Before moving in with someone, tying the knot, or taking your relationship to the next level, secrets from the past (and present) are burdens than can ultimately be deal breakers down the road.
Counsellor Tammy Laber of Toronto, says secrets are never going to improve a relationship.
“There’s a part of yourself you’re keeping away from the other person,” she tells Global News. “They have the right to know about everything that is currently happening.”
Relationship expert Tara Caffelle says you should ask yourself why you’re keeping certain secrets in the first place.
“Is it to benefit the relationship or to soothe my own guilt?” she tells Global News. “Secrets are toxic to relationships. They break down trust, inhibit vulnerable growth, and erode the strength of the team.”
Which secrets can I keep to myself?
But there are some secrets you don’t have to open up about, especially if they involve relationships in the past, Laber says. For example, if your partner asks you how many sexual partners you’ve had before them, this isn’t something you need to reveal.
Having an affair in the past or hook-ups, especially if you’ve learned and moved on from it, isn’t something you need to bring up again. But if your partner wants to know certain aspects of your life, especially if you’ve been involved romantically with a friend, for example, you should consider being open about it and moving on together.
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“A lie is different from a secret,” she continues. “A lie is when they ask you a direct question and you give them a different answer. Ideally, you’ll have a partner who is not jealous and they believe you’ve moved on.”
Caffelle adds other things like how you feel about their parents or your opinion of a dress they got you, for example, can all be kept to yourself.
Below, Laber and Caffelle list examples of things you should never keep from someone you love.
Laber says affairs in the past is one thing, but if you are currently flirting or cheating on your partner, you should disclose this right away. Worse, they can find out about the affair through text or someone else. Emotional cheating, also counts as cheating, she adds.
STIs are a given, but Laber says it is also important to discuss other health conditions either you or your family members have. “If you know about a serious genetic disease, your partner has to know that.” Of course, things like mental health disorders are also important to disclose, if your partner doesn’t already know.
“They deserve to know if you are in debt before you move in together,” Laber says. Talk about things like credit history, loans or even if you are providing financial assistance to other members of your family.
Caffelle adds it is also a legal obligation.
“Many couples opt to pretend that money doesn’t exist,” she says. “If you’re truly in a partnership, you’ve got to be willing to share this.”
If you have children with another person, at this point, your partner should know. But things like putting a child up for adoption in the past is also something you may want to disclose — the child could show up in your future, Laber says.
“I think a common issue for couples is becoming adversarial in their lives together,” Caffelle says. “It’s important to let each other into one another’s fears, celebrations and doubts.” Even if you have temptations of cheating, she adds, this is something you shouldn’t keep to yourself.
Laber says this is a given, especially if you are messy or neat, but other things like drug and alcohol abuse is just a “ticking time bomb.”
How to work through secrets
Caffelle says it is important to remember that not all secrets will end a relationship. “Don’t hold back because you fear your partner’s reaction to something,” she says.
Often, the other partner in this situation can be angry or frustrated (which is completely justifiable), but it also helps the person with the secret calm down and find relief.
“When we’re honest and open to being real together, it creates opportunity for growth.”