Can You Keep A Secret?


Recently, I read letter to an agony aunt in a newspaper. I never usually read those things, but this one caught my eye.

It was a letter from someone who was about to get married and they had kept something from their partner during the course of the relationship. It was something in this person’s own past and was of no relevance to the current relationship. The person writing the letter had the idea that there should be no secrets whatsoever between husband and wife and was conflicted as to whether to share their secret or not.

It got me thinking…

If there is something in my past, that belongs to me, and is not going to impact on my current relationship, am I really obliged to tell my partner?

I think not.

Whatever relationships I had before my partner are mine. Unless one of them is likely to have an impact on my future with this person, I feel no duty to tell them everything about it.

Is it important to swap the number of people you have been with before?

Nope. As long as you are with me now, that’s all that matters. It is none of my business if you have been with one woman or one hundred women.

My only concern would be sexual health… now THAT is something we need to be upfront about.

What if I have cheated on someone in my past? Should I tell him that?

If it was a one-off occurence and not my usual pattern in relationships, would he benfit from knowing about that? Would it not make him wary and suspicious that I would cheat again? Is a person not allowed a clean slate?

What if I was the ‘other woman’ in the past? Does my new partner need to know I was involved with a married man?

What if I had done a job I was not exactly proud of… exotic dancer maybe? I guess there is a chance someone from my past would recognize me, which makes that a dilemma.

Then I thought, what if I had an abortion as a teenager? Should I disclose that?

I still think that is my own personal history, and unless I feel the need to share that, it is not the business of anyone else, even my partner.

What if meet a man and fall in love, but do not disclose that I am, in fact, bisexual?

Does that matter? As far as I am concerned I am with THIS man. Being bisexual does not mean I am any more likely to be unfaithful than if I were straight.

So… do I have any obligation to tell him?

Again I think not. (Although I will say I cannot think of any reason not to tell him, unless I fear he will be appalled, in which case I wouldn’t want to be with him anyway.)

I think, if my secret has a potential to cause reverberations in my present relationship, then I should disclose it. If it doesn’t, then I am under no obligation to tell.

Then I thought about the ‘secrets’ we keep regarding our present day lives.

you CAN tell does not mean you HAVE to tell

you CAN tell does not mean you HAVE to tell

Does my partner need to know everything about me? What I am thinking? What I have been doing? Where I have been? Who I see?

This is maybe more difficult I think.

The obvious point is, what have I got to hide? Why wouldn’t I tell him everything I have been doing and thinking?

Probably because he wouldn’t want to know anyway, but more so, I need my own private world where I can feel free to think, do and see who and what I like.

Does this mean I am cold and unsharing? Not at all.

Ask my OH and you will be told this:  I talk… a lot. I ask questions… a lot.

But sometimes I will be quiet and I need to be left to my own internal world.

This worries him and he asks what is wrong.

Nothing is wrong. I am simply thinking, fantasising, imagining.

And, to be honest, I don’t always want to share that part of me.

To be even more honest, it irritates me to be constantly badgered to tell my secret thoughts.

How dull a relationship would be if there was no mystery at all?

How trapped I would feel if I cannot escape inside my own private world when I need to?

How monitored I would feel if I have to account for who I see, where I go, what I do?

Case in point…

I also, do not judge me!, run a twitter account for Lily, (AKA The Love Of My Life), and the OH had the password to access it.

Last year, before he officially joined twitter, the OH questioned me about a flirty twitter exchange I had with a guy, who found funny and entertaining, who I still tweet with today.

I heard judgement and almost accusation in his voice. I asked how he had even seen this exchange and he told me he had entered Lily’s account and looked to see who I was talking to.

I was LIVID.

As far as I was concerned, this was a complete invasion of my privacy.

I had always told him about any funny chats I had enjoyed during the day when he came home in the evenings. He had no need to access an account in order to see what I was doing. I was having funny, flirty banter, in full view of everyone on twitter, and it was perfectly harmless. But he made me feel awkward and ashamed about it.

That was when I decided I needed my secrets, my privacy, my own space.

We argued.

Other ways he unconsciously stepped over the line were discussed. For example, he would stand over my shoulder as I was online, tweeting, surfing the net, whatever.

I hate that feeling of someone watching me.

I should point out, the OH is not a monster. We have agreed on boundaries and limits since then, and, with the odd lapse, he has stuck to his end of the deal.

Recently the OH joined twitter and we exchanged several tweets throughout the day.

