An investigation of the association between secrecy characteristics, trust, and the reasons romantic partners report for discussing expectations regarding secrecy
Niedermyer, Angela Jo
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The decision of romantic partners to share or keep a secret involves each partner’s perception of the other’s trustworthiness. Indeed, trust may influence how romantic partners enact secrecy in their relationship. This study investigated the willingness of individuals to keep secrets from their partner, the number of secrets that people keep from their partner, individuals’ reports of their reasons for discussing their expectations regarding secrets, and the association between each of these characteristics and partners’ trust. First, the literature regarding secrecy and people’s willingness to keep secrets from a relational partner is investigated. People’s willingness to keep secrets from a relational partner should differ based on their trust in the partner. Secret holders are more likely to disclose to a confidant when they perceive that confidant to be trustworthy (Kelly & McKillop, 1996) and, conversely may not disclose to a confidant who lacks trustworthiness (Wheeless & Grotz, 1977). In light of these findings, it was expected that individuals’ willingness to keep secrets would be negatively related to the degree to which they trusted their partner. In a similar vein, the association between trust and the frequency of discussing expectations regarding secrecy was explored. The literature suggests two possibilities for the association between trust and the frequency of discussing expectations regarding secrecy. The first is that individuals who trust their partner enough may decide to discuss how secrets should be managed, because dyadic trust is associated with increased intimacy of disclosure (Larzelere & Huston, 1980). The second possibility is that people may choose to discuss their expectations of how they should manage secrets, not because of trust, but because a lack of trustworthiness. Research questions explored the associations between the frequency of discussing expectations regarding secrecy and partners’ willingness to keep secrets, the number of secrets they keep, and their trust. Finally, the reasons why individuals might or might not discuss their expectations regarding secrets with their partner, and what these discussions might consist of were explored.