Everyone has secrets. As much as we stress over honesty, let’s face it, we are all hiding something. A secret crush, a secret hangout place, or even a secret stash of candy, because sometimes you just don’t want to share. However, some secrets lie in a grey area. A secret relationship is one such thing.
The idea of a hidden romance can seem very exciting. In all fairness, it can be quite fun. Furtive glances, secret smiles, accidentally on purpose brushes, all these things get our hearts racing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep a relationship private. But if your partner keeps stressing on secrecy and gives flimsy excuses as reasons for keeping a relationship secret, there’s a cause for concern.
Unwillingly being in a secret relationship can sap away your confidence. It’ll hurt to see that the person you love so much is keeping your relationship under wraps, almost as if they’re ashamed of you. But, is that really what it means, or is there more to it? Let’s take a look at all we need to know about secret relationships, with a little help from dating coach Geetarsh Kaur, founder of The Skill School, which specializes in building stronger relationships.
What Is A “Secret Relationship”?
The first step of figuring out if you are in a secret relationship is to know what it exactly is. It is easy to confuse a relationship that is private with one that is a secret. Geetarsh helps detangle the private vs secret relationship dilemma.
“With social media being such an integral part of our lives, people tend to announce all their milestones on them, including relationships. When a couple who is romantically involved does not use such platforms to publicize their relationship, it’s called a private relationship. They don’t need social media to validate their relationship.
On the other hand, in a secret relationship, no one else but the couple knows about the relationship. No family or friend is aware of the relationship.”
Does his relationship status on Facebook say single, but he has introduced you to his friends, his younger sister, and his pet dog? Then, he is in a serious relationship. If the relationship is completely under wraps and literally no one in your SO’s life even knows that you exist, then you have another thing coming.
It’s important to note that a secret relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, especially if all the parties involved consent to keeping it hush-hush. For example, if two colleagues fall in love but their workplace doesn’t necessarily encourage employees to date each other, a hidden relationship is a natural recourse. This kind of dynamic might also be known as a private, but not a secret relationship.
However, if the relationship is secret only because one partner wishes to keep it that way while the other wouldn’t mind an Instagram post or two, there’s a major cause for concern. All sorts of doubts can creep into your mind, and you might even end up questioning the authenticity of what you’re in.
Before you figure out how to deal with such a situation, you must ascertain if you’re actually in it. Let’s talk about how to tell if two people are secretly dating and why your partner might want to be in such a dynamic.
Related Reading: 23 Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship
Why Does Your Partner Want To Have A Secret Relationship?
Relationships are a private matter. And it is your partner’s and your decision when, how, and to what extent you make your relationship public. But if your partner wants to keep the relationship a secret entirely, you’re bound to be curious about just why they may want it that way. While some reasons can be worked with for a while, others are definite red flags that should not be ignored.
“A secret relationship can only go one of two ways,” says Ben Harcum, an artist. “It eventually either comes to light or it ends. A relationship can’t be a secret forever.”
If you suspect that you are currently in a secretive relationship, your mind may jump to the worst of conclusions. We get it, it’s not the most endearing thing in the world to find out that your partner won’t even introduce you to their friends. Before thoughts like, “Is he keeping me a secret? Is he really that ashamed of me?” creep into your mind, take a look at the following reasons why your partner might want to keep it covert.
1. They are not sure about the relationship yet
Now here is a reason which actually is in the grey area. If your partner has just gotten out of a serious relationship and you have recently started dating, then that might be one of the reasons for keeping the relationship a secret. They may be making sure that the relationship is going somewhere, before making it public.
While it is completely reasonable to keep things private for a bit, it should not be indefinite. If you have been dating for quite a while and they are still skeptical of making the relationship public or even posting a picture on Instagram, a conversation may be needed.
