The Difference Between Secrecy And Privacy When You're In A Relationship

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Navigating the different requirements within a relationship can be challenging. You're different people who come from different backgrounds and upbringings with possibly different ideas of how a relationship should work. If one of you has been in a bad or hurtful relationship in the past, you might be unconsciously bringing hurt and trauma from that into the new dynamic as well. 

Relationship coach Kali Rogers thinks that romantic relationships are hard "because they possess more intimacy than any other relationship" (via Bustle). And with such intimacy come the uncomfortable topics of how to handle finances together, how many kids you each want to have (or not have), what constitutes a happy long-term commitment, and a whole lot more. 

Throw into the mix people's advice of what you should avoid doing in a relationship in order for it to be successful. Something you may have heard from others or might have been confronted with yourself are the ideas of privacy and secrecy within a relationship, per Rewire. Have you ever found yourself asking for information from your spouse or partner about something that they seem unwilling to talk about and wondered if you were stepping on some kind of invisible boundary? Or maybe you were the one who felt a line was being crossed. What is the difference between secrecy and privacy when you're in a relationship?

Secrecy is about withholding information and privacy is about maintaining healthy boundaries

Psychotherapist Amy Morin told Well+Good that the difference lies in the intention. "If you aren't revealing something because you don't want to, it's likely an example of maintaining privacy. And if you're not revealing something because you are afraid of the consequences, it's likely secrecy," she said. 

Secrets have an underlying element of dishonesty that can lead to a violation of trust, per Verywell Mind. Keeping a secret can affect your relationship negatively. If you or your partner is attempting to intentionally hide information that could potentially hurt your relationship or the other person, this could very well fall under the category of being a secret. Secrets are motivated by fear and shame according to Morin, who is also the author of the book "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do" (via Rewire). 

Privacy, on the other hand, has to do with setting healthy boundaries. Relationship expert Bruce Muzik thinks that even though the two sound like similar concepts, privacy and secrecy are very different. "Privacy is also a basic human need," he wrote for  Love at First Fight. Muzik said that, without maintaining individual privacy, people can lose themselves in a relationship. A private life — complete with individual hobbies, interests, and thoughts — can actually add to a relationship and make it more wholesome. 

Listen to your body to know the difference

Looking to how we feel when we engage in either one of the two is a good way to distinguish between privacy and secrecy, per In Pursuit of Happiness. Keeping a secret from your partner could bring with it stress and defensiveness, whereas if your partner breaches your privacy, you might feel violated. Privacy builds respect and transparency.

Psychotherapist and author Amy Morin explained to Well+Good that people expend a lot of energy trying to keep a secret. "Secrets tend to rule our lives," she said. In addition to the fear and shame that accompany secrets, another emotion to watch out for is a lack of intimacy with your partner as a result of keeping a secret, per therapist and author Hatty J. Lee. Contrary to what you might believe, there is no need to share everything with your partner in order to feel close to them. "Do you feel a sense of peace or of acknowledging your needs and wants? Is your behavior focused on honoring your boundaries? Then I'd be inclined to believe that you're upholding your own privacy," said Lee.

As for examples of what constitutes secrecy, some common ones could involve infidelity, hiding important information related to work, financial decisions, or health (via If your partner wishes to respect a previous relationship's ins and outs or even some details from their younger days, this could just mean they're trying to maintain some privacy.