Confidentiality in Relationships: Some Questions Worth Talking About

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By Linlea Schwarz, MA

There are many benefits to being one-half of a couple. Sharing the ups and downs of life with a trusted partner is special and precious.

As couples combine and intertwine their lives, many face the challenge of blurred lines regarding individual privacy.

This sometimes makes it difficult to have big, important conversations with our partners.

Couples and Confidentiality

Every person brings their own set of baggage, problems, concerns, potential secrets, and shame into a relationship. When they become part of a couple, they are working to align their own interests and ideals with those of their partner.

Because communication is an essential foundation for any successful relationship, it is difficult for total individual privacy and personal confidentiality to exist side-by-side. A healthier approach is to have conversations about all aspects of your life with your partner, no matter how challenging. 

Behind each thriving couple are two individual people working together to communicate and openly discuss their lives. Discussing their pasts, fears, dreams, concerns, joys, hopes, ideals, and frustrations leaves little room for secrecy or withholding trust in thriving relationships.  

Asking Hard Questions

If you and your partner are struggling to communicate openly and share all aspects of your lives (past, present, and future), consider the following introductory list of helpful questions. Every one of these topics is important to a healthy relationship, and each one is worthy of discussion:

“Where are we going?” 

Before you can discuss nearly anything else about your future as a couple, it is important to know you are both on the same page about there being a future. You must establish that the two of you are working toward the same goal for your relationship, whether you are dating, engaged, or even married.

“What are your feelings toward finances?”

One of the most dreaded topics of conversation among many couples is finances. Money is often cited as a top reason couples have conflict and even divorce. While it may not be fun and exciting to discuss, it is crucial for you to understand how your partner feels about earning and spending money, carrying debt, sharing expenses, combining finances or keeping them separate or a combination of both, paying bills, large purchases, and saving for the future.

“What makes you feel loved and appreciated?”

One of the best ways you can care for your partner is to learn early in the relationship what makes them feel loved and understood. People give and receive love differently—so you should know the things that validate and comfort your significant other, and communicate to your partner what makes you feel loved.

“What are your ambitions and hopes for your life?”

Although life rarely goes according to our plans, it is still important to have plans. We are often attracted to people who share our dreams and ideals. Therefore, you should know what your partner hopes to get out of life, how to support them in the journey, and be able to express your ambitions and dreams to your partner and receive reciprocal support. 

“How do your values shape the kind of life you want to live?”

A person’s values and moral compass tend to largely define their identity. Your partner’s values will undoubtedly impact your life as well. It is crucial that you discuss topics such as your families of origin, children, faith and spirituality, political views, and what a committed partnership or marriage means to each of you. We often carry our backgrounds and upbringings into our adult relationships, so we must understand our partner’s history and identity.

Opening up to someone else completely and letting go of our own privacy and confidentiality is difficult for many people. Often, the transformation is successful only through years of practice. The important part is to keep trying and to keep speaking honestly with your partner.

If you are struggling with communication, simply try to discuss one question each day until the process becomes easier. If you need help, seek support and guidance in couples counseling. With time, you will develop greater trust in your partner and learn to value the sometimes difficult conversations that bring you closer together in an emotionally intimate bond.


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Linlea Schwarz, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who may be struggling to have these big conversations with one another. In couples counseling, Linlea helps her clients learn how to communicate effectively, establish trust, and express desires/needs in the relationship. For more help in “asking the hard questions,” schedule an appointment with Linlea by calling her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 118, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.