How to keep your relationship private, without it being a secret ?
For clients enveloped in the world of over-zealous journalists and the desperation of newspapers to provide sensationalist headlines, privacy is one of the biggest concerns they have. As with the rest of the population, entering into new relationships can be a rollercoaster of emotions, both daunting and exciting all in the same instant. The added pressure however of having your new situation tainted by the possibility of excessive exposure can trigger unhealthy levels of self-protection. As a means to pre-empt and understand what is healthy and what is not, you’ll need to learn to distinguish the sometimes deceptive line between privacy and secrecy.
Regardless of how well-known or not that you are, everyone values privacy around something in their life. Reasons can vary from simply not liking to be asked questions, to embarrassment about certain subjects or trying to protect yourself and loved ones. Secrecy on the other hand, is a whole different ball game.
Aside from birthday surprises, gifts or other glorious life events we find so hard to keep to ourselves, secrets tend to result from fear. It can be a fear of being viewed in a certain light, fear of losing your reputation, or of being openly confronted with things you’re not ready to deal with publicly.
Why do you need either?
Ask yourself, why do you want your relationship to be private? Asking this basic question as often as possible, and answering as honestly as possible, will stop any thoughts you have from becoming unchallenged habits. Left undefined and unchecked, privacy can quickly turn into secrecy, and self-awareness is the only way to stay consciously connected to your relationship goals.
When it comes to dating there is a natural tendency to want to see how things progress before sharing news with loved ones or the world. If your aim is to love and date with minimum interference and outside opinion, then this can be a really positive choice and experience to have. Even when it gets to the point where your private times are happening in public places, it helps to remember that between the two of you there is little that need change. Whilst this may seem easier said than done, like everything else worth working for, there are tools and strategies that can be developed to help you achieve it.
Fear of the fall out from exposure, or the presumptions of others, will encourage the quickest detour into secrecy. Before, or even as this is happening, be sure it’s a road you want to take. Hardship doesn’t automatically mean you should hide away. If you do, it may mean you start making choices based around what is most unlikely to get you noticed, instead of around what your relationship or life actually needs in order to progress.
Secrecy: what’s the worst that could happen?
Asking yourself, what is the absolute worst case scenario if people find out about my relationship? can take a lot of pressure off decisions you’ve been making based around fear. Whether it’s that your children will find out before you’re ready to tell them, or that people will get hurt, there are clearly situations where privacy is necessary. However, avoid secrecy by giving them an expiry date. It can be at a particular milestone, or what you consider to be a suitable length of time.
When a relationship becomes more about the fear of exposure than the desire for togetherness, something will begin to erode away. Fear takes more from us and will burn us out far quicker than love ever could, and you’ll end up creating your own alternate version of the worst thing that could happen.
The long-term impact of secrecy
Whilst maintaining privacy can really strengthen a relationship, secrecy can be detrimental. Privacy can be gracefully cultivated and comes with a certain amount of respect. It means you deal with issues internally within the relationship, you learn who you can trust and are careful not to dilute the power between yourselves with the opinions or actions of others.
Secrecy is a weight around a couple’s neck, however light it may start out, it is still there with the potential to grow. It is based on fear and so is the perfect breeding ground for more of it, whether that’s abuse in all its forms or simple stagnation when trying to move forwards.
If you’re ever in doubt as to whether your relationship, or elements of it, are private or secret, go into yourself and check on how the issue makes you feel. Does it weigh down your heart, or give it peace?
As mentioned above, when it comes to new love you should have some personal and joint milestones with your partner. This can be as simple as your first public appearance, your first introductions to children or staying at each other’s homes and vacationing together. Giving yourself milestones is a useful cue to keep tabs on whether the relationship is going in the direction you hope for.
Milestones will alert you also to when what perhaps began as privacy, morphs into secrecy. For example, a partner who after a year has not yet officially confirmed your relationship or who will not introduce you to their friends, may have different reasons to what you originally believed.
It’s easy to be swept along from one state to the other, so a good piece of relationship maintenance is knowing when what you were originally protecting has in any way changed, or needs to be re-evaluated. Does the relationship or any element of it still need protecting, or can you now let go and move your energy to something else? Look out for signs of when you can let loose the reigns or make boundaries more flexible.
At a time when images and both real and fake news are so easily shared across social media, the last thing people want is a new situation ruined before even the honeymoon period is over. This being said, take care to not let fear slip in and overtake a budding relationship. Be sure of everything that truly needs to be private, work through any fears involved in secrets and focus on the experience you are having, not other people’s assessment of it.
Written by Mindset Coach Tori Ufondu on behalf of Macbeth International.