A healthy relationship allows secrets. Even insists on them, as it insists on some privacy and aloneness when needed. There is a part of each of us that will live, and thrive, on keeping some things to ourselves, sharing with some but not with others, even keeping some things from loved ones. Some secrets were in us before we met our partner, some arrive during any relationship, and some will be there forever even if that partner is gone.
You can’t give ‘all’ of you to your relationship and still remain healthy within yourself. If you are trying to do that, you are unhealthy, you are weakening yourself. If your partner is asking for ‘all of you’, for there to be ‘no secrets’, that partner is asking for something unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them, and unhealthy for you.
The mistake so many of us make is in thinking secrets, privacy, are somehow sinister, that there is something wrong with them. That if we don’t want to share it, that means it must be something ‘bad’, there must be some wrongness connected with it. If you want to keep it secret, private, then it is sinister to so many people… otherwise, they think, why not tell it out loud, right?
At the even more unhealthy level, others make your secrets, your privacy, about them, about their own insecurities. Maybe you’re not telling your secrets, maybe you want privacy, because you don’t trust that person with your secrets, or you think there’s something dangerous about that person knowing a certain secret about you. Which is usually right, in a way: someone who is so insecure, so worried, so untrusting, so low in their own groundedness that they feel suspicious, left out, unworthy, simply because you want to keep certain things from them… that is someone you do not want knowing your secrets. That is someone who will always be insisting you justify your privacy, justify needing it, justify it according to what THEY think should be private and not private. That is someone you don’t want to allow access into your privacy sphere for certain things.
I am talking about healthy secrecy here, healthy privacy. I’m talking about listening to your inner feeling about what to share and what to keep within your yourself. Unhealthy secrecy is a lack of sharing what is healthy, even necessary, to share. The person who comes home, obviously greatly agitated, and says – even yells – ‘I’m FINE!!’ when asked why they are upset, is practicing unhealthy secrecy.
That unhealthiness can come from both directions. Maybe the upset person is so out of touch with their feelings, their honesty, their sharing, they simply don’t have the tools to fight past their moods, and share what’s going on inside them. Maybe you’ve been a poor listener in the past, they know how badly you will react, so there’s no way they will share this with you. This is unhealthy secrecy, unhealthy privacy brought on by a life, and relationship, lacking in trust, understanding, patience, mutual groundedness, lack of one partner understanding the other.
But healthy secrecy and privacy honors the fact that you are an individual. That, even while you are in a relationship, no matter how close, you are still entitled to privacy, to ‘your own’, your secrets. You are still entitled to not having your ‘everything’ known and owned by your partner. You understand that you must each keep your own rights to parts of your mind, body, spirit, and be allowed to exercise those rights at moments that are justifiable only to you. Only to YOU, not both of you. And that, in itself, is all the reason you need to enforce your secrecy about something.
The healthiest relationships are not those that insist on each partner being absolutely open in every way; the healthiest relationships are those in which each partner learns to love, honor, and greatly respect the privacy each of you still needs in your soul. A healthy partner knows that in addition to having a partnership, you each also have a separateness that must be cherished and left free.
This applies to all levels; whole countries try to keep some secrets from other countries; your whole family will have some secrets you want to keep private from the ‘outside world’, even friends; and you and your partner will have ‘relationship secrets’ that you want to keep private to only the two of you, not tell family or friends, in order to keep your relationship feeling safe and intimate. And finally, you yourself, alone, have a few secrets you want to keep even from your partner.
It is revealing for you to look at your secrets. You feel like keeping some secrets from your partner… and yet you might share them with someone, or everyone, else. You keep some secrets from others, and yet you feel it is fine to share them with your partner. Instead of one or the other partner feeling ‘left out’, insecure or slighted when you won’t tell them something that you’ll tell someone else… this is actually a chance to learn more about yourself, more about your partner, and more about the dynamic that makes you feel you don’t want to tell them something.
Just as a partnership must be explored and matured for the rest of your lives, so does private, individual growth need to be explored and matured. This doesn’t weaken a relationship. If a relationship has a balance between open sharing and healthy privacy, without resentments over those secrets, it becomes a nurtured garden for both to grow in.
As long as you have a healthy and open sharing within your relationship, then when you give yourself permission to also keep secrets without having to justify them or feel guilty about them, and when you allow your partner their secrets without you badgering them about it and without you feeling insecure in not knowing their secrets, you will both enjoy a clearer trust, care, respect, and understanding of each other.
There is no ‘rule’, no list or set of guidelines you must follow in deciding which things to keep private, and from whom, and who to reveal them to. You follow your gut, your feeling, your heart and your wisdom. For some people, one secret seems ridiculous to keep, and for others the same secret is very important. It’s essential to not enter the trap of trying to justify keeping a secret, or justify who you tell and who you don’t.
Your secrets are YOURS. You own them, you can do what you want with them, you can give them or not give them to each person, as you choose. Maintaining complete ownership of your secrets and privacy, of who you decide to share them with or not, is not a sinister, hiding, selfish, power-tripping thing; it is knowing yourself. When you learn it well and learn how to apply it in a healthy manner, your relationships will actually become much more nourishing and nourished.