Studies show, messy.
Keeping a romance a secret seems like it would be thrilling and dangerous (in a good way). However, recent studies have shown that it actually takes a toll on both people involved and puts a stress on the relationship.
Secret romantic relationships are very common. We all know celebrities keep romances a secret for privacy, but what about our friends or family members? Why do people keep romances a secret?
Justin J. Lehmiller of Colorado State University recently published his research on secret relationships. He found that there are many different kinds of secret relationships and the main reason why people do it is fear of social disapproval. Many people are critical of who their family or close friends date. Someone may be deemed unworthy for a loved one based on money, looks, race or a bad first impression. For this reason, if someone knows their family or friends may not approve of a relationship, they will try to avoid being looked down on and keep it a secret. Lehmiller found there are other reasons for secret relationships such as a "desire to keep one's options open, a need for privacy and a desire to prevent others from getting hurt" (i.e. an affair or dating a friend's ex).
Now that we know why people do it, let's see what studies say about how it affects us. Lehmiller found in his first study that keeping romantic relationships a secret resulted in less commitment, lower self-esteem and more health problems. He did a second study that suggested that romantic secrecy “undermines relational commitment by means of limiting psychological closeness to one’s partner and poses a threat to partners’ personal health as a result of generating nervousness and fear.” In conclusion he stated that his findings indicate that romantic secrecy may have “harmful consequences for both the relationship itself and the health of partners involved.”
After reading these results, I thought about it and it does make sense. Think about it. Secrets are hard to keep. Many people cannot keep them, whether it’s because they just love to gossip or because the information puts too much pressure on them. So imagine if you were dating someone and you couldn’t tell any of your friends or family because you were afraid they wouldn’t approve. After a while the sneaking around and lying to your loved ones would probably start to cause a mental strain. The mental strain would then begin creating problems in the relationship because the happiness and mental health of the participants are being tested.
In conclusion, things aren't always as they appear. We may think that keeping a relationship a secret between two people sounds exciting and passionate. Think again. It IS a secret after all, and secrets secrets are no fun, secrets are for everyone!
So all of you people out there trapped in secrecy, leave it to the celebrities. Step out proudly into society and embrace your relationship. If you feel happy in the romance, there's no reason why anyone else shouldn't be happy for you.
Here is a Q&A with Lemiller about secret relationships. As always, I'd love to hear your comments on the subject and thanks for reading!