Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 in Couples Counseling, Couples Counseling For One | Comments Off on Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

Should Your Partner Know All Your Secrets?

Most people believe that honesty is typically the best policy for dealing with a partner. Clearly, trust and honesty are building blocks of any healthy, stable relationship. Yet, it may not be helpful to share everything about your past, pre-partnered life. How can you determine what should and shouldn’t be shared?

  1. Appreciate the difference between privacy and secrecy.

Privacy is a freedom-oriented privilege. The dictionary defines privacy as the ability “to conduct the business of our own lives independently or without fear of intrusion.” This rightful expectation also extends itself to healthy couples. In a relationship, partners need the ability to determine their own physical and emotional space. While there should be lots of give and take, and sharing of information, it’s okay to have thoughts, feelings, and some behaviors that you may want to keep personal. Privacy doesn’t injure other people, secrets definitely can.

Secrecy actively hides and conceals from others. This is very different from privacy, in that secrets withhold information that may threaten or harm your partner or others. For example, a partner’s decision to hide a flirtatious lunch date or gambling addiction from their partner is the type of secret that could damage your relationship and cause significant problems.

  1. Recognize that secrets take away the unsuspecting partner’s right to make informed decisions.

Financial infidelity, affairs, substance abuse or other serious problems may have a serious impact on your partner’s future. He or she should not be kept in the dark about secret information that might have a considerable effect on how your partner leads their life.

  1. Accept that confessions may be difficult, but ongoing secrecy can ultimately destroy your relationship.

Telling your partner the truth may not be easy. It is difficult to confess to loved ones. You may resist taking this step for the following couple of reasons:

a)     Though not always the case, revealing the secret may be upsetting for your partner or family, create life-changing problems, or cause some other serious injury to your relationship.

b)     Often, what a person with a secret will do is justify prolonging the secrecy. It may be easier to tell yourself that your actions are really protecting your partner.

In part, this is true. After all, who wants to hear that they have been hurt or betrayed by someone they trust? It is important to realize that continued concealment may create a more damaging situation. If your secret is found out, your partner will likely feel doubly betrayed.

As a general rule, if you make regrettable choices in your relationship, you’ll do better to confess the secret appropriately and as soon as possible, as opposed to being discovered. Resisting confession actually indicates a tendency to self-protect, and avoid the consequences of telling the truth. You may get away with keeping your secret in the short-term, but it is unlikely to last forever.

  1. Realize that there are some valid reasons for not sharing information with your partner.

Perhaps you were unfaithful once, a decade ago, in a previous relationship. Does it really serve your current relationship to bring that to your partner’s attention? It may be best to leave that situation in the past. Sometimes sharing that type of secret does more harm than good.

Another circumstance better served by silence is a case in which what you wish to say is degrading or unkind. Many times uncensored thoughts or feelings should be reined in, instead of shared in the name of honesty. It’s better to take a step back, weigh your words carefully, and present your thoughts in a more appropriate way.



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