Tlhogi* quit smoking after she started dating her husband because she knew that it would be a deal-breaker for him. “I chose him over smoking. And, he doesn’t know that I used to,” she proclaims. Tlhogi didn’t share this information because she regards it as an insignificant part of her past. But, is she keeping a secret from her husband or exercising her right to privacy? It seems the answer lies in the intention. According to Bruce Muzik, a relationship expert, privacy is about having a life that you don’t share with others while secrecy is about intentionally hiding information. He says the fact that Tlhogi no longer smokes helps her case. Had she continued to do so behind her husband’s back, knowing full well that he doesn’t date women who smoke, she would be treading in dangerous secrecy territory.
DEFINING PRIVACY AND SECRECY
Privacy is a normal part of everyday life that you have a right to. Think of daily activities such as using the bathroom, praying, meditating, reading or having a confidential conversation – basically having some space to be with yourself and your thoughts. “Secrecy, on the other hand, is deliberately and consciously hiding or withholding information that may impact the individual and/or relationship,” says Lungile Lechesa, a counselling psychologist in Johannesburg. Bruce states that the tell-tale signs of whether something is a secret or not are determined by how you feel about what you are withholding. “You might be ashamed because you feel bad about what you’ve done or fearful because you’re afraid that revealing it may result in you losing your spouse’s love, respect or loyalty.”
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