What Secrets Have You Kept From A Significant Other?

I get a lot of emails from people who feel burdened by a secret they’re keeping from a significant other. Often these secrets are about cheating, but not always. Sometimes they’re about applying for jobs in other cities or having been married before or having an STI. There have even been a few people who had secret children they hadn’t told their partners about. In my own social circle, I have a few friends who keep pretty innocuous secrets from their spouses, like taking secret days off from work to have a whole “me day” without feeling guilty about it (these are moms, obviously, who play hooky while their spouses are at work and their kids are at school or daycare). I’ve known people who have regular lunch dates with exes and don’t tell their current partners because they don’t want to deal with the jealousy.

Have you kept a secret from a significant other? Did you (or would you) ever share the secret? Why did/do you keep the secret?


  1. For a lot of my last relationship, I had another guy on the back burner who I’d chat with constantly, go on vacations with, and hook up with when I was on a break with my regular boyfriend. That was pretty messed up.

    That stuff you mentioned about secret days off, lunches with exes, etc, is really dangerous, imo. If you can’t talk about that stuff with your spouse, your marriage isn’t strong. It’s just not. And if they catch you doing those things, the shit will hit the fan, trust will be destroyed, and resentment will boil over. Way too much risk to take for those seemingly little moments of freedom.

    1. Northern Star says:

      Yeah, the secret lunches with exes (or anyone, really) are a TERRIBLE idea. I’d feel horribly betrayed if my spouse was doing this.

      1. RedroverRedrover says:

        Me three. That just seems… shady.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      It’s hard to imagine any marriage lasting when someone is sneaking over these things. You should be able to say what you are doing and if you can’t there is either something wrong with your partner, maybe abusive or controlling, or you are doing things you shouldn’t and there is something wrong with you.

    3. Honestly, I think meeting an ex for lunch would be bad but taking a day off for an alone day I don’t think is in the same category. Like one day, the power in my office was cut and we all went home. I got my toenails done and did some shopping. I didn’t feel like I had to check with my husband to make sure that was ok. I wasn’t hiding it but I didn’t think it was worth bothering him at work over.

      1. I think it’s a different scenario if you get sent home from work and spontaneously get a pedi (who wouldn’t?) then where you’re planning to take a vacation day or call in sick and part of the plan is you don’t tell them. That seems bad to me because, look, you both work, you both have kids, so why is one spouse so overwhelmed and unable to talk to their partner about it that they’re lying and saying they’re at work but they’re really doing something totally different? If you get caught, how are they supposed to believe anything you say after that?? Just come clean and work together to get the breaks you need.

      2. *than

      3. @kate. Ok, when you put it that way. I agree. If I needed an alone day, I would just tell my husband. I wouldn’t feel like I needed permission but I would tell him my plan.

      4. I agree with Kate’s reasoning – if you are overwhelmed and need a day to yourself, why feel guilty about that? Spouses should be able to talk to each other about things like that, especially if you have kids.

  2. Northern Star says:

    I try to keep my jealousy mostly to myself. It comes out periodically, but I don’t want him to know how much I think about his first wife. Or how often I compare my life to theirs.

    And sometimes I don’t tell my spouse about trips to Culver’s or Starbucks or Target to buy little treats I don’t need. Food-related secrecy! Probably pretty common…

  3. Sometimes I wonder how I will eventually tell my boyfriend about things that happened to me when I was younger. I’m sure there are threads in the forums with similar topics but I’m not bothered enough to look for advice yet.

