Everyone has secrets. Even in the most sincere and strong relationships, partners have some things they prefer to keep to themselves. A new study has revealed how the secrets we keep, no matter how big or small, can affect our health negatively
Study Finds That The Secrets We Keep Come Back To Haunt Us
Not all the secrets we keep are big skeletons in our closets. Some are little white lies we may be keeping to protect our partners or our relationships. Nevertheless, researchers at Columbia Business School found that lies tend to creep up in our minds and affect our health.
The study, with the title “The Experience of Secrecy”, looked into 13,000 secrets, from tiny, seemingly harmless fibs to more serious ones, like infidelity and addiction, in an effort to understand how keeping them is affecting not only our relationships but also our health.
The Kinds Of Secrets We Keep
According to the study, we are most likely to keep romantic thoughts about someone other than our partner, sexual desires, fantasies, and finances secret from our significant other.
For example, if there is a sexual fantasy a guy feels might offend his partner, he may choose to keep it to himself. Thinking of your ex from time to time is also not necessarily something you want to share with your wife. Likewise, you may decide to not talk about some financial problem you could be facing, so as not to trouble your partner. Not all lies are sinister and awful – some are even kept for noble reasons.
The Research Findings
According to Michael Slepian, study co-author and assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School, told Columbia Business School Newsroom: “People anticipate that once in a while, they will need to hide their secrets; they do so and move on. However, people don’t expect their secrets to spontaneously pop into their heads when irrelevant to the task or current situation at hand. This seems to be the real downside of having secrets from others.”
The study actually found that participants were hiding an average of 13 secrets over the course of one month. In actual fact, they only had to actively hide their secrets from someone about twice a month. Even if this doesn’t sound like too must hassle, it should be noted that they spontaneously thought about their secrets about five times per month. This last finding practically means that liars spend twice the amount of time it takes them to hide their secret worrying about it.
Spending so much time stressing over your secrets is, then, more consuming than actually doing something to hide them. This is a type of negative obsessive thinking that is harmful to our mental health, making us stressed and unhappy and occupying time and energy we could be spending otherwise.
Study co-author Malia Mason, a professor at Columbia Business School, concludes: “Secrets exert a gravitational pull on our attention, and it’s the cyclical revisiting of our mistakes that explains the harmful effects that secrets can have on our well-being and relationship satisfaction.”
Next time that you are tempted to keep a secret from your partner, then, you need to ask yourself “Is it worth all that hassle?”