Sex & Relationships

Experts Say You Can Keep These 10 Thoughts To Yourself In Relationships

Some things are better left unsaid.

Originally Published: 
Do I have to tell my partner everything? You can keep some thoughts to yourself.
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Nine times out of 10, you're going to want to be open with your partner and let them know what you're thinking, feeling, hoping for, and so on. Communication is, after all, one of the most important factors in maintaining a relationship. But should you tell your partner everything? Experts agree that you don’t have to.

“I absolutely think that is not only normal, not only OK, but really great to have some private thoughts or things in your life that are just yours,” dating and relationship expert Cora Boyd tells Bustle. “And I don't think that has to exist in the same space [as] deceit or omission whatsoever.”

In fact, keeping a few thoughts to yourself can be beneficial at times, especially if they won't contribute to your relationship in a positive way. "Total honesty isn’t always the best policy," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. If revealing this information will serve no real purpose, or if it will cause hurt feelings, he says, then it may be something worth keeping to yourself.

It'll be up to you to judge what needs to be said and what's OK to keep quiet. You may find that "some things are best kept private in order to spare others pain and keep peace in the relationship," Bennett says. As well as respecting boundaries and sparing feelings, keeping some thoughts private can also help you maintain an individual identity while in a relationship. “It's really, really important for the health of the relationship to continue to nurture and have a connection with your own individuality,” Boyd says. This can come with breaking the notion that you have to tell your partner everything.

Of course, that's not to say you shouldn't discuss tough subjects or have deep conversations about whatever's going on in your relationship. Open communication is undoubtedly the key ingredient to a healthy partnership, and you should never be hiding information or starting sentences with, “Don’t tell my boyfriend, but...” (If you find yourself prefacing convos with your friends like this, it might be time to reevaluate some things in your relationship.) Every couple is different, meaning that each pair will have their own communication styles that feel comfortable for them. So, while this is by no means a definite list, you may want to avoid some of the topics below in the interest of maintaining a harmonious connection.


Small Quirks You Find Annoying

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"When you’re around someone all the time, it’s easy to notice that person’s flaws and imperfections," Bennett says. You might feel irritated by little things your partner does throughout the day or zero in on their small quirks. "But if you’re happy and the relationship is solid, it’s not worth focusing on the little things that bother you," he says. "It’s better to keep them a secret than to make your partner feel insecure or hurt” by pointing them out.

While it’s always great to be open with your partner if any of their actions are hurting you or your feelings, chances are their loud chewing or quirky laugh isn’t bringing anyone harm. And, as Boyd says, “Criticism erodes connection. So, we want to be selective and intentional with giving feedback.” You can try to bring up certain issues in a positive way, especially if the quirk is causing problems. But the reality is everyone has a "flaw" or two, and many can't be helped or changed.


Leftover Feelings You Have For An Ex

"Complicated feelings for exes are normal," Bennett says. You might still be recovering from the end of that previous relationship. Or you might wonder, for brief moments, what your ex is up to.

But is that something you need to say out loud to your current partner? Maybe not. "Even in the most secure of relationships, it is not always necessary to make your ex present in the room," Dr. Racine Henry, Ph.D., LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy, tells Bustle. "That person is from your past, and you can discuss their new job, marriage, [or] haircut with your close friends who will be better able to keep things in perspective."

It’s also important to recognize that there is a difference between sharing helpful context about your prior relationship and emotionally processing this past with your partner. “It's not appropriate and is actually really unhelpful to do emotional processing about your ex with your current partner,” Boyd says. If you are considering talking about your ex, try to decipher if this is simply a “relaying of information, versus a processing of your thoughts, narratives, and feelings around your previous relationships,” Boyd explains.


How You Feel About Their Family

Unless the family is creating some sort of toxic situation — in which case you should speak up and let your partner know — there's really no need to share minor things you dislike about your partner's loved ones. After all, "getting into a serious relationship with another person means you also enter into their world," Bennett says. And that includes spending time with potentially annoying little cousins or aunts who always say the wrong thing.

"For the sake of a peaceful relationship, unless the family causes a major issue, it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself," Bennett suggests. You can joke and laugh about it with your partner, but you may want to tread lightly and try not to say anything insulting.


That You Find A Friend Attractive

"Having an attraction towards another person is a normal human response and is nothing to be ashamed of," Michelle Fraley, MA, WPCC, psychologist, relationship expert, and professional matchmaker, tells Bustle. "However, telling your partner about this attraction will most likely only result in hurt feelings, jealousy, insecurity, and awkwardness."