    I don’t want to just announce it and make a big deal about it, because it’s something I’ve dealt with and don’t want to relive. But I also don’t want him to think down the road that it’s something I was purposely hiding from him.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      This is the tough one – “defaulting” into a secret. I guess I have a secret from my husband in that I used to date one of my work friends, and I also slept with one of my best friends one time. Both were mistakes, both resulted in no lingering feelings on either part (as far as I know), and both ended in us still being friends. But I never told my husband, because when we were dating it was like, why would I tell him I slept with my friend? It’s really none of his business, and would he even care? And then later we’d been together so long that it seemed weird to even bring it up. Like, why? To what end? So now he still doesn’t know. I don’t really consider it a “secret”, because it’s not like I’m trying to purposely hide it. It just never came up, and it seems pointless to bring it up now after like 10+ years together. If he found out, it would be awkward I guess, but I can’t see it rocking his world or anything. Like, both of them happened 15+ years ago. I still see both guys as friends, but one’s been married for like 10 years and the other went on to date another friend of mine and has definitely moved on.

      Anyway, I wish he knew, because once in awhile I think about it. But why bother bringing it up now, really? It doesn’t change anything one way or the other. He might be shocked at first but it doesn’t really matter. I also suspect he slept with one of his friends and hasn’t told me. I know they dated but don’t know the details. And I couldn’t care less. Way way way in the past.

      1. RedroverRedrover says:

        Oh and as to “active, purposeful” secrets, I have a treat stash. 🙂 That’s it really. Sometimes I’ll spend a good chunk of money on clothes or something, but I tell him beforehand. He does the same. We don’t really keep track of each others’ spending though, so unless it’s multiple thousands of dollars we just spend what we want. We’re both good with our money and trust each other with it so that’s not a concern.

      2. My “secret” is a lot like yours, RedRover, but it was actually one of my husband’s friends. We were a part of a large athletic team/group of friends and I had a brief, casual fling with his friend a full year before I started dating my husband. He knew that I’d gone out with the friend a couple of times, but I never mentioned whether we slept together, and he didn’t ask. I figured if it were me, I wouldn’t even want to know. I once dated a friend’s casual-relationship-ex, and we got pretty serious, and I never knew or wanted to know their sexual history at the time. I did eventually ask my friend, years after I broke up with the guy – they hadn’t slept together after all!

        Now that I think about it, I don’t know my husband’s “number”, nor does he know mine. I think when you’re in a healthy relationship, both people just know that it doesn’t matter at all.

      3. RedRoverRedRover says:

        I don’t know my husband’s number either, and he doesn’t know mine. It just doesn’t matter.

    2. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

      I’ve only know reasonable people to think something was being hidden from them when they felt entitled to the information. Do you really think it’s something your BF would feel like he should know?

      I’ve found the lowest-key way to bring something up is to talk about a situation unrelated to yourself in which your past informs your reaction, and you can talk about why you feel the way you do about the situation using your experiences. So “did you hear about X?” “yeah X is terrible” “I’ve been through X before so I sorta know how [people involved] feel.”

      1. Well, if we end up together long term, it’s probably something he should know. But I don’t want to make a big deal about it. I suppose I’m fine with telling him if the topic naturally comes up in conversation but I feel weird about making this announcement like “Soooo….. this happened to me when I was a child and it’s the reason why I have a limited relationship with my dad.”

        I’m also a bit scared to bring it up because my ex refused to have anything to do with my family because of it, which was very hurtful to me and I felt was very unfair.

      2. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

        I’ve heard that for discussion where you ‘re afraid that someone will make a big deal, you can kinda set the tone, by saying what you want out of the conversation. Like, “This isn’t a big deal to me, but I think you should know” or “I want to tell you something, but I don’t want it to be a Serious Conversation ™, okay?”

        That said, I don’t think you can control whether what you’re saying is a big deal to your bf. Just like he doesn’t know that part of your past, you might not know part of his, and that might inform his reaction. The best thing I think can happen is that you say what you need (i.e. not a big dealness, continued contact with your family), and if it seems like he needs time to process, to let him have that. That does sound like a scary convo, so I hope whenever you do decide to say something it goes well.

      3. To be honest, I don’t think he’d make a big deal about it. He’s the most easy going person I’ve ever met. I mean, he grew up in the middle of a civil war and the way he brought it up was “Hey! Did I ever tell you I’ve seen dead people? ” Anyway, I don’t really feel like I want to bring it up yet. Maybe I’ll tell him once we’ve been together longer.

  4. “No this purse/shoes/outfit isn’t new”. I still tell that one, don’t think that will ever stop. I love shopping!

    1. In our house its “I’ve had this book for awhile, I’m just now getting around to reading it!”

      1. Oh yes the books! My ex used got mad at me for buying books because “what’s the point if you read them in a day!” He bought me an ipad to download books eventually just to stop the piles. ha

  5. obstreperous says:

    I’ve been with my current bf for about 1.5 years and I still haven’t told him about my credit score. When I broke it off with my last bf a couple years ago, he used my credit card without telling me and between that and dealing with financial hardship for a few months before meeting him, my score dropped a couple hundred points. He’s never asked, I’ve never mentioned it because his parents are dealing with foreclosure and he’s a bit sensitive. I feel really guilty but I’ve been making all the calls and paying all my bills and my score is coming back up, slowly but it is. I figure by the time we’re really serious, it will be either off my record or I’ll have a better history to help offset it.

  6. Not so much a secret as a lie: “Oh? these scars? I got them from dropping a flat iron on myself when drinking.”
    Also known as “PLEASE don’t ask people about their scars, because sometimes (often?) they don’t have fun wacky stories behind them and you aren’t entitled to know everything about someone’s history. Every single person I’ve dated and at least half of my friends who have seen me in a bath suit get around to asking me at some point, and I dread having to either lie point blank to save us both a lot of awkwardness or have to own up to something I consider long past (and if it didn’t have external scars, would never have to “admit” to). My current bf didn’t ask and I brought it up on my own, because it felt like something I wanted to share and the moment felt right.
    I also have a fairly new (very visible, very deep, right between my eyebrows) scar that I am super self conscious about after a really horrible fight against a spider (the spider won). I’m vetting plastic surgery options and have made peace with it for the time being. I detest seeing someone I haven’t seen in awhile because they either stare at it trying to figure out if it was always there, blatantly ask about it, or if they knew about it make sure to comment on it (“it’s not that visible!” Or “omg it’s so much deeper than I thought it would be!”). It’s like the moment I let go and forget about and it let myself feel pretty, someone mentions it so I find myself preemptively bringing it up, which is super awkward too. So for all scars: be polite and act like you don’t notice or care (seriously, why should you?) unless someone wants to tell you and they will do so without your asking.

    1. Ugh this is not cool. I have a large scar on my leg due to being run over and breaking my femur. A girlfriend once said “you’d be really pretty without that scar”. How I didn’t in turn give her a scar is beyond me. People need to not ask. The last guy I dated never even told me about his scar. I know he had surgeries when he was a baby but since he clearly didn’t want to discuss the large scar on his belly I just never pressed. He would’ve told me if he wanted me to know.

      I do recommend scar treatments such as Mederma, or just Vitamin E oil on the scar from the spider fight (ha saying spider fight made me giggle), it really does help them fade after a few months.

      1. I am AGHAST that she said that! I can’t even imagine what would make her think that was even slightly ok!!

        I’ve used Merderma and the like, but with deeply indented, wide scars (I call it my shark bite, as basically tissue is missing) they actually don’t do much. Same with laser and fillers. Last doctor I saw confirmed this and my best option is a surgical scar revision, which would be cutting out this scar and stitching it together then doing a few rounds of laser for a less noticeable and flat scar that I could better cover with makeup. I would honestly not care if it were anywhere else other than my face, but people are clueless and I don’t like anything about my appearance to be distracting (e.g. reasons I don’t wear my hair curly….it’s the main thing people ever commented about).

    2. Who the heck are you two friends with? I’ve had three major surgeries in the past eight years, the most recent one being less than two years ago, and have scars from all three. The oldest one is the biggest one, it looked pretty nasty for about a year if not longer, and it’s big/in a visible place. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me about any of them, and why anyone would comment on something like that is beyond me.

      In any case, I’ve never been self-conscious of them, but even scars like my gigantic one heal pretty well given time. Mine looks way less angry now! I used Mederma (not sure that it did anything) and a really high SPF on it while it was healing because it was new skin. I don’t think most people notice at this point, and if they do, nobody says anything.

  7. Getian Violet while healing helps keep you from getting a scar, but it is very purple and you can’t use it on deep cuts because their is a chance it will tattoo you. It is very good for keeping chicken pox scars away. Most people are immunized against that or already had it though. It is also really good for things that don’t respond to antibiotic ointment, silver cream etc. It is a last hope for something that won’t heal and is getting infected.
    Redrover I would let it lie. I told my husband about the short fling I had with one of my life long best friends and it didn’t turn out will. It was many many years before met my husband, but he still acts like it was yesterday and gets all uncomfortable when he is mentioned. We went out to eat with my friend and his new wife a few years back and well, I won’t do that again. It didn’t help that up until he got married (well even after, which is why I have now distanced myself after 30 years of friendship) my friend still had a thing for me and made it obvious.

  8. I’m pretty open with my husband, but there is one thing I keep from him. There is a ridiculously hot guy who works on the same floor as me. I would never act on my attraction or otherwise put my marriage in jeopardy, but I do appreciate the eye candy.

  9. I can’t think of any active secrets I keep from my husband. I suck at keeping my own secrets. I guess sometimes when I run to the store by myself (rare as I usually bring my son), I will drive “the long way” or “the scenic route” to get a few extra minutes of peace and quiet. I’m not sure if I tell him about that? Honestly I don’t think about it enough to mention it. I occasionally have lunch with a friend or coworker and don’t tell him because he gets jealous when I eat delicious food without him, so if I went to lunch on Monday and told him but then also go to lunch on Thursday, I might not mention it.

  10. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    I’m not in a relationship so I’m not keeping any secrets right now (and I try not to do that in general while in a relationship). I am friendly with an ex and we occasionally got together for lunch *maybe 2 or 3 times a year.

    I don’t follow him on social media because reasons so I didn’t know he up and got married to a woman he started dating right after me! And he didn’t tell his wife he was having lunch with me last fall even though I made clear that I ‘m not comfortable with that (he needs to be honest with her because all we were doing was having tacos at a local Mexican restaurant and catching up so there’s really nothing to hide but if it makes her that uncomfortable, I respect that and I won’t meet up with him.) So, well, he keeps that secret but he won’t be doing it anymore because I’m not meeting up with him anymore without his wife present.

    1. Ooh, I think it’d be so weird to meet an ex’s wife.

      1. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

        Well I don’t really want to but the whole situation is just weird so i think it’s best that we just don’t meet anymore. Except that I have two job interviews next week and one of them is where he works (because it’s like the best workplace in the state and I’m not turning down that opportunity.) I don’t mind being friendly but that’s as far as I want to go with it.

      2. Really? My wife has met several of my exes. It’s been awkward . Maybe my exes are reminded of why they are exes and overcome with powerful-joy-filled relief? We even stayed with one when visiting the area she lived in.

      3. Meant to say that it *hasn’t* been awkward.

      4. @Fyodor I mean, I only have one ex who I was serious with/dated long term who is married. He married the woman he cheated on me with. They got engaged a couple months after we broke up, married about 6 months after that. You can see how that might color my perspective, haha.
        I’ve only dated one other guy long term/seriously, and to my knowledge he’s not married. I wouldn’t necessarily MIND meeting his wife one day, but we’re not friends, so it likely won’t happen unless we both show up to, like, the same alumni gathering for college or grad school. And if that happened, I’d rather hang out with his wife than with him, if I had to choose.
        There have been other casual and shorter term dudes, and I wouldn’t really think anything of meeting their wives if they had ’em, but not really friends with any of these guys either!

  11. I don’t tell my husband other people’s secrets. One that was hard was my mother in law, blurted out a secret to me about my SIL’s ex husband. My MIL was internet stalking the ex and came across a baby registry for him and the woman he cheated with. She didn’t want my SIL to know since it was right after their separation but my MIL had to tell someone and that was me. Then she said don’t tell my husband. I didn’t tell him because I think he would have been hurt for his sister and I didn’t want her to know or know I knew. So I kept my mouth shut and I still don’t think my husband knows and it has been 6 years.

  12. My mom told me the other day she’s been keeping a secret from my dad. She asked a coworker to tell her who dies in the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. She told me she couldn’t wait to find out (she doesn’t use the internet and only watches cable shows once they are released on DVD), but made me promise not to tell my dad she knows. I can’t believe in 39 years her only secret involves a zombie TV show…

  13. Skittlegryph says:

    I have a secret treat/chocolate stash. And I don’t tell my fiance how much I spend on Etsy sometimes, but I think those are the only real secrets I’m keeping, haha.

  14. dinoceros says:

    I kept it secret that I hated baseball, because I’d agreed to go to a baseball game back when we were first dating and the guy loved it. But he slowly realized that I hated it, and I used it as a way to tease him.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Oh, I have a better one. The same guy was a co-worker, and I kept it secret that I had hooked up with two other co-workers (one from our office and one from an office in another city) previously.

  15. I thought I had a secret from my husband one time but he mentioned it several years later so I must have told him at some point. I’m pretty shitty at keeping things from him, even little things that are inconsequential. I always think I won’t bother him with it but sure enough I always end up talking about whatever it is. It’s not like I’m honest to a fault or anything but I can’t be bothered trying to keep track of what I have and haven’t told him I guess.

  16. I’m a pretty open book with my husband. In fact, I sometimes have to tell myself NOT to tell him things because he probably doesn’t need to know (like, I don’t think any good can come of us talking in any sort of detail about our sexual pasts, but it also feels weird that he doesn’t know about my ONS in Spain). There’s a guy from my old friend group that I slept with once that he doesn’t know about – again, no good ca come of it. But I feel a little dishonest since they’ve hung out a few times. Coincidentally, he doesn’t particularly care for this person. Maybe there’s a sixth sense there!

    1. FWIW I don’t think you needed to tell him about either of these, though the Spain one is harmless and I think the other one he should *not* know about just because awkward. That said, I think most of the “who you slept with in the past” stuff doesn’t qualify as secrets at all, because it’s stuff that shouldn’t even be discussed. Like it mostly should stay under the rug unless it’s something like an STD you contracted that has the potential to affect their life.

      1. NO! I absolutely agree and I would never tell him any of these!!

  17. Bittergaymark says:

    Wow. I think some of you just need to learn to live better with secrets. Honestly? I don’t need to know EVERY one night stand my beau had years before we met. It’s not my business! If it is an amazing story, sure, I’d enjoy hearing about it. But I think some of you should get over the guilt. Trust me — Your partners have things that they AREN’T telling you!!

    1. Just so we’re clear, I have zero guilt. It is just the only things we don’t talk about – and to Kate’s point, don’t need to.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Oh Good! 🙂

    2. RedRoverRedRover says:

      It’s not that I feel guilty, I don’t. It’s just that if he were to find out, would he think that I’d been trying to hide it and be upset about that? I don’t like the “appearance” of a secret. But like Kate and Lianne, I don’t think it’s really his business anyway, so I’m just leaving it.

      1. I think if mine found out about the guy in my old friend group, he wouldn’t be upset that I “hid” it from him, but maybe a little ticked off that he had hung out with him unwittingly, especially since he didn’t have an affinity for him at all.

      2. RedroverRedrover says:

        True. I think mine would be weirded out that he’d hung out with these guys without knowing we’d been together. And that they’d been at our wedding!

