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The Secrets Couples Keep

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Shhh! Secrets That Won't Kill Him

Sure, as a rule, honesty is the best policy — we've been hearing it since grade school and it's still true. But anyone who's been in a long-term relationship knows that there is definitely some wiggle room when it comes to keeping a few personal tidbits to yourself, provided they are harmless and don't involve any outright lies. Maybe you earned a bonus or a little extra cash on eBay and spent it all on a new leather jacket without telling him; or he listens to Howard Stern on the radio on his way to work and doesn't tell you. "Even when we're married, we still have private selves," says Kirshenbaum. "It's healthy to have a sense that this is my personal business and no one else's." In fact, keeping an innocent little part of yourself off-limits can add some spark to your relationship — if he knew every last detail about your life, then what fun revelations could there possibly be in the future?

Some couples find that hanging a veil of secrecy over certain aspects of their lives helps make their marriages run much more smoothly. "For the first decade of our marriage, my husband and I fought over every purchase I made, from a bag of cleaning supplies to a new coat," says Laurel, 36. "Finally, I had this breakthrough — if he doesn't see a bill, he won't think about it! So now I use cash when I shop. If I want to buy a pair of shoes, and I can afford them, he doesn't have to know how much they cost. Believe me, everyone in the house is a lot happier now."

This kind of "don't ask, don't tell" domestic policy can help stabilize a relationship, says Hendrix, but consider this: "Some couples have these types of collusions, where they don't check with each other on their spending, and their marriage lasts 50 years," he observes. "But you're keeping that stability at the cost of a completely open relationship." So make sure you and your guy are on the same page — if you're both willing to trade complete candor for a bit of ignorance-is-bliss harmony, then there's no harm, and plenty of potential gain. But, Haltzman points out, this deal only works when it goes both ways — don't harass him about the cost of his new camera lens if you don't want him to ask you the price of that new handbag — and when it doesn't involve an area you are working on together, like a budget. "If your partner has expressed a desire to work cooperatively on something and you're still keeping information from him, then you've crossed that line," Haltzman says.

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