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David Baxter PhD

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Secret Relationships Falter Fast

They're Not Hot for Long, Study Shows

By Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News

Feb. 11, 2005 -- Don't believe the hype about secret relationships. They're better suited to soap operas, not real life.

"While romantic secrecy may appear to be mysterious and exciting, it may also interfere with the quality and closeness of an ongoing romance," write Craig Foster, PhD, and W. Keith Campbell, PhD, in the March issue of the journal Personal Relationships.

Foster is on staff at the U. S. Air Force Academy's behavioral sciences and leadership department. Campbell is an assistant professor at the University of Georgia's psychology department. They led three studies on secret romantic relationships; participants were undergraduates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The students were quizzed about their relationships. Secrecy was the main topic.

Secrecy Is Overrated
Hush-hush romances were more of a pain than a pleasure. Secret lovers had the hassle of finding places to rendezvous discreetly. At first blush, that might seem exciting, but the thrill wore off quickly. The logistics of secrecy were ultimately a turnoff.

The mum's-the-word mentality was also a drag. Secret lovers couldn't tell others about their relationships, and some envied couples who could be together in public freely.

Secret relationships weren't all that hot, even at first, and they often fizzled fast.

For instance, 46 out of 139 students on one of the study's surveys said they had a secret relationship. Compared with those with out-in-the-open relationships, the secret lovers thought about their partner less often. They also reported more burdens and less satisfaction in their romantic relationships.

Forbidden Love?
Even in today's society, many people try to keep relationships quiet. For instance, homosexual, interracial, and perhaps interfaith couples may fear social stigma, say the researchers. And cheaters aren't about to make their actions known.

The bottom line: "Secrecy is associated with decreased relationship quality," write the researchers.

What if this Valentine's Day finds you in a secret relationship? Reconsider, suggest the researchers. "Ongoing romantic relationships may benefit from encouragement to reduce, or end, relationship secrecy," they write.

SOURCES: Foster, C. Personal Relationships, March 2005; vol 12: pp 125-143. News release, University of Georgia.
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