I told a friend I was beginning a series of blogs about secrets we keep in relationships and told her the title of the series was ‘Secrets We Keep’. And her response was, “Why not just call it, ‘Lies We Tell’?” To her, it’s the same thing. I began by voicing my very, very strong disagreement with that idea but now I’m not so sure. Her argument is basically that depending on the secret we’re keeping, we may in fact be lying by omission about the kind of person we are.
Now I have to admit, that question gave me pause: if we fail to share an incredibly important ‘secret’ about ourselves with a partner, are we lying to them about who we are? Or, are some secrets okay to keep?
Let’s first take off the table secrets about someone else. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not my information to begin with. So if it’s not mine to share, keeping my mouth shut is not a secret, it’s discretion. But if the secret is about me, then the answer isn’t so clear. If you’re a CIA agent and your husband thinks you’re a housewife, you’ve got a problem. If your boyfriend believes you were a virgin until you met him when in fact you were a call girl, you’ve got a problem. But on the other hand, if you fail to share every single sordid detail about your past – like the fact that you maybe used to dabble in cocaine use when you were nineteen – I’m not sure that rises to the level of “deception” nor should it affect your current relationship if it’s revealed.
In general though, my opinion is that if the secret is about your present reality, it’s probably destructive to keep it. And it almost doesn’t matter what the secret is about. If we’re not talking about a secret anniversary party, or keeping secret what gift you got them for the holidays, my gut tells me that the very act of concealment is distancing you from someone with whom you’re probably trying to establish intimacy. And ultimately, is it even possible to be truly “intimate” with someone from whom you’ve hidden important information about yourself?
In ‘Unsuitable Men’, Tracy faces that question, and I revisit it in a different way with Shayla in ‘Secret’. The secrets these women keep are very different, and they do so for different reasons. But what they have in common is that the lengths they go to, the behavior they engage in, to conceal it may have greater reverberations than the secret itself.
I’m open to being convinced otherwise, but at the moment, I have to say, I don’t think some secrets are okay to keep . . .