The True Nature of a Secret Relationship

Relationships A-Z
28 Oct 2023
8 min read
Secret Relationship 101: What, How, and What to Do

A secret relationship may seem romantic and alluring, or just really sketchy. That depends on which side of things you’re on, and your past experiences with keeping a relationship private. Before we judge people for their secrecy or give them a pass for keeping their relationship status off of social media, let’s take some time to understand all of the things that may lead people to be less than honest about who they love. Here’s your guide into what secret relationships are, how they appear, and what you can do if you find yourself in one.

What Is a Secret Relationship?

“If you cannot hold me in your arms, then hold my memory in high regard. And if I cannot be in your life, then at least let me live in your heart.”

Ranata Suzuki, an Australian poet

A secret relationship is a type of relationship in which your romantic life is kept hidden. Perhaps you have just started dating and haven’t entered that official threshold yet, or perhaps there are other reasons why you are keeping your relationship hidden from others.

The signs of secret relationships may be obvious to some, but for others, it may take a bit longer for a person to figure it out. Here is how you can identify that you are or have been in such relationships:

  • They seem reluctant to introduce you to friends of family
  • You have only one specific form of communication
  • You don’t go out publicly
  • They don’t want to become official on social media
  • You are not introduced as their girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner to anyone
  • Nobody seems to be aware of your relationship
  • When you are together, there is only intimacy but not much conversation or other activities
  • They seem to hold an air of paranoia when they are out with you

Although these are not all signs that you are in a secret relationship, these can and will give you a good idea that you are in one.

7 Common Reasons Somebody Might Keep Their Relationship Secret

Regarding the reasons why people may want to enter secret relationships, infidelity is usually the first thought that comes to mind. But this is not the only motive to start secretly dating a partner. Let’s look at all of the possible motivations to keep a relationship hidden, illustrated by the examples.

1. Family Obligations

It may seem to only happen in fairy tales or stories. However, many religions and ethnicities still practice the concept of arranged marriage. In this type of arrangement, two people are commonly matched together from a young age by their families.

In this type of scenario, both people in the arranged relationship have an obligation to their family members to marry each other. They do not necessarily develop any sort of romantic feelings for one another. This is why they might seek out that romantic desire by seeing other people and keeping such relationships secret.

Related reading: In a Transactional Relationship? Here’s How to Make It Work

2. Social Obligations

Much like family obligations, there are times in which people are essentially forced into a specific relationship due to the obligations that they may have with their social circle.

In certain religious groups, it is often frowned upon for people to date or court others outside of their religion. Some friend groups may also have an agreement that none of them should date a specific individual due to the potential drama that going out with them could cause.

Of course, it is common knowledge that the guy or gal you fall in love with won’t always completely match the constraints of your social obligations. It is a common reason for people to have a secret romance.

Traditional societies frequently push people to have a secret relationship

3. Abuse

A person could be in a secret relationship with somebody who is abusive and feel as if they are trapped or unable to seek out help by openly talking about their relationship with others. 

This can go in a couple of directions. Another example could be the fact that they are attempting to escape an abusive relationship and are already seeing somebody they truly love while they gather the resources in order to escape. In both of these examples, they have to keep their relationship a secret to a point in order to protect their own well-being.

4. Protection

Whether it be to protect themselves or their partner, a person may keep their relationship a secret to ensure the safety and well-being of those in the relationship. The situation can be as simple as being unsure if the family would accept the relationship. Alternatively, a person may be famous on the internet and wants to protect their partner from potential harassment from their fans. They may keep the relationship secret in order to ensure the safety of themselves or their partner.

Related reading: Need to Catch a Cheater? Here Are the Ways to Do It!

5. Closeted LGBTQ Member

A person who is in the closet may keep the status of their real relationship a secret because of a life-or-death difference:

  • They could live with a conservative family in which that type of lifestyle is frowned upon
  • They may live in a community in which that sort of romantic relationship can lead to them being placed in dangerous situations at worst, and shunning from the community at best

Being a closeted LGBTQ member is dangerous in these circumstances, thus, there can be no other choice but to keep their real feelings secret and a relationship they want hidden.

