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Gandalf Was Wrong: Secrets Are Not Safe

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Everyone has secrets. The all–guy weekend trip to Mexico without telling your parents when you were eighteen is small. The relationship with your best friend’s younger sister after he asked you to step back is one that can cause trouble. Secrets are born either from guilt over actions we’re not proud of or the desire for privacy in an age where nothing is sacred. Small secrets add a little spice to life but larger secrets can end marriages, destroy governments, and ruin lives. ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars shows a highly–dramatized version of the cost of keeping secrets even within a group of friends in a small town.

Secrets take on new dimensions in a committed relationship. What areas of one’s life require full disclosure? What things can we leave unsaid? Does an after–dinner cigarette away from prying eyes when you’re trying to quit count as a dark secret? Is it something deeper and more personal? I’ve received hundreds of responses while writing this article and the majority of them cited these concerns:

Children: Blended families are now common in American society. Children from previous relationships provide challenges for both new and existing couples. The number of children you have, along with your relationships with their parents should be disclosed as soon as possible.  This also applies to whether or not you both want children at any point. Both parties must understand what’s on the table and what paths are open in the relationship to decide if it’s right.

Addictions: Few people want to discuss the dark times in life, but knowledge of addictions grants both parties in a relationship an idea of appropriate actions when together and apart. When you’ve battled alcoholism or drug abuse you don’t want a partner who is still entrenched in the party scene. When your partner is a recovering gambler, don’t suggest a night at playing slots. It saves everyone time and trouble later on.

Diseases/Illness: Life–threatening and long–term illness must be disclosed as early as possible. Not everyone is comfortable with a commitment to someone who is not in the best health. This applies to familial and platonic relationships as much as romantic ones. A sexually transmitted disease is another subject. Full disclosure before sexual intimacy isn’t just deserved, it’s necessary.

Criminal History: No one wants to their past held against them for life but criminal history is important information. The piece of candy you accidentally took when you were three is between you and your conscience. Time served for armed robbery, distribution or grand larceny is between you, the justice system and your significant other, at minimum. The internet is a powerful information tool and records of past issues are growing easier and easier to find by a public demanding to know who lives next to them, teaches their children, or represents them in Congress.

Relationships are built upon a solid foundation of trust. A relationship built on secrets weakens that foundation and places hearts in jeopardy. Divulging every thought and feeling in your head isn’t necessary but communication with your significant other about your life before them is required before making a deeper commitment. A secret only holds power as long as it causes shame and distress.

Once that power is removed, you may find forgiveness from both the person you love…and yourself.

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One Comment on “Gandalf Was Wrong: Secrets Are Not Safe”

  1. Nick August 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Infidelity needs to be on this list, as does debt. But infidelity is a bigger one. If you’ve cheated in the past (or are currently), that needs to be disclosed to your partner because even if it’s past or present, that can spring a whole load of new problems suggesting disconnection with your partner, not just sexually but emotionally. And that stuff can hurt the other more than you think.

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