When we finally find “the one”, it should make us want to yell it from the rooftops. But with today’s disposable dating culture and many daters not wanting to be completely off the market, relationships are more prone to feeling like a secret before they ever feel like a billboard for all to see.
One of the most hurtful things a partner can do is keep you hidden, despite them saying all the right things.
Licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, 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.”
Sometimes it’s clear if they’re keeping you a secret. Other times it’s more subtle.
“Signs include if you haven’t met their friends or family, there is no mention or connection with you on social media, you only go out to the most remote locales, or you never go out, but just stay at home with each other,” says Hokemeyer.
Relationship coach, Donna Barnes, adds, “Another sign is if you don’t see each other very often or only on week nights. Or, if after you have sex he/she leaves and never spends the night.”
If any of these signs sound like your relationship, it’s time to start questioning why they are keeping you a secret.
The top reason is that they’re not committed to the relationship and want to continue seeing other people.
They could also be a very private person.
“A [private person] who doesn’t like to include other people in their relationships until it feels serious,” says Barnes. “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 is probably dating others,” she says.
Reasons for keeping another a secret might be insincere—seeing others, not serious about you—or it might be as simples as they don’t want others’ opinions just yet, says sexologist, Dr. Nikki Goldstein. “It’s important in the beginning to stay clear of other’s opinions and judgments while you’re still getting to know each other,” she says.
But even Goldstein agrees that there is a timeframe to this secrecy and at some point if it still feels like they’re hiding you, you have to ask, Why?
If you’re ready to approach your partner about feeling like their “little secret”, do it subtly—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 that conversation,” she says. In other words, if you never ask, you will never know.
Let the other person know how the 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% valid,” says Hokemeyer.
As Goldstein notes, we are living in an era where it is possible to date without having to be in a relationship. When it starts to feel more serious, remember that open and honest communication in the beginning of the relationship will help keep you from feeling like a secret later on.