Secrets We Keep: Are Some Secrets Okay to Keep?

no secretsI 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 . . .


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Woman-Centered Fiction Writer, commenting on books, culture and the human condition.

2 thoughts on “Secrets We Keep: Are Some Secrets Okay to Keep?

  1. Very well thought out piece there! Hey Nia, its me! The echatterbox!

    I have to agree with you that a secret about yourself that affects/ relates to your present reality should be revealed to your partner – – except like you said, if its birthday surprises, gifts, and such i.e. the “good secrets”. But this also leads me to ask – how “in the past” are we talking? Within 1 year of the present relationship? 10 years? If they engaged in drug use 10/ 20 years ago, then that’s one thing. But if it was 3 months prior, i think it bears mentioning because the behavior is too recent and may potentially affect the present and future.

    I also agree that secrets about other people don’t factor EXCEPT if they will adversely and or profoundly affect your partner. For example, if his sister has a serious illness and has asked you to keep it a secret from him. I’d say to go ahead and tell him since that is not something that he may emotionally, or psychologically be able to distance himself from.

    It seems to me that when we hold back and don’t open up to our partner, we are really doubting their capacity to love us and compromising the health and authenticity of the relationship. AND we are also selfishly robbing them of the opportunity to make an informed decision about the relationship. So putting a secret out there is basically telling the other person “i respect you enough to believe that you are capable of handling this truth and i also respect you and love you enough to give you the opportunity to make an informed decision”. If you reveal the secret and its a deal breaker, then aren’t you better off knowing their limits and knowing their capacity to love you? Coz if you never tell them the secret, then in essence you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to be loved the way that you need to be loved – wholly, warts and all.

    But of course this brings to question the issue of judgement and the fact that if you are hiding things from someone, then perhaps you need to seriously consider whether you should be in that relationship to begin with. Oh – and I thought of another question: how soon should you reveal a secret? In a way I don’t blame Tracy for being overly reluctant to expose her demons. So I guess your desire for a strong, healthy, loving future has to outweigh your fear of revealing secrets.

    Btw, have you ever thought about holding sessions to discuss your books and chat about relationship issues? I can foresee a very spirited, engaging, and thought-provoking discussion. I live in a metro area, so i would be game to attend one of those. 🙂

    1. Great thoughts and comments as usual! And I do agree that sometimes there are secrets that are relevant to your relationship though not strictly speaking “your” secret. In that case, I’m with you, we should err on the side of sharing.

      As for discussion groups. Wow. Sounds like a fun time. I am so disorganized though, that I doubt I would be able to pull something like that off. However, if a book group or discussion group wanted me to attend something they organized, or a group wanted to talk about issues raised in my books, I would be beyond flattered to be invited and would of course attend.

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