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Keeping Secrets in a Relationship: The Must-Know Rules & Exceptions

Keeping secrets in a relationship is a difficult subject. Are secrets always bad for a relationship? Or are some secrets better left hidden?

keeping secrets in a relationship

Do you remember the saying from childhood, “secrets, secrets are no fun, secrets, secrets, hurt someone”? Well, it went something like that. As adults, we often wonder if keeping secrets in a relationship is good or bad.

And why do you think our parents and teachers taught us that little jingle? Because secrets can, in fact, be extremely hurtful. Not only can they be considered lies, but they lead to resentment, paranoia, and unhappiness.

Can keeping secrets in a relationship be good?

As someone who believes in complete openness and honesty, personally, I would say no, but that stance can be argued.

Many would say that keeping secrets is better than a fight. Although I think having everything on the table is best, I can see that side. Some people cannot remain calm when bothered by something in a relationship. And that can lead to a serious fight.

So if you are bothered by your boyfriend’s lack of tidiness or inability to put down the toilet seat, keeping that to yourself could be better than constant nagging. But with that, keeping too much to yourself can cause severe resentment that will ultimately lead to a breakup or even infidelity. [Read: Scenarios when white lies can be your saviors in love]

Should you keep secrets in a relationship?

If you want my personal opinion, no. From my experience, secrets only lead to more secrets, then to lies. From there it can be hard to recover. Whether a boyfriend kept a secret from me or I from him, it always seemed to catch up to us in the end.

So, in my book, be honest. Even if you think something could cause a fight, it is better to get it out in the open now. Because more likely than not your partner will find out. And it is ALWAYS better coming from you.

Think about if your partner kept a secret from you. Then, you found out via social media, a friend, or someone random. Wouldn’t you be pissed? Not only can the secret itself make you angry, but the lack of trust and loyalty that occurs when someone chooses to keep a secret can feel even worse.

A secret in and of itself means that someone for some reason didn’t think you should know this information. They either thought you would react badly, which you have every right to, or they would rather avoid any sort of confrontation. And the latter is what is often used as an excuse once a secret comes out.

With all that being said, there are a handful of secrets that are mostly safe to keep in a relationship. But there are many more that should see the light of day ASAP. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and to your partner]

The exceptions for keeping secrets in a relationship

#1 A surprise. Are you throwing a party or investing in an expensive gift? Then a secret is a-okay. Buying your partner jewelry, recreating your first date, planning a fun getaway are all good secrets in a relationship. That is, if your partner loves surprises. [Read: How to express your gratitude to someone you love]

#2 A proposal. Asking her to be your girlfriend? Asking him to move in? Or are you proposing marriage? All of these are often secrets for a while. But what makes them good is that there is a plan for the secret to be exposed. And in most cases, the secret leads to good news, not bad. [Read: How to pull off a memorable proposal]

#3 What you talk to your friends about. Guys and girls alike have conversations with their friends that often do not need to get back to their partners. It isn’t that this knowledge would cause a fight, but just as you and your partner have privacy from others you and your friends deserve that too.

So, whether you complain to your girlfriend about your hubby’s snoring habits, or to your brother that your girlfriend talks during movies, sometimes we just need to vent. These things can be considered nagging in a relationship, but they are so small that sometimes venting to a trusted friend is enough to release any annoyance.

#4 How you feel about their family. This one can be touchy. You do not have to share your feelings about your in-laws with your partner. If it becomes serious and needs to change, by all means, have a talk. But if you don’t like your boyfriend’s mom’s cooking or her need to organize your cupboards, you can probably put up with that during a visit.

However, if your mother-in-law insists on moving in, calling multiple times a day, or talking to you about your sex life, a conversation should be had. But holding your tongue for the small stuff can be beneficial. And who knows, the good may outweigh the bad once you really get to know them.

#5 External secrets. If you and your friends have a pact or they shared a secret with you, your partner does not need to know about it. Just as you and your partner may have secrets, things that have nothing to do with your relationship are sort of unnecessary to discuss.

