To Tell or Not to Tell


I’ve often wondered when I am witness to my friends’ relationship problems or when I have relationship problems of my own whether the disagreements and strife could have been avoided. When I took a harder look at the problems that crop up, a lot of them seem to fall under ever-vague “communication problems.” The most interesting subheading under that heading, in my opinion, is secret keeping.

Here at ACHMI (, we value open and honest communication between partners. I believe wholeheartedly with that principle, but I found myself asking: “How much is too much and how much is too little?” and “When do you tell what?” I found a research article (*citation at the bottom) that explored why some people keep secrets in personal relationships. The article discusses many things from the negative physical and mental health effects of keeping secrets from one’s partner to the results of telling secrets to one’s partner.

The gist of the findings is that people usually keep secrets because they fear the outcome of revealing their secrets and that those who had less worry about the outcomes, were more likely to reveal their secret to their partners. Interestingly enough, those who reported telling the secret during the follow-up, on average, reported outcomes that were more positive than they predicted. For example, the revealer’s ratings of actual negative evaluation were lower than the revealer’s ratings of predicted negative evaluation. So, for some people, all their fear and stress was unwarranted and probably somewhat unhealthy.

BUT is there a “right time” in a relationship to tell certain kinds of secrets? For now, I’ll leave that up to you to determine. I’ll keep reading.



* Caughlin, J., Afifi, W., Carpenter-Theune, K., & Miller, L. (2005). Reasons for, and consequences of, revealing personal secrets in close relationships: A longitudinal study. Personal Relationships, 12(1), 43-59. doi:10.1111/j.1350-4126.2005.00101.x.


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