I recently re-read one of my favorite short stories, Only Goodness, by Jhumpa Lahiri (If you enjoy fiction, you should check it out!) One of the many conflicts in the story is the main character not telling her partner a family secret—her brother was an alcoholic. After reading the story, I empathized with the character for keeping that information from her partner. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure how easy it’d be for a private person like me to share family challenges with a lover. Especially if it’s not something one is proud of.
All families have secrets, abi? In fact, the greater they look on the family portrait, the dirtier the secrets. Lol. But having some aspects of your life hidden from public opinion is not terrible na, so why is it such a big deal that people don’t divulge every detail of what’s going on at home? However, the gist here is about lovers. It’s easy to hide those secrets from friends, colleagues, church members, etc., but should you hide your family secrets or stories that you are not proud of from your partner?
It’s easy to encourage people to tell their partners everything but let’s not forget that there’s a reason those things are secrets, anyway. Imagine after being together for ten years, and you find out your partner’s Uncle has a history of touching young girls inappropriately? And because you didn’t know, you’ve left your daughter around him unsupervised? The quarrel from this one will not end. Or that your partner’s dad is not trustworthy with money, and because it was too shameful for your partner to tell you, they allowed you to go into business with their dad, and the business eventually crumbled. Omo! Or the brother they said went abroad is actually in jail?
There are many reasons why people keep secrets from their partners. Sometimes it is to save face, forget, or avoid what we call “see finish.” Some of these family secrets might not even a big deal to your partner. For example, I have a friend whose three older sisters had surgery to remove fibroids at different times. The family felt that if people knew, they would think the girls will have problems conceiving, and nobody would marry them. So, they told everyone it was appendix surgery. Lmao.
For me, the key is to knowwhen and howto share with your partner. First, consider how long you’ve been with the person and how trustworthy they are. Next, put yourself in their shoes. If you find out something like what you are hiding about their family later, will you be happy that they hid it from you?
This matter is not straightforward, so I wonder what you guys think about it? Should you share your family secrets with your partner?