Jennifer Seip, MA Individual, Couples & Sex Therapy

Love, Sex & Life Blog

Secrets Versus Privacy: Here’s How To Know The Difference In Your Relationship

Secrets Versus Privacy: Here’s How To Know The Difference In Your Relationship

I have a big topic for you! I cannot tell you how many times this subject comes up during my conversations with people. When is something okay to be kept hidden from your partner? When should it be told? A lot of people believe that there should be nothing hidden if you are in a romantic and trusting relationship, but how close is too close? When should you disclose information and when should it be kept to yourself? I am referring to Secrets versus Privacy. What are their meanings and how to do you know what falls under each category?

Click here to watch my youtube video all about secrets vs. privacy!


First, lets talk secrets. Secrets are things that you know are against the rules of your relationship. They are things that you and your partner have either overtly discussed as not being okay or are implicitly assumed to be damaging. A person can tell if they are keeping something secret if they fear the repercussions of disclosing such information. Perhaps their partner will feel betrayed after learning this information. Or maybe there is some personal shame associated with this information and so you don’t want to tell it. Either way, secrecy is harmful and if your gut is telling you that this thing you’re hiding ought be disclosed, then it probably should to be.


Having something private in your relationship means that you’re aware that if your partner knew this information, they would feel alright about it. You just don’t want to tell them for one reason or another.

Private information is not harmful. Things that are kept private are accepted in your relationship. Sometimes, people don’t want to share private information because it is personal and it might feel embarrassing to disclose. Or maybe you know that this information is not important to the relationship at all. The best way to determine if something is private is by asking yourself,

“will my partner be affected by this information?”

If your answer is “no,” then you are keeping something private.

It’s important to understand the difference between secrecy and privacy in your relationship. The best way to truly know if something falls under a certain category is to ask your partner when you first begin dating. Ask what their values are and overtly discuss the rules of the relationship. Most people mistake secrets for privacy when they assume that their partner is on the same page without having had the conversation beforehand. For example, “don’t cheat,” is not same as, “don’t flirt,” or “don’t text,” or “don’t fall in love.” If you’re having trouble coming up with rules, ask for help. It is not an excuse to say, “I didn’t know that you wanted to be told this information.” Or, “I thought this was allowed.”