Is it okay to keep secrets in healthy relationships? And when do those secrets become lies?
In today’s complex world, we often compartmentalize our lives. What happens at work stays at work. What happens at home stays at home. In fact, we’re encouraged to do this in the workplace. I don’t know how many times over the course of my career that I was told that our personal problems need to stay at home, so they don’t impact our performance on the job.
Part of that compartmentalization sometimes means that we don’t share everything with our spouses or significant others.
And that’s okay.
Frankly, I don’t want or need to know every detail of what goes on in my husband’s work. Nor does he need to know everything about mine.
Not sharing everything is perfectly normal.
Yet, there is a line, isn’t there? A line where not sharing becomes keeping secrets. When the “not sharing” becomes inappropriate and your partner does need to know.
And that goes both ways. Sometimes the important people in your work life (your boss, your team) need to know about what’s happening in your personal life because it might impact your performance or availability. . . or something.
So, where’s the line?
Of course, the line is going to be different for everyone and every situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
The real answer is setting boundaries.
One of the places where those boundaries can get very tricky is workplace relationships. Especially when those relationships become as much personal as professional.
We joke about “work husbands” and “work wives” because we have relationships at work that in some ways mimic an intimate personal relationship. We have someone at the office that we commiserate with, that we share our professional struggles with, because they are experiencing some of the same things that we are.
But then, we also start to share things that are going on in our personal lives. Maybe even problems with our “real life” partners.
Because we are human beings, not robots. We are wired for relationships, for sharing.
This is where boundaries become especially important. Setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries with our workplace friends and colleagues is just as important as with our personal ones – maybe more so.
Yet, boundaries are often one of the hardest things to grasp and implement.
Boundaries are such a huge topic. I’d have to write a whole book instead of a blog to fully explore the topic of boundaries. Maybe two or three. However, I know for myself and my clients that mastering boundaries is one of the most important things we can do to have healthy relationships with everyone in our lives.
Here are some great questions to ask yourself about setting boundaries when it comes to sharing versus keeping secrets in workplace relationships:
- Does withholding information hurt any of my relationships?
- Would the other person be hurt or upset if they found out about whatever it is you’re withholding?
- Are you withholding because you are ashamed or know that you are on the edge of doing something wrong?
- How would you feel if your partner/colleague were withholding the same type of information from you? (But be honest about how healthy your “need to know” is.)
It’s not always easy to know where the lines are.
If you want a fun way to explore where those boundaries might be, you can do that next week by reading my new novel, Pursuing Truth, which explores them in detail.
Because when boundaries are not clearly defined, the opportunity for misinterpretation and conflicting expectations becomes very real. And Dave Simmons, who you may remember from Discovering Power, has to come to grips with that reality in a big way. Does he have healthy relationships or not?
Please RSVP for the free virtual launch party for Pursuing Truth next Thursday, September 28th at 1:00 pm Eastern. I’ll be doing a reading from the book, plus the host, Susan K. Younger, will be interviewing a few folks who have already read the book and will be sharing their perspective. RSVP here. Because I’d love for you to join us.
Plus, Pursuing Truth will be offered at a special introductory price on September 28th. Watch your email and/or or social media for all the details then!