Sometimes secrets can be fun in a relationship. (Surprise trip to Fiji, honey!) But certain lies of omission do long-term damage. Here are five areas where honesty is the only policy.
1. Your wildest dreams
It can be hard to broach topics like wanting kids, moving to another city or country, or changing careers. But letting your partner in on your dream for your life together is the only way to potentially make it happen. Often my partner’s dreams seem crazy and impractical to me. Get a St. Bernard?! But once he made the case for it, and this being L.A., we saw my therapist about it, I finally gave in. And I am so in love with that dog now. Don’t keep quiet about your dreams just because your partner might not be on the same page. Make it a dream for the two of you together and see what happens.
—Cindy Chupack, Emmy-winning writer-producer of Modern Family and Sex and the City and the author of The Longest Date: Life as a Wife
2. Your financial situation
You need to get totally financially naked with your partner. First about debt, whether it’s student loans, credit cards, or loans against your 401(k). A lot of debt can negatively impact your credit score. Also, I don’t think you should make a large investment without telling your spouse. If it goes belly-up, it will affect the long-term cash flow of your household. Cash flow is like blood flow; if you’ve got a couple of liters of blood leaking out, you know you’re weaker and you’re not going to be able to run a marathon. But if you keep your spouse in the dark about it, he or she might continue to spend as if nothing has changed.
—Manisha Thakor, director of wealth strategies for women at Buckingham Asset Management and the author of Get Financially Naked
3. Your online activities
The odds that your loved one will notice your browser history are so high, you’re best off fessing up entirely about what you’re doing. Potential misunderstandings can be avoided with simple disclosure at the outset. That said, keep your passwords private, not because you can’t trust your partner but because a relationship doesn’t mean surrendering all privacy. And do not share an e-mail address. It’s like the relationship version of helicopter parenting.
—Frank Bruni is an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times and the author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be
4. Major problems
Whether the issue is with your job, your family, or your health, turn toward your partner. The secrets come when you turn away. I’ve counseled people who were fired from their jobs and didn’t tell their spouses. Those kinds of secrets are really detrimental to a relationship. When you need to share something difficult, ask your partner for time and space. Would you be willing to hear me out about stuff going on at work? Can I talk to you for 15 minutes about what’s going on with my mother? You may have a little conflict as a result of talking to your spouse, but that’s a risk you should take. Trust that you can work through it.
—Sally Palaian, PH.D., a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor in Bingham Farms, Michigan
5. What turns you on
Be honest about what you need in the bedroom—but never while you’re in it! Start by telling your partner five things you do like: I love the way you hug. You’re the best kisser I ever had. Then say, "I’m wondering if we could do this other thing I’ve always wanted to try." Tell him at a casual time, like when you’re sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the film to start. He can sit through the whole movie thinking about it, but he won’t have to try it until he’s ready. An awful lot of women aren’t getting what they need, but they try to be sweet and fake it. You’re missing out on some basics of a relationship when you do that.
—Helen Fisher senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, the chief scientific advisor for Match.com, and the author of Why Him? Why Her?