Most people probably don't tell their partner absolutely everything there is that they could tell them. There are many thoughts or opinions you might have, random events that happen over the course of the day, and more that you just don't think warrant a conversation or are even worth mentioning. Sometimes, too, you make a more conscious decision not to tell your partner something because you think that it's something that either they don't need to know or will only unnecessarily upset them. Some secrets might be OK, but if you're keeping these seemingly small secrets, it's threatening your relationship.
"The way we think about it in the therapy field is there’s a distinction between secrecy and privacy," Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, a couples therapist and relationship expert, tells Romper. "So secrecy is problematic, privacy is fine and that’s kind of the question you need to ask yourself when you’re thinking about a secret. And in this day and age of oversharing, a little privacy is fine, especially depending on where you are in the relationship, but secrecy falls in a different category." Ross says that secrecy starts to come into play when you're intentionally covering things up or you're feeling super guilty about not telling your partner about it.
But even when you're keeping secrets that don't seem like that big of a deal, sometimes, when they come out, they can drastically — and potentially irreparably — affect your relationship, even if you didn't really think that they would.
"The problem is we want to count on our significant others to really tell us the truth and once we see they don't in any way, our brains begin to wonder what else they could be lying about," Dr. Robin Hornstein, PhD, a psychologist, clinical director of Hornstein, Platt and Associates Clinical Wellness Centers, and integrative nutrition health coach, tells Romper in an email exchange. "Trust is earned in the interstitial bonds between us and can be easily eroded in small ways. We try to convince ourselves small secrets don't matter, but, unless they are truly about a surprise, or the couple agreed early on to not want certain information, these small irritants can be truly damaging."
1. You're In Contact With An Ex
Depending on your specific situation, talking to an ex might feel totally innocent. Maybe you've known each other for years, you're close friends or your families are friends, or you work together. You may not want or be able to completely cut your ex out of your life. That being said, if your ex is in your life, you should be up front about it. "That will at least provide a solid foundation for you and your partner for trust, open communication, and ultimately, the assurance your partner needs to know you choose them," Jenna Ponaman, a relationship coach and expert, tells Romper by email. Then they won't feel like there might have been something you were trying to hide.
2. You Never Want To Have Kids
Not telling your partner that you don't want kids might not seem like a big deal at the beginning of your relationship, especially if it's never something that comes up in conversation, but after a certain point, if you don't tell them, they might feel blindsided. Ross advises that you think about if knowing the information might be a deal-breaker for your significant other and if it is, recognizing that keeping it a secret could end up threatening your relationship once the secret comes out.
3. You Hated That Gift They Gave You
Early on, telling your partner that you don't like a gift they gave you seems completely innocent. After all, you don't want to accidentally hurt their feelings. But if your relationship is going to last, at some point you might need to come clean. "Partners will often go above and beyond to do something special for their significant others, with the expectation that by doing this deed, or giving them this gift, they prove to you how much they care," Ponaman says. "People need a sense of validation that they’re done something right or did a good job. If you were to pretend to like something and they later find out you were lying about it, not only will they feel they’ve let you down, but it can give them the sense that they really don’t know how to please you or make you happy, whether or not that is actually true."
4. You Have A Bank Account They Don't Know About
"A secret bank account may feel to your partner like you aren't being a true teammate," Dr. Racine R. Henry, PhD, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper by email. "If you have shared finances but secretly squirrel money away on the side, your partner may feel like you're unsure about the relationship and planning for a single life." If you're going to keep separate accounts, it's better that you have a conversation about it, instead of just hoping they never find out.
5. You Fake It With Their Family
You're not always going to get along with or genuinely like everyone, but pretending that they're your all-time favorite people when they're not likely won't end up turning out well. "When a person envisions introducing their partner to the parents, typically they want things to go smoothly, everyone is happy and laughing, and they are one big happy family," Ponaman says. "If you were to say you enjoyed their parents, but in secret do not, the sense of hope and excitement left with your partner will feel like a much larger loss, rather than simply being honest in the beginning so you both can work together for the best possible outcome."
You shouldn't tell them that you hate their family and won't ever spend time with them, that's hurtful and not good for the relationship either, but when the truth comes out that you don't actually get along, it'll be more difficult if you've spent a lot of time pretending. Plus, hopefully, you'll be able to get to a place where you feel positive about the relationship you have with their family, instead of just pretending that everything is already fine.
6. You Dated Around At The Beginning & Never Told Them
If you and your partner weren't together exclusively, you might have dated some other people when you were first starting out. While you might not consider it cheating — and they might agree with you — they should still have the real story about what was going on early on in your relationship. "When you are not forthcoming about how a relationship begins, the entire relationship can feel like a lie," Henry says. "By telling a person all the facts, they can choose for themselves what they want to be a part of. Taking away that choice can feel manipulative."
7. You'll Be Unavailable Or Unreachable For A While
If you don't see your partner everyday, you might not necessarily think that you need to give them a head's up when you're going to be unavailable or unreachable, whether you're just not going to have Internet access or phone service briefly or you're going to be busy and unresponsive all day. However, if they can't reach you and didn't know that you'd be unreachable, their mind can jump to the worst possible scenario, Ross says. In this case, it's not so much that they'll be upset or hurt when they find out as they can be upset and hurt until they find out. Keeping the lines of communication open can help combat these potential threats and ultimately keep your relationship strong.
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.