Keeping secrets: 12 secrets people keep in real relationships

couple walking in forest

Secrets can be tantalising or terrible. They can be yours to keep or yours to share. Ever since Greek mythology, opening Pandora’s Box and uncovering the unknown has been an enduring human temptation. But what are the secrets we keep in relationships? EliteSingles’ latest survey revealed some unexpected truths. We share 12 real relationship secrets and expose the truth about secrets in relationships.

Secrets have, perhaps unfairly, a bad reputation. Yes, some secrets are undeniably hard truths to tell. However, surveying over 2,400 EliteSingles members we discovered that the secrets people keep in relationships can also be a charming collection of relatable anecdotes, and that, perhaps, the little secrets we keep are actually a personal way of loving your partner.

With websites like and the Whisper app allowing individuals to anonymously post their secrets online, secrets have stepped into the spotlight over the last few years. The insatiable curiosity to know the truths that others want to hide is evident. But would you want to know what your partner is keeping secret? Do you ever wonder what secrets they have or how would they feel if they knew your secrets? Our survey revealed an interesting truth – although honesty is highly valued; there may just be a healthy space for keeping secrets in a relationship.

Telling the truth about keeping secrets in a relationship

The good news is that honesty hasn’t become old-fashioned just yet. It is still prized in relationships, with 92% of men and women rating honesty as important for a happy relationship. However, a majority of the participants from the survey (58%) believed that secrets in the relationship depend on what the secret is, as some realities are better to avoid. Similarly, 46% agree that white lies are sometimes necessary for a relationship. This is echoed in a split down the middle, with 47% of participants believing that some topics are private, while the other 53% claim that they share everything with their partner. These results establish that honesty and secrecy are not actually at odds with each other. Your partner may be honest with you, even while keeping a secret.

Digging a little deeper into the secrets people keep, certain topics came to the fore. Details about your ex (33%), and sexual history (28%) are the most common subjects people avoid sharing in a relationship. And when it comes to friends, it is widely understood that people don’t share their friends’ secrets with their partner, with 47% agreeing that it is ok to keep your friends’ secrets in a relationship. However, secrets can also be a valued tool to foster closeness in partnership relationships, with 34% of men and women believing that sharing secrets with your partner is part of the intimacy in a relationship.

The truth about how people perceive secrets bring to light, maybe not so surprisingly, that there is a space for secrets in a relationship. Two-thirds of participants (66%) said that they would be accepting if their partner had kept a secret from them, saying that they would understand that there was a good reason to do so. And a further 62% agreed that they would not break up with their partner if they found out that they had kept a major secret in the relationship.

The truth about keeping secrets in a relationship is also tied to trust. It’s widely accepted that sometimes we need to keep secrets. If you trust your partner, you can also trust that the secrets they keep from you are sometimes for the best of both of you. That being said, 75% of people don’t keep secrets in their relationship, but a quarter (25%) said they do. They shared some of their secrets with us below. Taking a closer look at some real relationship secrets, it’s easy to see that sometimes these truths could be exactly the kind of secret you would want your partner to keep!

12 Real Relationship Secrets

Surveying numerous real relationship secrets revealed the intimate nature of keeping secrets in a relationship. It turns out that the very truths people keep secret arise in the big and little moments, the monumental and the mundane.

In the below slideshow we share 12 secrets people told us from real relationships. They answer a range of familiar questions, from the dreaded “Do these pants make my bum look big?” to “Are my secrets safe with my best friend?”. Read on below.

Life lessons: learning from the secrets we keep

It turns out that that keeping secrets can teach you important life lessons and improve your relationships, at present or in the future. Let’s take a look at some real relationship lessons from the survey, and the consistent themes people learned from keeping or sharing their secrets.

“I’ve kept secrets about money, and learned I won’t be keeping something so essential from a partner again”

Consistently people admitted that they had learned lessons from keeping secrets about money and finances in a relationship. Zoe Coetzee, EliteSingles’ in-house relationship psychologist, explains that money can be a form of security, and not disclosing the full truth with your partner about a financial issue can be a cause of friction as it can undermine the security in the relationship.She goes on to say

this is not to say one shouldn’t be financially independent in a relationship, however, you should share information that can have a significant impact on your own and your partner’s life.

Money and finances are sensitive subjects in relationships, and a majority of the time it is in both your best interests to be open and honest in such a key area, especially when you are living together.

“I have made the mistake in the past of not saying what’s on my mind and then forming my opinions based on incorrect perceptions. I don’t do that anymore”

At times in a relationship, people feel unconfident about sharing their own point of view and perceptions. However, multiple participants disclosed that keeping their thoughts to themselves had been detrimental to their relationships in the long run. Coetzee explains:

Not sharing your true opinions, thoughts and feelings actually amounts to not sharing your true self in a relationship. However, real compatibility only arises in sharing real thoughts and feelings. As a result not being open with your partner, even about the challenging topics, can hinder, rather than help your relationship.

In a relationship, you should feel comfortable to express your opinions. Your point of view is valid and relevant. If you do not feel comfortable to communicate openly, look at ways you can improve the communication patterns. However, if you still feel like you can’t be yourself, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship.

“I keep secret anything that would hurt him and not necessarily help the relationship”

When it comes to keeping secrets, it can be useful to look at your motive for keeping the secret, or choosing to tell your partner. Would it be beneficial for your relationship to share it with your partner? If the secret you are keeping is not relevant to your current relationship, it might be preferable to keep your lips sealed. That is not to say that dishonesty is acceptable, or that you should keep relevant information secret from your partner. However, details about the past may be more painful than helpful.

Sometimes in a relationship, it is unnecessary to expose your partner to a hurtful truth. As one of the participants said, there is no need to say that those aren’t the most flattering pair of jeans! But if you have a secret to share, the most popular way to tell your partner a secret is to break it to them gently, with advance warning that you need to tell them something (52%). Not far behind, 44% of participants agreed that you should rather just be direct and come right out with it. When deciding how to handle secrets in a relationship, Coetzee advises

put your partner’s best interests at the center of your decision making. If it will be beneficial to your relationship and important for your partner to know the truth about your secrets, be honest, even if it is a hard truth to tell.

Research has shown that some stories are best kept a secret, but with love and secrets, it should never come at the cost of honesty.


1. All statistics from EliteSingles’ Love and Secrets survey. 2017. Sample size: 2472 EliteSingles members.

*Responses may be edited in length for purposes of the article

About the author: Zoe Coetzee

Zoe Coetzee is a Relationship Psychologist and Editor for SilverSingles.

See more articles written by Zoe Coetzee