The Real Reason Keeping Secrets Is Harmful To Your Relationships
Most of us have secrets. Some of them can be juicy and scandalous like a secret love affair worthy of a Lifetime movie, while others can be fun like a surprise birthday party you're throwing for your significant other. Some secrets might get shared with a select few that you really trust, while others may stay with you until the day you die. But regardless of what kind of secret you're keeping, new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that just thinking about the secrets you're keeping can be harmful to your relationships — and your overall health.
Michael Slepian, an assistant professor of management at the Columbia Business School and colleagues conducted 10 different studies analyzing over 13,000 secrets and found the 38 most common secrets people keep. One of the more interesting finds of their study is the fact that people tend to think about their secrets more often than they have to. Secrets have a way of messing with you no matter how hard you try to move past them.
"Secrets exert a gravitational pull on our attention, and it's the cyclical revisiting of our mistakes that explains the harmful effects that secrets can have on our well-being and relationship satisfaction," Malia Mason, co-author of the study and associate professor of management at Columbia Business School, said in a release. "Along with a diminished sense of well-being and physical health consequences, keeping secrets can also shift a person's focus from the task at hand to their secrets, which clearly can have a detrimental effect on task performance."
According to researchers, these type of recurring thoughts can lead to unhappiness because secrets remind us that we're hiding a part of ourselves and being inauthentic. While some experts would argue that there are certain secrets that are OK to keep from your partner, this study found that keeping secrets can not only lead to a deteriorating relationship, but also a decline in physical health and a lower satisfaction with life. The authors surveyed thousands of people and broke down the most common secrets people keep by gender and age. These are the 10 biggest secrets men and women in their 20s keep:
1. Telling A Lie
According to the study, telling a lie is the number one secret men and women in their 20s say they keep. But the percentage of people who've told at least one person that they've told a lie is more than those who've kept that lie to themselves.
2. Romantic Desire
The authors define this as having romantic desires for a specific someone while being single, like a secret crush. More people have told someone about their secret crush than those who haven't.
3. Sexual Behavior
This is defined as sexual behavior other than sexual orientation that you keep secret. For instance, how much porn you watch, how often you masturbate, or any sexual fantasies you have.
A recent study found that openly sharing your sexual fantasies with your partner can lead you to a happier relationship overall. So this might be one secret you shouldn't be afraid to share.
According to the study, more people are willing to talk about their sex fantasies and their secret crushes over how much money they really have.
5. Social Discontent
This is defined as any secrets you're keeping on your social life — like if you secretly hate someone in your friend group. This is a secret that more people tend to share with others than keep to themselves.
6. Family Detail
Family secrets usually make for good TV. According to the study, it's one of the most kept secrets that men and women in their 20s tend to keep.
7. Extra-Relational Thoughts
Unlike the "romantic desire" secret, this one deals with desires you may have for someone other than your partner. Like finances, this is one secret that more people tend to keep themselves.
8. Physical Discontent
These secrets deal with any insecurities or dissatisfactions you may have about your physical appearance.
Ambition is defined as secret plans or goals for yourself.
10. Violating Trust
These are defined as secrets where you've violated someone's trust but not through a lie. For instance, snooping through your partner's phone or exposing a secret of someone else.
Other secrets on the list include hobbies, romantic discontent, surprises, and pregnancy. If you want to see how your secrets compare to people around your age, then check it out here.
If you can take anything away from this study, it's that most of us have secrets so don't feel like you have to go through anything alone. Don't be afraid to share yours with someone you trust. Your relationships — and health — may benefit from it.