it's important to think long and hard about the potential ramifications of disclosing things to a friend that you're keeping from your partner.
"If someone is considering keeping a secret from their partner, I would encourage that person to ask themselves 'What’s the worst that could happen if I tell my partner about this?'" Azra Alic, LCSW, tells Romper by email. "This could help the person identify what they’re afraid of (e.g. my partner will be angry, my partner will leave me, ...) and plan ahead for how they would cope with that worst-case scenario. Alternatively, it could be helpful to put oneself in the partner’s shoes and ask 'How would I react if my partner disclosed this secret? And how would I react if I didn’t find out until several months or years from now?'"
If you are going to keep secrets, or if there are simply some things that you'd rather not tell your partner (but aren't necessarily specifically keeping a secret), it's also important that you consider how you'd respond if they brought up the very topic that you've discussed with your friends instead of with them.
"Secrets can cause problems in a relationship if your partner asks about them and you choose to lie," Billie Bemis, LMFT, L AC, CFI, SAP, EMDR II, tells Romper in an email exchange. "It’s best that if your partner asks about one of your 'friends only' topics directly, that you answer gently, but honestly. Lies will always kill a relationship faster than secrets!"
1. Secrets About Surprising Them
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's OK to discuss secrets with your friends rather than your partner if the secrets are related to surprising them somehow. Beth Burns, LPC, LCAS, the owner and operator of Fortitude Counseling Services, tells Romper in an email conversation that it's her professional belief that these kinds of secrets are the only ones that might not indicate that there are problems in the relationship. Secrets about surprising your partner are welcome secrets, however, because ultimately you're doing something loving and thoughtful for them. Sometimes you just need your friends to help you put your plans in motion.
2. Comparisons About Them & Exes
If you're tempted to draw comparisons between your current partners and any of your exes, you might want to think about not verbalizing those to your partner directly. "The implications are always to try to protect your partner," Dr. Dion Metzger, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist, tells Romper in an email exchange. "My theory is why tell them something that will just make them feel bad. If there is no benefit in disclosing, I say keep quiet. Secrets only become problematic if it’s something the partner needs to know like, for example, any inappropriate behavior from a mutual friend (romantic advances, etc). It’s always best you be honest before accusations or awkwardness arrive."
But if you feel like you have to verbalize these comparisons to someone, a trusted friend — or a therapist — might be a better option than your partner themselves.
3. Anything That You've Agreed You Wouldn't Share
Although some couples tell each other absolutely everything, others believe that it's better to set some boundaries. "There are really no hard and fast rules when it comes to relationships. Each relationship should have the freedom to create its own set of rules," David Klow, LMFT, the author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist and the founder of Skylight Counseling Center, tells Romper by email. "It can be a good idea to talk with your partner about how much you agree to tell one another. Problems can happen when one partner expects complete transparency, and the other anticipates keeping some secrets. It helps to be on the same page about how to handle secrets."
If there are certain topics that the two of you agree not to discuss or you've agreed that some secrets are OK, those are the kinds of things that are OK to talk about with your friends, but keep out of conversations with your partner.
4. Negative Feelings Or Thoughts About Their Parents
"Thoughts about your partner’s parents, particularly if your view of them is negative, are best kept under wraps," Bemis says. "You don’t want to create a situation where your partner feels a choice has to be made between you and [their] parents or that you won’t feel comfortable around [their] parents." If there are issues with how they treat you, hopefully that's something that you two can work out, but otherwise, you and your partner's parents should be able to all act civilly and politely towards each other. Your relationship is important, but their family bond often is too.
5. Strong Feelings Or Thoughts About Their Close Friends
Although you might think that it's not that big of a deal to tell your partner how you feel about their friends, in some cases, that can be just as make-it-or-break-it (or more so) as meeting and getting along with their family. So sometimes it might be better to keep those conversations between you and your own friends.
"If your thoughts about your partner’s friends are rather benign, feel free to share them," Bemis says. "However, if you have strong positive feelings, such as you think your partner’s best friend is a total hottie or strong negative feelings, such as you think your partner’s friend is a huge loser, keep those thoughts to conversations with your own friends. Sharing these types of feelings can lead to some serious relationship challenges."
6. Negative Thoughts Your Family Has About Them
Your family might, at some point, express not-so-great feelings about your partner, whether it's temporary disappointment with how they acted in a certain situation or a general feeling that you could do better than them. Either way, that can be difficult to handle. You might feel compelled to talk to someone about it, but in this case, it probably shouldn't be your partner. Talking things out with a friend can help you feel better about what's going on or help you figure out what to do, while talking to your partner would likely cause more issues.
In an interview with Reader's Digest, Julie Spira, an online dating expert, CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert, and the author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating, said that if this person is your long-term partner, you don't want them to stay home from family events or make things uncomfortable or even volatile because they know that your family doesn't think they're the right person for you.
Ultimately, in some certain cases, some things just might be better left unsaid.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.