What Kind of Partner Keeps Secrets in Their Relationship?

Studies show the emotional impact of maintaining secrets and perpetually lying.

10/28/2021 2:17:00 AM

Secrets can erode intimacy in a relationship, while privacy can enhance it. Here's how to tell the difference between the two, writes saricoopercls

Studies show the emotional impact of maintaining secrets and perpetually lying.

are themselves married or fused.Partners keep a variety of secrets from their partners for many expected and at times surprising reasons. They may feel something is too taboo to discuss—like marital problems, financial issues, sexual preferences, or their own or their partner’s mental health and addiction issues. They may have broken their sexual exclusivity or monogamy agreement in a long-term committed relationship or

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. And they may omit information or outright lie about topics like their physical health, their previous sexual partners, or beliefs on death or religion.How Does a Secret Affect a Family?In the context of a family, secrets can be kept by whole families from outsiders, between only certain members of the family, or by an individual from their family. According to researchers Vangelisti and Caughlin, these types of secrets are extremely common—with 96.7, 99.1, and 95.8 percent of people reporting them, respectively.

Maintaining secrets in the context of a family can be done for practical or functional motives. People keep secrets to protect members of their family, bond with certain family members, and even alter the power within the family’s dynamics. Secrets have the potential to change family dynamics because family members tend to organize their relationships around who knows and does not know their secret. headtopics.com

In my practice, I often see major changes in family dynamics because some family members know only a part of a secret—without knowing it is only part of the secret—which makes those who know the full secret cautious and distant forfearthat the rest of the secret may accidentally come tumbling out. For example, I have worked with men whose secret of seeing sex workers get discovered by their female partners. A wife who discovered her husband’s past secret sexual alliances with sex workers disclosed this secret only to one of her siblings while her parents, her other siblings, and her partner’s entire family were kept in the dark. She did this so that she didn’t feel so

lonelywith the betrayal, which naturally devastated her emotionally.The brother to whom she shared this secret lived in another country and would only see the whole family once a year at holiday time, making the odds of the secret coming out less likely. However, at a Christmas gathering, the brother felt so uncomfortable holding onto the secret that he avoided spending extended time chatting not only with his sister’s in-laws, but with his own parents and his siblings that didn’t know as well.

How Does One's Attachment Style Affect Secret-Keeping?The reasons one partner keeps a secret from their spouse or partner and how they feel about doing so differs from person to person. For instance, a person’sattachmentstyle plays a major role in their decision to keep a secret and their feelings about doing so. According to a 2015 study, people who scored higher in anxious attachment styles and avoidant-attachment styles are more likely than securely attached people to keep secrets from their partner. The reasons an anxious person keeps a secret differs from the reasons an avoidant person keeps a secret—anxious people are often avoiding the disapproval of their partner, while avoidant people use secrecy as a way of maintaining a comfortable emotional distance from their partner.

Read more: Psychology Today »

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