2. You are just a fish in the sea
Just because we think that a person is our soulmate, doesn’t mean we are theirs. It’s a sad thought, but it’s true nonetheless. While you might be quite invested in your relationship and can’t help gushing to your BFFs about how awesome your partner is, they might be feeling differently.
If your partner is trying to keep the relationship hidden, then there is a huge possibility he might not be serious about you and is using you. They want to reap the benefits of a secret relationship while biding their time till someone better comes along. Your partner doesn’t want to ruin their chances with other people by being open about their current relationship status.
If you think that this may be the reason for the hidden relationship that you are in, you must evaluate your next steps accordingly. The sooner you have a conversation about it with your partner, the better. If it turns out that you actually are being disrespected, we’d suggest you move on from this relationship since being cheated on can leave long-lasting negative effects.
3. Family or societal pressure can push people into secret relationships
People can often associate the secret relationship meaning with an illicit affair. But that is not always the case. There are certain cultures where parents’ opinion plays an important role when it comes to their child’s love life. A couple needs the approval of parents on both sides before they proceed to date.
In communities such as these having secret relationships are more the norm than an exception. And a lot of relationships end as well due to pressure from families and society. A lot of it also ties down to your family dynamics, if a person has always been discouraged from dating, they’re not going to boisterously admit to doing it.
In communities such as these having secret relationships are more the norm than an exception. And a lot of relationships end as well due to pressure from families and society. Something similar happened to John, a law student who dated Caroline for about three years. In those days, they had to keep the relationship under wraps from family and relatives.
“While we were in college, it was safe to hang out with each other but we could never go dating outside campus,” says John. “We couldn’t even go out for coffee let alone hold hands in public. There was always a fear of being discovered by our family or relatives. We were from different religious backgrounds so if they found out about our relationship, there would be major repercussions.”
“After 3 years, we decided to tell our parents. We loved each other a lot and also had good, stable jobs, so we hoped that our parents would accept the relationship. But they didn’t. They were vehemently against it and we had to break up under family pressure.”
In societies where dating isn’t necessarily encouraged, it’s clear to see why secret relationships exist. If your partner’s parents are the kind who may have a bit of an issue with their children dating, it may very well be the reason why your partner thinks it’s a good idea to not let anyone get a whiff of what you’ve got going on.
Related Reading: How To Convince Parents For Love Marriage Without Hurting Them?
4. Your partner is still hung up on their ex and wants them back
One of the saddest reasons a person keeps a relationship hidden is that their past relationship is affecting their present one, as they still haven’t let go of their ex. I know you want to help your partner out. You hold them even when they behave like an overflowing bathtub.
Your empathy makes you amazing and kind, but the chances are, they don’t see that at all. To them, you are a rebound. Someone who will hold their hand and soothe the hurt until his ex comes back and they gallop off into the sunset. So if you think you’re a “secret boyfriend” or a “secret girlfriend” to someone, find out how long ago your partner broke up with their ex. If it was a matter of months, or worse, weeks ago, you’ve got your answer.
5. Cheating: The reason for keeping the relationship a secret
One cannot talk about hidden relationships without addressing the possibility of adultery. Cheating, unfortunately, is one of the most common reasons for a secret affair. So much so, that when you do mention a secret relationship to a person, the automatic assumption is that there is some kind of cheating involved.
10 Signs You Are In A Secret Relationship
Oscar Wilde once said, “The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it,” and it’s hard to disagree. Things shrouded in mystery do have an appeal. Forbidden fruit is so much more enticing just because it’s forbidden. A secret relationship allows you to partake of that forbidden fruit.
If only, it was just that. “Having a secret relationship is taxing to both the parties involved. One lie needs a thousand others to make it believable. The constant fear of being found out, deleting messages and so on, the sheer anxiety of it is extremely nerve-wracking,” explains Geetarsh.
Being in a secret relationship can be challenging. However, it becomes excruciatingly painful when you unwittingly find yourself in one. Is there a niggling fear in the back of your head that everything might not be as it should be? Here are 10 signs of a secret relationship to help you out.