For some couples, it may be common practice to tell each other when you think another person is good looking — regardless of their gender, we can all appreciate an attractive human every once in a while. But it’s important to keep the intent in mind when sharing this sort of information. Boyd says, “Are you sharing it from a place of, ‘So and so’s a handsome dude,’ versus ‘I’m really attracted to your friend’?” If it’s the latter, then it’s probably best to keep those thoughts private. But either way, it may be a safer bet to not make a habit of telling your partner about people you’ve got heart eyes for. As Boyd says, those thoughts are “none of their business.”

If you happen to have a little mini crush, that's fine, but it’s not necessary to tell your partner. As long as you aren't acting on your thoughts, and they aren't impacting your relationship in any way, you may be better off keeping them to yourself.


That You Have Fleeting Doubts About Your Relationship

"Words are powerful weapons, and once they are said, they cannot be taken back," Fraley says. So unless you really and truly mean it, never say out loud that you're having doubts about the relationship.

In fact, "throughout a relationship, it is normal to have thoughts and feelings about your connection and longevity," Fraley says. "These thoughts may be fleeting, so it would be wise to sit on them and do some internal work before sharing such powerful (and potentially hurtful) thoughts with your partner."

And you'll never want to say anything like this in the heat of the moment during an argument. While you may be angry and upset, saying aloud that you're having doubts can be a tough thing to recover from. It may be tempting to feel guilty for even having these thoughts, but try to relieve yourself from any sort of shame. “You are not your thoughts,” Boyd says. “Even if you sometimes imagine the prospect of breaking up, [that] doesn’t mean that is what you want. It’s literally just a thought.” It’s only natural for our minds to wander, so it’s best to not take every thought that crosses our minds as the truth.


Unsolicited Opinions About Their Friends


As with family, it's not always wise to share exactly what you're thinking about your partner's friends. "Unless this person is doing something to you that is offensive, you should keep your opinions [...] to yourself," Henry says.

You can also be perfectly honest about things you don't like without it going down a toxic road. For example, "if your partner asks your thoughts about their friendships or familial relationships, tread lightly and do more listening than speaking," Henry suggests. Approach the conversation with the goal of supporting your partner rather than leading with your personal feelings.


How You Feel About Their Goals

Sharing your life with someone means you get to talk about each other's plans for the future, including your individual goals and how they might impact you as a couple. And yet, that doesn't mean you get to rush each other or put unnecessary pressure on your partner to follow a specific timeline.

"There is nothing wrong with holding them accountable if they are receptive to your involvement, but overall, working towards one's goals is a personal and often vulnerable journey,' Henry says. "You can be supportive while also respecting their individual process, even if it seems like they are doing things the hard way."


Your Family's Opinion About Your Partner

"In an ideal world, our family and friends would feel positively about our partners and see them in the same light as we do," Henry says. "Realistically, that doesn't always happen." Even if your family has a thing or two to say, that doesn't mean it needs to get back to your partner, especially since these words can be difficult to forget. The memory of an offensive comment may stick around long after the family dynamic shifts — so even if your family grows to love and support your relationship, that initial hurt won’t fade easily.

"The people in your life should always respect your partner and your decision to be with them," Henry says. So while you're busy shielding your partner, you may want to stand up for your partner, too. It’s perfectly reasonable for your family to be concerned for your well-being, but they should also trust you and your ability to make choices for yourself.


Things You Miss About Old Relationships

"Our minds work 24/7 at processing our lives, and this includes previous partners [and] comparisons with your current relationship, especially in newer relationships," Jorge Fernandez, LCSW, an individual and family psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "This is absolutely normal and doesn't indicate any sort of dissatisfaction with your current partner."

And yet, as you might have guessed, these aren't things you'll necessarily want to say out loud to your partner. Instead, try to find a way to incorporate anything you miss — like traditions or adventures — into your current life. And if you're still hung up on the past, Fernandez suggests talking to a therapist.


Details From Your Romantic History

Not only do you not need to share things you miss about your previous relationships, but any of the nitty gritty details about your dating history are up to your discretion. Whether that be information about your past sexual partners, your worst breakups, or the kinky activities you’ve tried in bed, you may want to take a beat before sharing that with your current partner.

Boyd suggests “just being judicious and intentional with commentary about your romantic history.” This means checking in with yourself and your intentions before bringing up an aspect of your dating, relationship, or sexual past. “It can provide context and help them understand you and know you better as a person,” Boyd explains. But on the flip side, disclosing your romantic history could be used “as a manipulative tactic to elicit jealousy.” Simply be mindful of your intent, and remember that it’s OK if you’d like to keep any of this information private.

You don't have to divulge every thought in order to have a strong relationship, especially when that thought might do more harm than good. So take your partner and your connection into consideration, and know that it's always OK to keep a few things to yourself.


Cora Boyd, dating and relationship expert

Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert

Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy

Michelle Fraley, MA, WPCC, psychologist, relationship expert, and professional matchmaker

Jorge Fernandez, LCSW, an individual and family psychotherapist

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