While there are definitely plenty of things you should keep from your partner—especially if you’re not a fan of his or her family—there are definitely plenty of things you’d be better off always telling them. And, according to the top relationship pros we spoke to, if you play these cards too close to the vest, you’ll be setting yourself up for some major drama down the line. (No one wants that, right?) So here are the truths you’re going to need to own up to—from run-of-the-mill to outrageous—straight from experts who have seen it all. And once you’ve digested these, don’t miss the 50 Worst Pet Peeves That Grind on Relationships.
Whether it’s a little or a lot, if you’re living with your partner or you have combined finances, they need to know how much you owe. “Don’t keep your debt a secret,” advises April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert and author. “Disclose it early in a relationship and don’t make excuses. Be honest—and expect honesty in return. If your debt is a deal-breaker for your partner, it’s much better to know that up front before you’re both invested in the relationship.”
A lot of people feel like their partner just isn’t pulling their weight, but decide to keep it to themselves. Whether it’s because they’re not earning an income, not helping out with chores, or not taking on their share of the emotional labor a relationship requires, it’s necessary to speak up. “Most couples don’t talk about responsibility since they feel it can be petty,” says Hope Mirlis, a premarital counselor and wedding officiant based out of NYC. “But these small issues can quickly cause resentment, so it’s best to speak about them early.” And if you really want to throw your weight around where it counts, take a look at 17 Expert Sex Moves The Best Lovers Always Do.
You might feel like what’s in the past deserves to stay there, but this is an exception. “Those who have struggled with and overcome addictions understand that they will always face temptation,” explains Melissa Orlov, a relationship consultant and founder of ADHD Marriage. “Your partner needs to know about your past addictions in order to be able to fully support you. Share knowledge of your past, as well as any temptations or issues you feel in the present. It’s not your partner’s job to heal you, but knowing these things can help them best support you.”
The decision to have kids (or not) can be an emotionally fraught one, but if you know that you’re medically unable to conceive, you’ve got to be upfront about it, according to Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a clinical psychologist and founder of The Marriage Refresh. Keeping this information to yourself simply isn’t fair to your partner.
“Mental health issues interfere with your ability to be present and find enjoyment in life. This will affect your ability to be a supportive partner,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. Another thing you shouldn’t keep to yourself? Past mental health struggles. You never know when they might crop up again, and your S.O. should know to be on the lookout for any warning signs.
“Sometimes people feel it’s easier to just accept what they’re getting rather than asking for what they really want between the sheets, but this only hurts your relationship, says Tara Struyk, co-founder of Kinkly. “The vast majority of people under-communicate when it comes to sex, even in long-term relationships. The truth is, when we don’t ask for what we want, we end up settling for far less than we should. And, although talking about sex can be tough, most partners prefer some direction (especially when it works!) to fumbling around in the dark.”
It might feel like it’s not your place to divulge a family secret to your long-term partner, but if one of your parents is not actually your biological parent, for example, or you’re adopted but don’t talk about it, your S.O. should be clued in. “Your partner deserves to know the truth and how it may affect them and your relationship,” points out Rosalind Sedacca, a dating and relationship coach. “This is not time to avoid issues or put up a false front.”
“I deal with a ton of women in their 40’s and men in their 40’s and 50’s who have not had children, and more often than not, they are ‘open’ to having kids,” says Erica Arrechea, a certified matchmaker and founder of Cinqe Matchmaking. “Make that answer a yes or a no,” she advises. Beating around the bush increases the chances of heartache later on.
Yes, everyone should have their own private emergency fund, but it’s crucial to be on the same page as your partner about money-spending overall, even if you agree to disagree about how to spend it. “People grow up differently and have different views on money and how it should be spent,” says Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, founder and Chief Relationship Strategist at The Love Write. “In many couples, there is a spender and a saver. It’s important to understand how money was discussed in their family to understand their financial habits.” So go ahead and be honest about what you spend money on. If you partner doesn’t like it, you can agree to keep your finances separate, but at least you’ll each know what you’re in for.
You don’t need us to tell you that cheating is bad. But emotional infidelity still counts as cheating to many people, so if you find yourself getting closer to someone—even if it’s just as friends—it’s a good idea to give your partner a heads up. “Unless there is agreement in advance that it’s okay to have other significant relationships, most partners describe this kind of secret as a betrayal,” says Shelly M. Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist at United Counseling & Wellness. “When this type of secret is discovered (and it generally is), it ruins the foundation of trust between partners. For many people, this can be a ‘line in the sand’ that is incredibly difficult to overcome as a couple. It’s best to disclose early to work things out, rather than risk the entire relationship by keeping it from your partner.”
“You might be surprised to hear some people don’t think this is necessary, which is why it makes my list of secrets that need to be shared,” says Christine Baumgartner, a dating and relationship coach. It’s true that the past shouldn’t dictate how your relationship functions in the present, but for financial and emotional reasons, previous romantic commitments are definitely something your partner should be informed about.
Or that one time you cheated on your ex. “When I ask most couples how important being faithful to their spouses is, without hesitation they say, ‘very!’” explains Mirlis. “Be open about whether you cheated on a past partner or were cheated on.” Either way, you’re probably still dealing with the emotional effects of it. That doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen again, but an open, honest conversation about what happened is warranted.
Maybe you promised not to talk to your friends about your relationship conflicts, but deep down you know you’re going to do it anyway, or you said you agreed with your partner’s political views because you just knew it would be easier that way. “As with all secrets, this creates resentment and distance,” says Sarah Madras, a relationship therapist and speaker. “When you secretly don’t believe in the agreement, you will either be less likely to follow through or will harbor anger for agreeing to something you don’t believe in. It’s a betrayal of the worst kind, as it’s a betrayal of yourself and your core values in order to please your partner. It’s also a betrayal toward your partner, as when you say yes and agree to something your partner thinks you are on the same page when in fact you are not.”
Not telling them about it means it will probably go unfulfilled. Plus, “sharing sexual fantasies helps ensure good communication, and it’s also a way to foster major intimacy,” Struyk says. “Fantasies are personal and very individual. Opening up about them can really help people get to know their partners in a new and deeper way.”
Or any other serious health issue, for that matter. “Whether it’s a chronic illness, a sexually transmitted disease you’re ashamed about, or a genetic trait you carry that could affect children the two of you might have together—share it,” Masini says. “If you don’t, you’re going to have created a dynamic of mistrust when your secret is found out, and it will be. It’s much better to face what you’re hiding because you shared than because your secret was discovered.”
“Some keep this as a secret in order to not feel as if they are bragging, but if you can’t share this with your partner, who can you share it with?” asks Orlov. “Sharing what you are most proud of in yourself can give your partner great insight into who you are, as well as give them a path for openly supporting and admiring that quality or accomplishment.”
Keeping your needs a secret doesn’t help anyone. Sure, it might seem better to never need anything from your partner, but that’s not exactly realistic. Need a day off from family time to play golf and decompress? Or a little space to watch your favorite TV show after a long day at work? Be honest about it—don’t keep it bottled up inside, Madras suggests. “Tell your partner what you need and allow them to honor and respect that need. Mutually expressing your needs in a loving way allows you and your partner the opportunity to get both of your needs met and in the end, be fulfilled as individuals and as a couple.”
Now, once you’ve gotten all of this off your chest, here’s an a elegantly simple list of 11 Ways You Can Make Her Feel Special Tonight to celebrate.
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