1. Your SO introduces you as a friend
While dating, you are bound to go out. And chances are when you do, you meet acquaintances. If your partner introduces you as a friend or insists on being introduced as one, then you can be assured that they are intent on keeping the relationship secret. It’s one thing to hide your relationship from your coworkers or even tell your parents if you have recently gotten together, but friends are generally more accepting. If your beau is hiding your relationship from them as well, then it is a red flag.
In such situations, instead of stonewalling your partner, it may be wise to confront your partner on why you were introduced as a friend and not a partner. Though you may be brimming with anger, try to hear your partner out about what their possible reasons are. Maybe you’ll find out that you’re in a secretive relationship because your partner is trying to hide it from their parents.
Related Reading: Fake Relationships – 15 Ways To Identify You Are In One
2. Social media activity sends mixed signals
A lot of people these days consider social media to be the new Wikipedia. If it’s on social media, then it must be real. They don’t consider a relationship official unless it’s been made Facebook official. But that’s not what Mindy felt. “To me, relationships are private, and I never felt the need to publicize my relationships on social media,” says Mindy. But as fate would have it, it was social media that made Mindy realize that her boyfriend was not being very honest.
Mindy’s boyfriend, Jay, was very active on social media. “He was into all of it, he made reels, took pictures of his food, and put it up, you know the works,” Mindy adds, “I have always believed that the secret of every successful relationship is transparency, and I try to enforce that in my relationships. I had told Jay that he could talk to me about anything.” Mindy explained to Jay that she wasn’t the jealous kind.
But Jay took her thoughtfulness as a sign of weakness. Three months into the relationship, Mindy began to notice something. “Jay would put up pictures and tag women but never me, which was fine until I saw the comments. Women were flirting with him and he was flirting back. It wasn’t even harmless flirting. It would be something along the lines of, ‘I can’t stop thinking about you’ or something even as bold as ‘I wish you were with me right now, to show you how I feel’.”
Mindy was already on the edge when a text flashed up on Jay’s phone. “It was one of the girls he was flirting with and it said, “Your smell lingers on my sheets.” For Mindy, there was no going back from there. She broke up with Jay and feels better off without him.
Mindy still believes that not everything needs to be on social media, but it definitely lets you know a lot about where your relationship stands.
3. None of their friends or family know you are dating
We all have that one person in our lives whom we tell everything to. That person is aware of all things that are important to us, no matter how big or small. And no matter how private a person your partner is, they too will have a person who they confide in.
If you have been dating him for a while and you have not met or even talked to their closest friend, then it’s possible they already have someone, or worse, are already married. A secret relationship after marriage is frowned upon by most people. That’s why your SO may be hiding it even from their BFF. If your partner’s best buddy is not aware of your existence, then it certainly is a red flag.
Being in a secret relationship of this kind for a long time is bound to raise suspicion. You’ll never hear anything about your partner’s friends, or they won’t ever even tell you much about where they are and when. Coupled with the fact that you’re a secret boyfriend or a secret girlfriend, you’ll also notice all the signs of a cheating partner in this case.
4. You keep revisiting the same places
If you find yourself going to a few select places repeatedly, then it’s one of the signs of a secret relationship. It is very normal and even healthy for a couple to try out new things and that includes exploring new places as well. We all have a place that is special to us and we frequent it a lot.
But if you and your partner keep meeting up at the same locations, with very little to no change in your date routines, then it’s most probably because they’re confident they will not be discovered by anyone in these places. And they can continue the façade while reaping the benefits of a secret relationship.
Related Reading: 8 Risk Factors To Have Extramarital Affairs
5. They get paranoid when with you in public
When on a date, does your partner always pick the darkest corner or booth? I bet they say they “don’t want anyone to disturb your date.” Don’t buy into it, it’s a ruse. The truth is the difference between a private vs secret relationship is that while in a private relationship, you and your partner may not be declaring your love for each other from the rooftops, but either of you will not shy away from introducing the other as their girlfriend/boyfriend to an acquaintance.