It did feel strange. Where we once texted each other to say something or ask something, now we were communicating on this very public forum and it just felt… weird.

Furthermore, anyone who follows me on twitter knows I am an outrageous flirt and I say what ever I like. So far, people seem to like it! The OH was fully aware that on twitter, what you see is what you get as far as I am concerned, so the flirting was not an issue, seeing as I would flirt with my own shadow in real life.

Not to mention he was aware of my twitter life after his snooping exercise!

The problem was not necessarily with him.

It was me. I started to feel less free to be me, silly as that may sound. I think the way I can explain it is, it was as if, during a night in with my girlfriends and a bottle of wine, he was suddenly there, listening to all our conversations.

I told him we needed space. I need a place where I can go… without him.

He was upset and disappointed but agreed.

I feel much happier now that I have my own space back.


Not all secrets are bad in relationships.

On the contrary, the pressure to share every single aspect of oneself can feel suffocating and limiting in the extreme.

I would rather be in a relationship where both parties feel free to share what they feel is relevant and important, as well as feeling free to harbour their own secret thoughts, desires, fears, fantasies.

A secret willingly shared is worth much, much more than one discovered through subterfuge or coercion.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this topic of past and present secrets in relationships.

Please do leave a comment, whether you agree or whether you think I am spouting complete tosh!

As always, thanks for stopping by…



16 thoughts on “Can You Keep A Secret?

  1. Well, you mentioned Lily and she’s a dog so that’s all the invitation I need to insert myself into the discussion.

    We’ve been married so long my wife, the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF), knows all my secrets including some which I didn’t remember that I had. She thinks they’re pretty much boring. I, on the other and, am eternally fascinated by the fact that my ear hair grows much faster than my head hair. What? that’s not a secret you need to know? Fine. Just fine. I that case I’ll leave and take my dog with me. 🙂

    The AJF believes that since she is Japanese she has the right to be inscrutable thereby perpetuating a stereotype and placing secrets out of bounds for discussion. Being a true male (as opposed to faux) I am quite happy to have the silence and enjoy my beer in peace. Secrets are just too much trouble and angst and energy better dedicated to quaffing a nice stout or porter.

    Maybe it’s just that seem relationships mellow and improve as one piles on more miles. Like two rocks rubbing against each other eventually we wear ourselves down to a comfortable fit.

    Oh, Max says hi!

  2. I think you need to keep your own identity, your own relationships, your own thoughts. Secrets are only secrets if knowledge is being deliberately witheld aren’t they? If there’s no need or benefit or consequence in sharing them then are they secrets at all or just untold facts?
    Personally I never wanted to know what my partners did before unless I had a reason to know, and I never wanted to see flirtatious texts or whatever as I think we all human and some of us need to retain a degree of our identity as a person, not just one half of a couple. If you trust that your partner is not endangering your marriage/relationship or you personally, then is it going to help you seeing stuff that we all might do ‘in secret’? But there are limits, and they aren’t, fixed or the same for everyone. Ultimately I guess it’s all down to individuals to decide, and trust between you to know what you should or shouldn’t reveal of your private or past life …. None of that is ever straightforward!

      • It’s such a complex subject and it’s all about trust and honesty I think. If you know it’s wrong and that’s why you withhold it then it’s a different matter than something that has no current impact but the telling would just create a shit storm then it’s probably best kept a secret? It isn’t black and white in my mind, but I know it’s where I/we went badly wrong and crossed the boundaries in my marriage, and once that breach is made it easily gets out of hand and before you know it you are in a whole world of distrust and dishonesty. 🙂

      • Again you’re very kind. I feel a bit like I’m courting sympathy but really I guess I am writing out my feelings because it helps me to deal with and understand them, having to think out ways to express makes me think about the reality of those events, and understanding that it is normal to struggle with the shit stuff whatever form it takes, because all around here people are writing openly about their experiences and how they coped or didn’t, and the comments other people write in response, it all just makes me feel better about my failings, put them into perspective, and make sense of everything a bit more, because I feel understood and I feel I can understand how others feel in similar situations, it kind of normalises how I think and feel, that’s what I really need I think. Waffle, waffle, waffle….! I should count up how many times I used the words ‘think’ and ‘feel’ and, most worrying, ‘I’…

      • Exactly. Said much better than I. Thanks for all your comments and reading my stuff. The grace and goodwill of strangers can be oddly pure and genuine because it carries no obligation to give it. 🙂

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