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Why the secrets?

Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship. However, when it came to the bond of marriage, 60 per cent of Gulf News readers who voted in an online poll said that they kept secrets from their spouses. Why is secrecy as common as it is? And can a husband and wife truly have 100 percent honesty in their relationship? Gulf News readers debate.

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  • Dr Shankar SrinivasImage Credit: Supplied
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Gulf News

Love

People tell white lies to protect

We are not perfect. We all have flaws and sometimes end up saying white lies. Sometimes people keep secrets just to avoid conflicts. For example, if your spouse is too strict, people might end up lying if they are going to meet with their friends and just say that they have work to do. Even if the friends meet up just to spend some time together a difference in lifestyle and expectations between the two can create that distance and one could lie to the other.

Also, if you have differing personalities that can create issues. Sometimes, one of the spouses might be more friendly than the other. So, what is a normal friendly interaction for them might be understood as inappropriate for the other person. Because the spouses know each other’s personalities, they might end up not sharing everything they do.

At the end of the day, we are all human, and I think no matter what relationship you have you can sometimes end up lying. For example, my father, who lives in the Philippines is not well and suffering from respiratory problems. I spoke with him and asked him if he had stopped smoking. He said yes, but later I found out from my aunt that he still smokes. He simply said so to make sure I don’t get angry. In fact, my relationship with my father is extremely close, but I think it is not possible to get 100 per cent honesty. Even when it comes to white lies like when your loved one asks you if you are okay and despite being sad, you end up telling them you are fine - you sometimes hide things out of love for the other person.

From Ms Ethyl May Lor Laurel

Receptionist based in Dubai

Reality

How honest is honest?

I don’t think it is possible to have 100 per cent honesty. There is a saying, “What they don’t know won’t harm them.” It also depends on the kind of secret. If my mother has said something bad about my husband and he does not know about it, is it really important for me to go up to him and tell him about it? Some things are better left unsaid. Some people might call that keeping secrets but others might not.

Also, when it comes to honesty, you have to actively and consciously try to be honest with your partner. It really is a conscious effort, like waking up every day and watering a plant so that it doesn’t die. It is also a two-way street and also depends on marriages. For example, when it comes to arranged marriages, sometimes you don’t know the other person until weeks before getting married. Will they have an honest relationship? The level of honesty can also depend on what is culturally acceptable. You have to establish what you are going to tell each other and what you both decide you are not going to share. For example, I have seen many relationships unravel because of secrets kept regarding financial issues. People are not comfortable sharing how much they make with their spouses sometimes.

Also, if you do not have a balanced relationship, and if one spouse has more power or control than the other, you won’t have honest and open communication. If you have unrealistic expectations or prerequisites, like, “now that we are married, we will only hang out with couples”, or “now that we have children, we will only spend time with families”, you will end up forcing your spouse to lie if he or she hangs out with friends. I have seen that happen very regularly and across cultures. Such prerequisites definitely affect honesty in a relationship.

From Ms Asma Ali

Digital marketing consultant living in Dubai

Balance

Power struggle in relationships

From my personal experience, I often do not share work-related topics at home. The reason why I don’t share all the details of work is that if I am under stress, I would not want to pass on that stress to my family. Otherwise, I don’t really keep secrets from my wife, I really have a good, honest relationship. I think even if I try to keep a secret, my wife would most probably figure it out. But if you tink about it, the reason why people might keep secrets is firstly so that they don’t stress their spouse out, as I mentioned. It also depends on the person — if they are too inquisitive and ask about each and everything, the other person might just hide things because they know they will be questioned a lot. To avoid an entire question and answer session they might end up lying.

Another aspect is that of personal space, not everybody appreciates that the other person needs their space and time. When I meet old friends, I hear them say that they had to lie at home and say that they are working overtime. So, they tend to lie so that they can relax, it is not like they are cheating on their partner. This happens when there is a lack of understanding and people are pushed to lie just to create their own space.

But when it comes to privacy, I don’t think people should keep things private from their spouse, especially if it is a major secret. If you hide something for years and it comes out in the open, it could end up in a disaster.

From Mr Faisal Mushtaq

Business owner living in Dubai

Trust

Sometimes it is just the fear that plays a role - a person might be afraid

Trust is very important in any relationship, not just marriage. Any relationship between a parent and a child or between an emoloyer and an employee will improve if it is based on trust. Coming to keeping secrets from your spouse, many factors affect the level of honesty. Firstly, it could be a lack of proper communication between the two partners. Over a period of time, ever since they got to know each other, they may have stopped communicating as freely as they used to. Also, if somebody is shy or socially anxious they may not be able to discuss their past life or intimate details. Thirdly, the personality of the opposite individual also matters. If they have a tendency to get angry too quickly, the other person might not share secrets. Sometimes it is just the fear that plays a role - a person might be afraid that their spouse will react negatively and it would lead to separation. This is similar to threatened job loss, where simply because you think the market is unstable, you worry that you may lose your job, too.

Also, it may be a lenient attitude towards your spouse where a person might think it is not very important for our relationship that I discuss this issue, it is personal to me. That is a careless attitude that affects the relationship negatively.

Finally, I think there are conditions when a person is a compulsive liar and they can’t help lying. I have come across cases where a partner said I didn’t want to lie but when I was discussing this issue with my wife, I ended up lying even though I didn’t want to. Later I regretted it, but thought there was no point in going back to the matter. Clear, open communication is really important, no matter how private the matter is, when it comes to marriages. People should involve their spouse, especially in making decisions. There can be challenges initially as people come from different cultures and lifestyles. But over a period of time if they continue to communicate openly, it will help.

From Dr Shankar Srinivas

Consultant psychiatrist living in Dubai

— Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

Gulf News asked: Why do you think couples struggle with being 100% honest?

Unrealistic expectations

It is human to lie

They are not willing to make the effort

Circumstances

People’s behaviour

Personality

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