But if your beau is constantly looking over their shoulder and literally ducking under the table to avoid the people they know while with you, then it’s time for a reality check. So look out for signs like your partner letting go of your hand every time they think they’ve spotted someone they know, or when they won’t indulge in any PDA whatsoever.
6. Your dates are often Netflix and chill
Home is where you trust the toilet seat. There is nothing like the comfort of home. You know the food is going to be clean, healthy and to your liking, you can get drunk without worrying about passing out on the pavement. Not to mention, it is so much more budget-friendly date idea. So the thought of Netflix and chill for a date is really welcome most of the time.
However, if literally every single date you two have is always spent indoors, you may need to sound the alarm bells. Of course, other reasons like the ones I listed out might just be the motivating factors behind such a move, but it doesn’t hurt to go out every once in a while, does it? Even if you do manage to get your partner out of the house, they probably won’t be interested in holding your hand. When that happens, you really don’t need to be asking yourself things like, “Is he keeping me a secret?” you’ve got your answer already.
7. They get upset when you talk about them to your friends
How vocal one is about one’s relationships is something that a couple should discuss with each other and come to a conclusion. Nina had done exactly that. She talked with Mark and they both decided to keep things low-key. But exactly how low-key was something Nina came to realize only after she confided in her best friend about the new relationship.
“Mark was livid. I had just told my BFF I couldn’t meet her that day because I had already made plans with Mark. And that sent Mark flying off the handle. He started yelling and throwing things and was really upset. It freaked me out. I grabbed my keys and drove to my friend’s place afraid of being alone,” says Nina.
Mark called Nina the next day to apologize, but it was too late by then. “I understand keeping a relationship private, there are certainly some benefits of a secret relationship. But if I even have to hide it from my best friends, then it just gives out a very sinister vibe. And I am not comfortable with that,” she explains.
In a private but not secret relationship, you might still mention your partner to your closest friends every now and then. However, in a completely secret relationship, you might experience something like Nina did.
8. Your partner treats you like a buddy in public
It is very important to be friends with your partner. The secret of every successful relationship is transparency and being friends with your special someone will allow you that. But if your boyfriend makes you feel like you are his brother from another mother in public, then you might have to do something about it.
You don’t need to be making heart eyes at each other all the time. Neither are we asking you to have a full-blown make-out session in a public space. And yes, you can fist bump to congratulate each other. But to be just treated like a “bro” in public would mean they’re trying to show that there is no attraction between you two. And that just feels wrong.
Related Reading: Can Men And Women Be Friends?
9. You don’t get the attention you need
“When a person who is already in a relationship or is married has a secret affair, they’re not able to give attention or time to either partner. And this adversely affects their relationship with both,” says Geetarsh. Does it feel like your partner is absent when you need them the most? Are you only able to see them on their schedule? She or he may be in a secret relationship with you.
10. Relationship status is a mystery
Some people play the dating game well. They might introduce you to their friends early on, but as time passes, you barely move further into their inner circle. When you do meet their friends, they don’t know how to react to you. Does his relationship status with you seem a mystery to his friends? Does she want to hide you from the world like a dirty little secret?
Beware, the signs of a secret relationship are all over the place. In all probability, your partner has told their friends that the relationship is not serious, or worse, that they want to break up with you but you won’t let go of them. Read the signs, listen to your intuitions, and if you feel something is wrong, then up and leave. Anyone who doesn’t treat you right is not worth it.
There is no denying there are pros and cons to a secret relationship. While sometimes it is indeed a good idea to keep a relationship hidden, most of the time it leads to heartache. What is important is to know where exactly you stand in a relationship, and if your relationship doesn’t give you respect and happiness, you could consider letting go of it. You deserve all the love and the very best the world has to offer and then some more. Remember that.