When Your Relationship Feels Like a Secret, What’s Really Going On?
When we finally find “the one," we should want to yell it from the rooftops. But with today’s disposable dating culture — and the growing trend of singles who never want to be completely off the market — relationships are more prone to feeling like a secret instead of a billboard for all to see.
With that in mind, one of the most hurtful things a partner can do is keep you hidden, despite saying all the right things.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer puts it well when he says, "If you are truly in their heart, then you need to be a visible part of their life, not tucked away like a shameful trinket."
But sometimes it’s clear you're being kept a secret. Other times it’s much more subtle.
According to Hokemeyer, red flags include the following: "if you haven’t met their friends or family; [if] there is no mention or connection with you on social media; [and if] you only go out to the most remote locales — or you never go out — but just stay at home with each other."
"Another sign is if you don’t see each other very often, or only on weeknights," adds relationship coach Donna Barnes. "Or, if after you have sex, he or she leaves and never spends the night."
If any of these signs are beginning to remind you of your relationship, it’s time to start questioning why you're being kept a secret.
The top reason for this kind of behavior, the experts explain, is that your love interest isn't committed to the relationship and may want to continue seeing other people.
"[This type of person] doesn’t like to include other people in their relationships until it feels serious," Barnes explains. "It’s less complicated to leave a relationship if no one else knows anything about it. By keeping you private, it may mean they’re not serious about you and probably dating others."
While most reasons for keeping someone secret are dubious or insincere — seeing other people, not serious about you — there's also the chance that they don't want any of their friends' or family's opinions just yet, says sexologist Dr. Nikki Goldstein. "It’s important in the beginning to stay clear of others' opinions and judgments while you’re still getting to know each other," she says.
But even Goldstein agrees that there's a time frame to this secrecy, and at some point, if it still feels like they’re hiding you, you have to find out why. And instead of straight-up confronting them and asking, it's best to try a more subtle approach — at first.
"To start, suggest doing public things together like inviting them to meet some of your friends or family," says Barnes.
Goldstein agrees. "Lead by example and see if they do the same. If the other person objects, or it still doesn’t change the secrecy, you’ll need to have a conversation."
More specifically, the experts say it's time to let the other person know how this situation is making you feel.
“It’s important to state your perception as a statement rather than a question. Never forget that your feelings are 100 percent valid,” says Hokemeyer.
If the conversation doesn't quite go the way you hope, or if your partner confirms your suspicions about him/her, don't let it sour your attitude toward future relationships with someone else, says Goldstein. As the sexologist notes, we're simply living in an era when it's possible to date without having to be in an actual relationship. When it starts to feel more serious, try to remember that open and honest communication — from the beginning — will help keep you from feeling like a secret later on.