Honesty – Difference between Privacy and Secrecy

In my last blog I spoke about trust being a natural outcome if other qualities of a relationship are met. Today I want to focus on probably the most important element of a trusting relationship: Honesty

First, it is important to note that most people lie. Researchers found that most people lie one or two times a day. However, while most people lie, they lie only a little. Most people limit how much they are willing to lie because they want to see themselves as honest people. So, it makes sense to have realistic expectations and recognize that your partner may sometimes lie, after all, so do you. Most of the time the lies are harmless and have no effect on your relationship and have little, or nothing to do with how your partner feels about you. Most people lie because of how they feel about themselves, they are looking to protect or promote themselves. They are not out to hurt other people. (Source: National Geographic June 2017 Edition: Why We Lie)

Second, we need to look at what constitutes a lie. A lie is defined as an untrue statement with intent to deceive or to create a false or misleading impression. While most people can easily identify a blatant lie, for example the cheating spouse who denies having an affair, there are some gray areas. One of those is where does privacy end and secrecy begin?

All people want and deserve some privacy, even in a relationship. What can be deemed as “private” by one partner may feel like “secrecy” or dishonesty to the other partner. Ultimately, the difference is the intent behind it.

Privacy is setting personal boundaries and staying within them. Privacy is a choice not to reveal intimate details and can be an agreement among partners what will not be revealed.

Secrecy has an element of shame attached and is something we keep purposefully hidden because we fear a negative outcome. Secrecy is information that could be harmful to another. It is helpful to have a discussion with your partner to determine what you deem private versus what you see as a secret. This could avoid hurt and betrayal and have long-term beneficial effects for both of you.

In determining whether what you are keeping from your partner you are exercising your right to privacy or being secretive, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
1. How troubled would I be if it were the other way around?
2. What am I afraid of?
3. What’s keeping me from sharing?
4. What do I think I will lose by being honest?
5. What are ways I can retain my privacy without hurting feelings?
6. How will I feel about myself if I do not share this?
7. What are the reasons I need to keep this secret?

Third, we need to address what do you do to rebuild trust after you or your partner lied or kept secrets.

If you are the one that was dishonest, the first step is to come clean and the sooner the better. Take full responsibility for your actions. Make sure that during the process of healing your relationship you are dependable and comforting. This means keep your promises and allow your partner time to vent their feelings. Of course, most important, commit to being honest in the future. Depending on the severity of the offense, you may need to be extra transparent.

If you were the one deceived or lied to, you need to actively work on letting go and forgiving. This is not an easy process. Start by assessing the situation. Is this a one-time behavior or a pattern? Is the relationship important enough to save? Another thing you can do is to put yourself in the others’ shoes. Think back to times you may have told a lie. Doing this helps build compassion which makes it easier to forgive. Most important share your feelings with your partner. Explain what specifically hurt you and what actions would make you feel better.

It will take time and patience to get through this, but trust can be regained. If you find that you consistently have trouble being honest, or you are struggling to trust, coaching may help you uncover patterns in your belief system that are getting in the way. For more help on this or other relationship difficulties book a free discovery session now.
Questions? Call 800.408.1834 or email me at info@coachmona.org