Relationship Fitness

S8: Integrity E2: Secrets and Strategies

In “Relationship Workout for Men” Season 8 Episode 2, titled “Secrets and Strategies,” Vince continues the exploration of integrity in relationships by delving into the complex world of secrets. He distinguishes between different types of secrets, emphasizing their potential to either maintain privacy or uphold group harmony, and addresses the fine line between preserving personal boundaries and engaging in deceitful withholding. Vince articulates how secrets, much like lies, can erode trust if not handled with care and transparency, urging listeners to foster an environment where honesty prevails. Through personal anecdotes and a nuanced understanding of human psychology, Vince sets the stage for a deeper discussion on the strategies for maintaining strong integrity within the dynamics of a romantic relationship.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 8, Episode 2: Secrets and Strategies

In the previous episode we introduced the topic of integrity and discussed six types of lies, from white and altruistic lies to darker pathological and Pseudologia Fantastica lies.

That said, keeping secrets can also be a form of dishonesty, but not always. Let’s dive into secrets a bit more.

A Secret “is something known by one or more persons but deliberately hidden from one or more other persons […]. Secrets are often closely related to lies. By withholding information, the secret holder may knowingly create false beliefs in others.”

Secrets serve one of two purposes: One: “to maintain privacy […]”  and Two “to support the functions of a group.”

Let’s take a closer look at this definition:

First, maintain privacy: The question of what information is appropriate to be shared in an intimate relationship depends partially on what stage in the dating process you’re both in. Therefore, the more your relationship develops, the more information will seem appropriate to share. 

For example, on the first date, you’re probably not sharing the number of zeros in your bank accounts. However, by the time you’re married she may very well have her name on your bank account. As another example, keeping it secret that you’re dating other people while still in the Open Dating stage can be quite appropriate. However, keeping it secret that you’re dating someone else when you’ve now agreed to be exclusive partners is something entirely different.

Second, Support the functions of a group: What this means is sometimes secrets are felt to be appropriate to maintain harmony within the group. 

For example, let’s say your mother is struggling with alcoholism. You may keep this little fact a secret from your new squeeze in an attempt not to detract from her developing a close relationship with your mother. 

So, Why Keep Secrets

After all, if your partner finds out your little secret, then the result might just be a lot worse. Not only do you have whatever you were keeping secret to contend with, but now you also have to deal with the fact that you kept it a secret.

Put another way, if you’re doing something that you’re afraid to share with your partner, you’re at risk of eventually having an issue and drama on your hands. 

Is something compelling you to want to keep a secret? If so, is it a Demon of yours having its way with you, creating the fear in you? Is your partner not creating a safe environment for you to be honest? Whatever is going on, best to figure this out, versus keeping a string of secrets that eventually can bite you in the ass and spawn all sorts of drama.

Instead of slipping down the slippery slope of keeping secrets, why not just make sure you’re always behaving with strong integrity. In addition, commit yourselves to creating a safe environment to encourage 100% honesty between the two of you.

So, what are a few more reasons why someone might be dishonest? Can you say self-deception and bending the truth?

Let’s start with Self-deception.

There’s a natural tendency for one’s ego to take credit for the good that happens, while distancing oneself from the bad. In what’s called Cognitive Dissonance, one can have an “uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously.”10 

In other words, it’s hard to see oneself as both a good and a bad person at the same time. How can I see myself as a nice person on one hand, but allow myself the space to be imperfect and within this imperfection to do some not so nice things (such as tell a lie)? It’s easier for me to simply deceive myself and turn a blind eye to my contributions to life situations that have been caused by my imperfections.

Then we have Bending the Truth

We can bend the truth by exaggerating or minimizing our story. Yes, she may have acted like a bitch, but she may not always act this way. Likewise, you can minimize your involvement in something as a way to distract your contribution. Neither is being totally honest with the facts surrounding the present situation’s real deal.

Combining this episode with episode 1, which explored different types of lies, there are a lot of ways someone can be dishonest. 

That said, clearly, to be strong partners, it helps if you and your partner trust each other. 

Without trust, self-created issues can spawn from the most mundane of situations. Where were you last night? Why didn’t you call? What are you doing spending so much time online? Ambiguity turned into accused, malicious intentions. Without trust, self-created issues can go on and on and on in a never-ending fountain of cesspool spew.

Basically, there are two ways to play it when it comes to integrity: You can play it weak — all-about-ME, or you can make a Strong Integrity Play — all-about-WE. Your choice.

If you choose to play it weak, then beware. You’re choosing behavior that may ultimately sabotage and destroy trust in your relationship. Once trust is lost, it can be extremely difficult to impossible to recover. We’re talking painful broken hearts territory here — a one-way roller-coaster ride right into that cesspool of stinking muck.

On the other hand, if you choose to play it Integrity strong, then you’re choosing behavior that will ultimately build and sustain trust. Unless the person you’re with is not emotionally available and wouldn’t trust you even if you were Mother Teresa, consistent, trustworthy behavior on your part should give trust as its reward.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell when you first meet someone whether she has strong or weak integrity. For instance, you can probably tell in a racing heartbeat if you want to sleep with a new dating prospect; however, how can you tell if she adheres to the same moral and ethical principles when it comes to integrity as you do? For example, she may think a little white lie is always fine, while you may think any lie is a lie and warrants a one-way ticket south to Hell’s barbecue. 

That said, a key to playing the integrity game is to understand the three available strategies for playing it Integrity strong, and those are reliability, faithfulness and sharing honestly. As well, we need to understand the bridge between strong and weak Integrity behavior; and that’s called temptation.

So, let’s get started by summarizing the Strong Integrity Plays and Strategies.

With a Strong Integrity Play it’s all about WE. This person truly cares about the relationship and strives to be the best partner possible. Therefore, before making an integrity choice, this person thinks about what’s best for the relationship, and does not make a choice that could damage trust, no matter how tempting it might seem.

With a Weak Integrity Play, it’s quite the opposite. For this person, it’s all about ME. This person makes choices caring more about himself or herself than the health of the relationship. As such, if a temptation presents itself and seems inviting enough, this person surrenders to the temptation. This person cares more about satisfying his or her own desires than doing what’s best for the relationship.

Matching the Weak and Strong Integrity Plays, there are three potential strategies: Reliability, faithfulness, and sharing honestly, which we’ll discuss in upcoming episodes in this season.

But before we discuss each of these integrity plays, I’d like to share a personal story when a lady I was dating kept quite the secret from me in episode 3: What’s Your Pleasure Tonight, Sir?

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