Hiding Things

Exploring Secret Relationships

Let me begin this article by saying that I’m an open book—always have been and always will be. There’s absolutely nothing I avoid discussions about. Most people are not able to say they are an open book. You may say, “You’re right and I don’t want to be one either.” I’m just making this point up front, however. I think that it may be my unfiltered candor that may be my greatest strength and greatest flaw in this article. People’s strengths and flaws allow us to learn so much from them.

In only the most extreme cases can I see the necessity of maintaining a secret relationship. By secret relationship, I mean hiding a relationship you are in that you are building something meaningful in and/or desire to continue to build something meaningful in the relationship. Moreover, by secret relationship, I mean those relationships where a person refers to another person in intentionally ambiguous terms to keep the person’s identity veiled, but still keeps alluding to that person with such fondness. To go even further, by secret relationship, I mean any relationship where one is not publically transparent about the individual he or she is in a relationship with. Sometimes these secret relationships are nothing more than “invisible relationships,” that is, non-existent relationships.

Many people who maintain secret relationships will publically share with us a significant amount of personal information, but will not share with us at least the simple identity of the person who they are in a relationship with. Therefore, for these people to try to claim that the reason why they are not public about the relationship they are in is due to a desire to protect the privacy of the relationship, I would have to contend that their position is quite contradictory.

It seems to me if you have a strong fondness for a person and/or want to develop something even more substantive with a person, you would naturally divulge the identity of the person you are in a relationship with. If the person is making you feel this good, then why is his or her name left undisclosed? I’m not saying that a relationship is not valid that is not publically promulgated, but what I’m saying (or at least trying to understand) is why is there a need to keep the name of the person you are in a relationship undisclosed when you are so public when it comes to alluding to this person?

What are you hiding?

Although I recognize some of the strengths of a relationship that is kept tremendously private without people ever knowing the folk are in a relationship, I would like to express that there are some weaknesses to these secret relationships. When you don’t identify the person you are in a relationship with, even before you consider yourself in a relationship with the person, you run the risk of not learning things about the person you need to know that he or she will not tell you.

Personally, I know people who are in secret relationships and it’s resulting in them not learning things about the people they are in a relationship with that would cause them to no longer desire to be in a relationship with those people. Sometimes your secret relationships are not so secretive. However, because people will respect your desire to keep your relationship a “secret,” they will pretend that they don’t know you who you are in a relationship with. By pretending like they don’t know who you are in a relationship with, they feel like they have to withhold vital information from you. One guy I know who’s in a secret relationship is involved with a girl who tried to holla’ at his very close friend and has had sex with another one of his good friends and still is having sex with her because the good friend does not know a relationship exists. From my experience and vantage point, being secretive and silent does not prove beneficial inevitably.

By having a secret relationship, you prevent yourself from receiving some much needed relationship advice. You won’t receive any relationship advice because no one knows about your relationship or does not know who you are in a relationship with.

Furthermore, being in a secret relationship can be tremendously dangerous. If people don’t know you are in a relationship with a person, then they never know about you possibly being in danger by this person. They don’t know what the person looks like, and don’t know that you may be spending time with this person in a private place that’s totally isolated from everyone who knows you. This is a perfect storm for disaster to evolve.

What are reasons why secret relationships continue to persist? What do you consider to be extreme cases in our contemporary period where secret relationships are necessary? Do you think that it’s necessary for a person to reveal who he or she is in a relationship with?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison