What would you do if you awoke to find your partner in a conversation with a friend of the opposite sex, one that you know has expressed certain feelings for them, at 4 am? Granted, your partner told you the reason behind the call, and why they needed to ‘catch up’ at that hour? Would you let it go or would you voice your discomfort?
A clandestine conversation can cause a partner to question their partner’s loyalty, and may even sow seeds of doubt in an otherwise harmonious relationship. This raises the questions: Why the secrecy and why we are so afraid to speak up?
Truth be told
Samar Vyas*, a screenwriter from Bangalore who moved to maximum city to work with the film industry, says, “My job calls for that added drama. By this, I simply mean that I need to observe real life to make reel life relatable. Along the way, I’ve drawn from my own experiences. What I’ve learnt is that people say they want the truth but most times, they cannot digest it. My last relationship ended because my girlfriend couldn’t wrap her mind around the hours I kept. She’d wake to find me on calls at ungodly hours, and over time, the fact that I was constantly surrounded by beautiful women, made her develop trust issues. I did my best to ease her mind, but it got too much for her, and we eventually called it quits.”
Dr Sagar Mundada, a Mumbai-based consultant psychiatrist, sexologist, and deaddiction specialist believes that it’s perfectly healthy for a couple to keep a few insignificant details from each other.
He says, “Depending on how strong or stable a relationship is, couples tend to keep tiny or even big secrets from one another. While you shouldn’t sweat the little things, it’s the bigger secrets that can become an issue going forward. I’ve encountered couples who kept things from their partners simple because of their inability to communicate effectively. Not everybody can have assertive and honest discussions they know will be well received and reciprocated; they may end up feeling that avoiding the topic or keeping secrets is the better alternative.”
The privilege of privacy
Communication will remain the foundation stone for any relationship. Communication leads to trust, mutual respect, and deeper understanding, and a stronger bond between partners. When there’s a strong base, privacy is a privilege that both partners can enjoy in equal measure. However, there’s a clear distinction between enjoying your privacy and keeping a secret.
Dr Mundada elaborates, “Holding onto your right to privacy is a perk that both partners can enjoy especially when they have established mutual respect and trust in their relationship. More importantly, details that fall under ‘private’ are those things that will not harm someone else in any way. It should be perfectly acceptable to not share things that have no bearing on your relationship in any way.”
Details like passwords, banking pins, professional dealings that involve client privilege, are acceptable details to keep to yourself. If your partner is not willing to understand that certain aspects can cause a breach in not just privileged information, but with your value system, it can be problematic. Says Sapna Jehangir*, a former Mumbai-based corporate lawyer, “My ex-husband is a businessman, and he had certain vested interests in a company that was in the midst of merging with the company my firm represented. It was attorney-client privilege that my ex expected me to break, just so he could understand the profit or loss he stood to make. When I was unwilling to share any details of the merger, I was subjected to snide remarks, and it eventually made me lose respect for him.”
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The devil’s in the details
There’s a fine line between sharing, privacy, and oversharing. While big decisions that can impact two or more lives are what construe important details to share, telling your partner every mundane detail of your day can border on oversharing. The key lies in striking a balance. Sharon Furtado* recently had a dose of what important details in a relationship meant. “I was looking to go out with my girlfriends on a weekend trip, and while I shared that with my boyfriend, what I failed to share was what I was what kind of destination we were looking at, and how soon we wanted to go. Since we’re in a long distance relationship, it helps us feel connected when we have open discussions about every detail, and in my excitement, I left him out of finalising a place. While he didn’t really say it out loud, I could sense his disappointment. But, does that make it wrong, especially since I had my friends’ expectations to consider as well?”
Dr Mundada has the answer: “A healthy relationship is one where you have the freedom to have your own thought process and ideology, without feeling a burden to conform to everything your partner wants. Moreover, sharing every minute detail of your day every single day, can be termed as oversharing, and can become a chore after an extended period of time. Healthy discussions in a relationship need to foster that sense of safety and non-judgement, and help you feel comfortable and certain that you are with someone who will be there to hear you out in a safe and non-judgemental way.”
The fact remains, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to how much or how effectively a couple shares. Dr Mundada advises, “Adhere to the mutually-agreed upon ground rules, and not only when it suits you. Remember, it’s always better to have an open , non-judgemental line of communication. Remember to respond and not react if you do not agree with something. Take your time to consider a respectful response. You have to think of your relationship something that you’re an asset to, not a liability. And when it comes to gossip, clarify the details with your partner instead of believing rumours.”
*Names changed on request
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