Understanding the difference between secrecy and privacy is key in preserving relationships and ultimately achieving peace of mind. Whether your current boyfriend is attempting to pry the number of men you’ve slept with out of you or your girlfriend will not cease her incessant interrogation about your ex-lovers, there’s a few key things to be mindful of when approaching preferences to significant and not-so-significant about what you choose to disclose. The purpose is to clarify the facts that you CAN refuse without guilt, not facts that you SHOULD retain. The power lies in understanding your right.
- LYING vs. SECRETSThe primary difference between secrecy and privacy is that if information withheld can be considered lying or omission of truth, it is a secret. Any information that could alter or jeopardize the relationship negatively is considered a secret. For instance, cheating on your significant other and hiding this information is considered lying, hence it is their right you’re violating not yours. Private information on the other hand does not directly affect the individuals in question.
- PRIVILEDGE vs. RIGHT A person taking offense in you resisting information does not grant automatic rights to your internal data. Most people are curious by nature and will always have a preference to know more. Pandora had a box for a reason. That is the key: Preference. Sharing private information is a preference. Receiving private information is a privilege. Secret information is their right to know. For instance, in our society it is commonly expected to share your physical whereabouts with your spouse. Withholding this information can be considered secretive, especially if you’re in a location your spouse considers offensive to the relationship such as an Adult Entertainment facility.
- PRIVATE INFORMATION vs. PUBLIC INFORMTION When thinking of private information, consider the analogy between sensitive documents and public documents. Culturally, we have an understanding that personal identification information such as your social security number, or financial forms such as your tax returns aren’t documents you would post on social media platforms. It is understood that these documents are provided when necessary, such as when applying for a mortgage loan but not obligated to any party through for the sole purpose of satisfying their curiosity or reassuring your “trust” with them. Which leads us to the next example.
- TRUST vs. COMFORT Sharing information is not a matter of trust. Just as withholding information is not an indicator of mistrust. You can wholeheartedly trust an individual without a trace of doubt that the information relayed will be shared and STILL have the right to feel uncomfortable of them simply knowing. An example would be sharing your sexual experiences or preferences with close peers. Do friends commonly share their romantic rendezvous with one another? Absolutely. Should friends demand or inspire guilt should you choose to remain private? Absolutely not.
- CHOICE vs. OBLIGATION Waiving rights is a choice. You do not owe what information is bestowed upon you. If an individual chooses to disclose private information, that does not automatically mean you owe them the same. Commonly, we feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information when someone has expressed vulnerability but it is vital to always remember that they had a right to choose, as do we. Their private information is not the key to unlock yours.
Each person has their own set of beliefs, standard and reasons that motivate their actions. You’re your own individual with your own passcodes to your hard-drive. Take ownership of the data you own and respect the data owed to others. Remember, the goal is to preserve a healthy internal world while forming healthy and lasting relationships.