What’s The Difference Between Privacy And Secrecy In A Relationship?

When you get into a serious relationship with someone, you’d like to think that you can tell each other anything without fear of being judged or unfairly condemned. And while it’s important to be able to communicate frankly with your partner, that doesn’t mean you can, should, or want to tell them every single thing that happens or thought that pops into your mind. Generally speaking, that’s not a problem. However, there’s a difference between privacy and secrecy, and the latter can destroy your relationship.

What is the difference between privacy and secrecy?

Merriam-Webster defines privacy as “the quality or state of being apart from company or observation” and “freedom from unauthorized intrusion.” On the flip side, secrecy is described as “the condition of being hidden or concealed” and “the habit or practice of keeping secrets or maintaining concealment.” Looking at the definitions in black and white, it’s easy to see the stark difference between the two terms.

Privacy is something everyone is entitled to. It means keeping some things to yourself because you’re not ready or simply don’t want to share them. Your private life doesn’t exist because you’re trying to hide anything or because you’re holding back vital information about yourself from anyone else. It’s simply a way of maintaining your individual life regardless of your relationship status.

Secrecy, on the other hand, implies deceit. The only time a person is secretive is when they’re doing something they realize they should not be. Or, it could be because they fear the other person’s reaction if they were to be honest. Either way, purposely concealing parts of your life that your partner has every right to know about is dishonest and will ultimately backfire.

Why privacy is so important in a relationship

  1. You’re still a person outside of the relationship. Just because you’re part of a couple doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to your autonomy. You can share hobbies, a living space, a bank account, or even children. However, you can and should exist separately from your partner as well. That means having parts of your life that don’t involve them.
  2. It helps to build trust. This is a major difference between privacy and secrecy. Secrecy can erode trust but privacy builds it. That’s because it illustrates a willingness to allow your partner to keep parts of their life to themself without guilt-tripping them or freaking out. This is vital for a healthy connection.
  3. You’re allowed to keep some things for yourself. No one has to tell everyone (or anyone) else every single thing about themselves. In fact, it’s probably better that way. Sometimes we think or feel things that are fleeting and not worth discussion. We occasionally do things simply because it makes us feel good and we want to keep it for ourselves. We should be allowed to do that without drama.
  4. It’s a basic human need. Human beings need time and space in which to nurture their individual selves. In the quiet moments when you can be alone with your own thoughts is when much reflection, rejuvenation, and growth takes place. To be forced to share every second of the day with another person isn’t healthy or viable long-term.
  5. It fosters a sense of respect. Claiming your right to privacy is establishing a boundary that you won’t allow anyone to cross. This shows your partner that you demand respect and that you’ll respect their rights in return. Without this boundary in place, things can get murky pretty quickly.
  6. It keeps your relationship healthy. Ultimately, having private lives as well as the life you share will make your relationship stronger in the long run. You’ll be more well-rounded, fulfilled individuals, which makes the couple unit totally unstoppable.

What privacy looks like

  • Doing your own thing sometimes without your partner incessantly calling or texting
  • Going away with friends for the weekend
  • Having a texting conversation with a friend or family member that you don’t relay every word of
  • Processing certain experiences or emotions with a therapist rather than your partner
  • Not sharing every thought that comes into your head
  • Not feeling pressured to relay everything that happened in a given day
  • Keeping a journal where you can write down things you don’t want to share
  • Not being forced to share phone, email, or social media passwords with your partner

Ways secrecy can destroy your relationship

  1. It breeds jealousy and distrust. Keeping secrets from your partner is unhealthy in a number of ways, but this is one of the worst. When your partner realizes you’re hiding something from them, they’re likely to trust you less. What are you hiding and why? Are you being unfaithful? These thoughts will swirl in their head and chip away at your relationship.
  2. It can make your entire relationship feel like a lie. Even if you’re only secretive about one thing, that can be enough to destroy your connection with your partner. When they find out about your concealment, they will probably start to question what else you’ve been dishonest about. Without trust, you cannot go on.
  3. You never know where you stand with each other. Knowing that you have secrets from one another will remove all sense of stability and security. Because you don’t know what they’re keeping and why, you worry that the rug could be ripped out from beneath you at any moment. The sad part is, you’re probably right.
  4. You may feel like you’re being taken for a fool. No one likes being lied to. When your secret comes out, your partner will likely wonder how they didn’t figure it out sooner. The fact that you could lie so easily to them will make them feel stupid and like you believe they’re gullible or foolish. It can do a serious number on their self-worth.
  5. It leads to further dishonesty. The difference between privacy and secrecy is that privacy enhances honesty while secrecy encourages more lies. If you can keep one thing from your partner, why stop there? What else can you prevent them from knowing or finding out about? It’s a slippery slope, and one best avoided if you value your relationship.
Bolde has been a source of dating and relationship advice for single women around the world since 2014. We combine scientific data, experiential wisdom, and personal anecdotes to provide help and encouragement to those frustrated by the journey to find love. Follow us on Instagram @bolde_media or on Facebook @BoldeMedia