  18. I think on the whole I’ve stayed away from keeping anything secret because I saw how my mom would avoid telling my dad about specific things that he would get disproportionately angry about. I didn’t want to live like that, nor with someone who had those landmines. But also me and Bassanio have been together since 20, so there’s not a lot of material to keep secret from before that time.

    I do occasionally hide my favorite snack foods from Bassanio because he would likely devour them. But he’s aware that he does that and knows that I’ll stash things sometimes for that reason, so it’s not really a secret…

  19. I’ve got a weird one and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly two years and I’ve met his mother many times. He told me that his dad died either right before or right after he was born, but he wasn’t sure because he mom never really talked about it and he felt bad about asking. He was told that his dad had a heart attack or something like that in his early 30’s. Since the first time that I went to his mom’s house, I’ve had a hunch that something didn’t add up, and I have mentioned once before to my boyfriend in a semi-joking fashion that it seemed strange. There were no pictures at all of this man around the house, no references at all. I figured that his mom didn’t want to tell him that his dad left so she just told him he was dead or something.

    This past weekend we were visiting, and his mom told us the story of when she found out she was pregnant, completely leaving out the father figure. It was bizarre. I got to work and ran a search on his alleged dad’s name, and sure enough, my intuition was semi-correct. His mother married the alleged dad in May 1984, he died in July 1984, and my boyfriend was born in November 1986. Basically if they conceived the day he died, her pregnancy would have been two years and 4 months long. Now that I know this man isn’t my BF’s father, I’m shaken and I don’t know what to do. I know I need to tell him, but I don’t know how. I don’t want his mom to hate me and I don’t want to kill their relationship, but he deserves to know that a) his dad isn’t that man, b) his real dad might be alive, and c) that his dad didn’t drop dead young, especially since my boyfriend is now in his early 30s and he’s terrified young heart attacks run in his genes. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    1. NO. You do not need to tell him. Please don’t. This is absolutely not your information to share with him. Without going into too much detail, my partner doesn’t know with certainty who his dad is, but he’s pretty sure it’s not who his mom told him it is. He *doesnt want to know for sure.* if he did, he could find out. He does not want to, and if I found out and told him, it would be a huge betrayal. You should have stayed out of this. Do not tell him what you found.

    2. dinoceros says:

      No, you don’t need to tell him. You made the wrong choice in meddling in his business then, so now’s the time to make the right choice in seeing your way out of it. As for the heart attacks thing, I think a lot of men could stand to be more concerned about heart health prior to age 50, so it might be helpful for him. Dating someone doesn’t mean that you get to get in the the middle of their family stuff and run around spilling secrets.

      And before you say that you can’t get over it, you can. I have a friend whose SIL confided in her some stuff about her BIL, and my friend knew it was wrong to get involved and tell her husband, so she didn’t She isn’t wringing her hands over it. She knows it isn’t her place, and feels fine about not sticking her nose in it.

    3. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      This is not your secret to share, period, then end.

  20. Skyblossom says:

    You have to keep in mind that finding out about his biological father could be traumatic. His mom may be protecting him from the truth. He might have been conceived due to rape. He might have a father who is a felon or drug addict. Sometimes a mother protects a child by not being honest.

    At most I would ask him if he has ever thought about searching for information about his dad. I wouldn’t push him to do that search and leave it to him to decide if and when he might be ready to do that. Don’t jump in and volunteer this information.

    Maybe he has already looked up this man and already knows what you could tell him. I think most people would have.

    1. I don’t know if I’d even do that, as the question would be prompted by what she now knows… she wouldn’t have asked naturally, as evidenced by her having done the web search instead of just asking him before. It’s disingenuous to ask now.

      AJ, It’s just not ok to go digging for information and then use it to upset the narrative of someone’s life. His mom kept the info about his bio dad from him for some reason, and by bringing this to the surface, even by prompting him to look things up, you could do harm to his relationship with his mom and/or uncover really hurtful information about his bio dad. You need to bury it.

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