"Is it necessary – or even wise - to tell them absolutely everything?" Photo: Getty Images
“Don’t tell anyone, okay?” said my friend Lyn*. We’d been chatting, as friends do, and I promised her I’d be the soul of discretion.
“I won’t even tell T,” I told her.
“Oh you can tell him,” she said. “I don’t believe married couples should have any secrets. But don’t tell anyone else.”
I was surprised, to say the least. No secrets? Really?
“You mean you tell Sam* absolutely everything?” I asked incredulously.
“Absolutely,” she said.
“And he tells you?”
“Definitely,” she said. “Don’t you tell T everything?”
Er, God no! I thought. But I suspected she’d disapprove.
“Except when I get a parking fine,” I told her breezily, and I left it at that. Still, it got me thinking.
How much should we confide in our partners? Is it necessary – or even wise - to tell them absolutely everything? And are secrets between married people a bad thing?
I tell my husband most things. I am, by nature, a chatty person, and my husband, by nature, prefers to listen (and by ‘prefers to listen’ I mean ‘he has two ears which I choose to speak into whether he is listening or not’). But I have never told him everything. For a start, he wouldn’t be that interested. The details of my day, the conversations I have with my girlfriends, the minutia of my work and the household chores and the kids’ school lives just aren’t as fascinating as the latest instalment of Top Gear or Grand Designs.
For another thing, there are some areas of my life he just doesn’t understand particularly well. For example, if I want to talk to someone about the latest scandal in Twitterverse, I’m going to call a Tweeting friend, not T, who couldn’t speak in 140 characters if he tried, and frankly has no idea why I’d choose to. And if my daughter has a question about a ‘girl’s’ issue, and doesn’t want me to tell Dad, then I won’t. Conversations between daughters and mothers are sacred – as are conversations between mothers and sons, and fathers with their kids. That’s not secrecy. That’s just love.
Of course, there are somewhat less profound issues that I keep from my spouse, and I’m certainly not the only one. A quick poll on Twitter and Facebook revealed that the majority of people keep secrets from their partners, ranging from their true number of sexual partners, to how much chocolate they really eat in a day.
Men hide their porn (“except she found it, and now I’m in trouble”). Women hide their clothing purchases (“I rip off the tags and put the clothes away, and when he sees them say, ‘oh, this old thing?’”). Everyone hides the true extent of their internet use, particularly during working hours (“I go on Facebook and look up movies on Youtube. He thinks I actually work hard).
Many people hide great chunks of their lives from their partners. “He’s not allowed to follow me on twitter. So, you know, (I hide) everything.” Or, even more tellingly, “Mostly I don’t tell him my inner thoughts because he already thinks I’m nuts.”
I relate to many of the above. And I’ll add to them: I don’t share with my husband the secrets of my friends. We women confide endlessly in each other – hilarious stories about our sex lives, frustrations with our kids, disputes with our in-laws, financial concerns. If ever one of these discussions is preceded by “This is for the vault”, or “Just between us”, then it is. My friends are confiding in me, not T. And when I confide in them, I want to keep it between the two of us, not between the two of us and their spouse.
I think it’s okay to hold certain things back from your partner. Not insidious secrets – not second families, or numbered bank accounts, or bodies buried in the backyard – but little parts of yourself that you keep separate. That conversation you had with your sister-in-law. The fact that you think the local barista is really cute. That book of erotica you read on the train.
Or the true identity of ‘Lyn’ and ‘Sam’. Because I will not be telling anyone.
Not even my husband.