When my boyfriend first told me that it was important to have secrets I was sceptical. Surely the whole point of a relationship is to be transparent with one another, to tell each other everything and be, what they call ‘open’ with your significant other.
Well, when I sat down to think about it I wondered where this vision of a relationship had come from. Where had I gotten the idea that once you decide to share your time with someone, share your life with someone, that automatically meant that you had to share every little detail too.
It comes from the fact that we tend to see keeping secrets as adults as a negative thing. A secret in a relationship is something that threatens to destroy it – an affair, an addiction, a unhealthy habit – rarely something positive. In fact, I can’t think of any references to positive secrets in adult life.
And that’s exactly where my mind went when he first brought it up: he wants to hide something from me and this ‘something’ is something I should fear. But that wasn’t the case.
He explained the idea of a secret garden. It’s someplace fictional of course and it is a place that you keep for yourself. It is especially important when you move in together. Everything gets jumbled up and shared. Headspace is hard to come across. When there is someone around you are more likely to sound off to them about whatever it is that is troubling or exciting you.
In this situation, having a mental garden in which to examine various weeds of negative thought or to begin to grow seeds into ideas, privately, without the involvement of the other person, is freeing. You don’t have to have your thoughts analysed, you keep them to yourself until you’re ready to share, if you wish to share at all.
Our first year of living together wasn’t always easy but the secret garden helped enormously. It taught me to live with my ideas, to find satisfaction or helpful criticism in my own world without needing anyone else. It gave me a kind of control too: I could work on an idea and present it as something whole, without needing to go through the whole process of sharing every detail with him only to after dismiss the idea myself anyway.
In our world oversharing is the done thing. There is little space left to create a private world, less so when we move in together.
If I see my partner writing in his journal I rarely question what it is. He has seen me take my computer and some tea into another room and close the door. We have both asked for time alone to be in our secret gardens, working away on the things that for that moment don’t belong in the shared world we have built together.
Being at home at the moment I realise that there are certain things that have remained unshared about my life. Very few people close to me know that I enjoy painting and besides my boyfriend, nobody has seen any of my work.
It is not hidden because I don’t think it worthwhile sharing, it is kept private because in doing so, it belongs completely to me. It allows an escapism in an otherwise crowded space that would become much more difficult to access if others knew where I was going.
I imagine it like being able to go into a house to escape the cold but having all your neighbours peer in through frosted windows!
On my boyfriend’s twelfth day in India I am thinking about how I haven’t yet shared some pursuits close to my heart, and how grateful I am that I have never felt pressured to do so.