6. Not Quite Past the Threshold

In the situation when you’re not a couple yet, your relationship isn’t exactly a secret. However, you are still at the point where you and your partner are essentially just friends.

You may have started to date one of your close friends. However, you don’t feel like you are in the exact relationship status in which you are able to let others know about it.

Related reading: How to Get Out of The Friend Zone: A Jerk-Free Guide

7. Infidelity

This is the most common thing that people think of when they are presented with the thought of a secret relationship. After all, for many people, the idea of keeping a relationship secret must mean that both people are doing something bad, such as having a secret romance in the form of an extramarital relationship.

How to navigate secret relationships

4 Tips for a Secret Relationship: How to Make Things Easier for Both?

Let’s look at how you can have a secret relationship. While we cannot control the reasons a person may try keeping a relationship secret, we understand that cheating is not the only reason to keep relationships secret

Here is what you can do if you find secret relationships are hard for you and your partner to manage:

  • Lay down your reason ASAP. Be honest, even if you want to keep a relationship secret for cheating or trying to leave a current relationship. Openly say that you want to wait a certain period before making your relationship public. Letting them know the reason is important from the beginning.
  • Keep off of social media. There are many methods of communicating with your significant other. Text messages and emails work just as well as Instagram posts and Facebook timelines. You can even find messaging apps that are specifically designed to maintain secrecy.
  • Don’t let a secret relationship keep you from the experiences you should have as a couple. Remember that it is important to be discreet in secret relationships. However, that doesn’t mean that you and your partner shouldn’t have the experiences a couple openly dating will have. You will just have to be creative to avoid places where everybody who knows you hangs out.
  • Set a timeline. Whatever your reason for starting your relationship secret, the mystery around your dating should have an expiration date. At a certain point, you have to tell your friends and family about the status of the relationship. Otherwise, this date will mean that you have to end the private affair you have with your partner as hiding the relationship may start to get tiring.

Just as there are many different types of romance in the world, there are reasons that may lead to someone keeping their romantic life private. That is why it is important to have a set plan and know exactly how and when to end a relationship, especially if it is hidden from the world.

How to Act If Your Partner Wants a Secret Relationship

But just because your partner has reasons to keep their relationships secret, doesn’t mean you have to be ok with hiding a relationship. Somehow, you should change your vision of relationships to adjust to your loved ones and compromise. Here are the steps to handle this issue, and your final choice should depend on the direction you decide to go in:

  1. Ask why: There are many reasons why they may want to keep it a secret. Your task is to clarify what’s going on in the first place. If their reason is valuable (such as their parents being against the relationship or marriage due to certain beliefs), it’s easier to accept and not feel bad about that. If the secrecy is needed because they need more time, you risk waiting for nothing if they won’t be ultimately able to work with that situation.

    If they are reluctant to talk about their reasons or you feel their reasons for secrecy are wrong, it’s OK not to want to continue. Do you really want to go along while someone cheats on their husband or wife?

  2. Discuss a plan: If you feel like the relationship can eventually work out even with the secrecy, the next step is to set an expiration date when you will make the truth come out. Remember that just as there are good reasons to fear publicly going out with others, there are bad reasons. And bad reasons have consequences.
  3. Do your research: If you feel your partner may be lying about the reasons they want to spend their relationship with you in secrecy, there is no shame in investigating what’s happening. Social media or text messages (if they rarely post) can reveal much about a person.
  4. Look at your relationship status realistically: Don’t settle for secrecy if you feel uncomfortable, even for a good reason. A secret relationship requires a rational approach and a sharp mind, so don’t let hope or new emotions get in the way of your ability to deal with this situation.

Related reading: Setting Healthy and Fair Expectations in a Relationship

Can a Secret Relationship Actually Work Out?

When paired together, secrecy and romance can feel scary, exciting, shameful, and even a bit sexy. That all depends on the motivation for keeping things secret and how long the pact of silence must last.

Does your secrecy have an expiration date, or will you have to lie about your intimacy with this other person indefinitely? If you and your lover will be able to come out and share your love with the world, then yes, your relationship has a good chance of working out. However, if you will never be able to talk about your relationship with others, chances are it’s built on something shameful or unsafe. Until you work that part out, you may not be able to sustain things in the future.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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