If your best friend confided in you about something serious, your partner does not need to know about it and vice versa. Just because you share your lives together, it does not mean you have to share everything. [Read: The 9 unspoken rules all couples need to follow]

The rules of keeping secrets in a relationship

With these few exceptions, there are many many secrets that are harmful to relationships. To be honest, listing them all would take forever, so I’ll stick to the most common secrets you should avoid keeping and try to share.

#1 Your ex reached out. I am sure you have been in this fight before. Your partner saw a text from your ex on your phone and all hell broke loose. But if you had just mentioned that your ex texted you about getting their iPod back, there wouldn’t be an issue.

Usually, if someone keeps something like this a secret, there is a reason. If there are no feelings or reasons for your partner to be upset about this, why keep it a secret at all? [Read: How to respond to a text from your ex]

#2 An inappropriate encounter. Same goes for this. Whether your boss hit on you, a coworker made a pass, or a friend crossed the line, you should tell your partner. If it made you uncomfortable, this is the person you should be able to trust and lean on.

And even if it didn’t, you should let your partner know that there is someone in your life that is interested. Sharing this and talking about your place in the relationship will actually bring you closer. [Read: Are you unintentionally micro-cheating?]

#3 You got a job offer. I know, I know. You got a job offer and want to think it over before telling your partner. If you aren’t taking it, why bother worrying them in the first place? Well, because you are in a relationship and should make big decisions together.

If you tell your partner big news like this after the fact, they will feel betrayed. Like you didn’t want their input or bother to include them at all.

#4 You want to buy a house. Buying your partner a house, condo, or anything else big like that can be romantic to some. It can seem controlling and intense to others. Decisions like this are best made together.

So although extravagant gifts can be nice, think before you buy.

#5 You want to quit your job. Just like getting a new job, leaving the one you’re at can do a lot to a relationship. Whether you split rent, own a house together, or just to pay bills, changing your career or leaving one without a backup is another decision you should share.

Keeping something like this a secret is disrespectful to your partner.

#6 You’re spending a large amount of money. If you are in a serious relationship, serious enough that you share finances, buying anything over a certain amount needs to be discussed mutually.

Spending a large sum of money without your partner’s knowledge, especially on something you know they wouldn’t be happy with is not a good idea. Even if you don’t agree, having a discussion shows you care about their input. [Read: How to stop fighting over money in your relationship]

#7 You cheated. Yes, some people would rather live in the dark. And some think that what their partner doesn’t know can’t hurt them. I disagree. If you don’t want to know that your partner cheated, you probably already suspect they did, but are in denial. And not wanting to hurt your partner is a coward’s excuse.

If you didn’t want to hurt your partner, you wouldn’t have cheated in the first place. Telling your partner that you made a mistake, want to earn their trust back, and are sorry is the best way to handle it. If they find out another way, the chances of rebuilding that trust are slim to none.

#8 You’re bored. Being bored in a relationship might sound normal. We all go through ruts. But if you are feeling unfulfilled by your relationship, you need to talk about it. Keeping that to yourself can lead to cheating, resentment, and a blow out.

Instead, tell your partner you feel like your relationship has been lacking that spark. That way, you can work on it together. You can plan fun dates, go on mini vacations, or go to couples counseling. [Read: 15 reasons why couples get bored with their relationship]

#9 What you want in the future. A lot of long term relationships can get thrown off track by both partners concealing their plans for the future. You could be with someone for years and keep it a secret that you don’t want kids or that you want to travel the world.

These things don’t need to be spilled right off the bat. Once you see a future together, you should discuss the future. If your dreams don’t line up, and you’re both unwilling to concede, it won’t work out. [Read: The best questions to be asking in your relationship]

#10 What you expect from them. This is a biggie. So many people expect their partner to know what they want and expect from them without them ever having to say it. Sharing what you want from your partner makes your relationship so much stronger.

Everything from helping each other with household chores to coming to family functions and even weekly date nights need to be communicated or else you’ll never be on the same page.

[Read: The secrets you’re allowed to keep in a relationship]

Keeping secrets in a relationship can be a bumpy road. Where is the line between acceptable secrets and red flags? If unsure remember that honesty is the best policy.

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...