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A silhouetted person holding a finger to their lips and a speech bubble containing an unlocked padlockBBC Three

The (surprisingly sweet) secrets people keep from their partners

Do you tell little white lies to your loved ones?

Harvey Day

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that small lies can sometimes be an important way of smoothing over differences and making life just that little bit easier.

Maybe you’ll hide your true feelings about that pretty horrendous, asymmetrical haircut they’re trying out, keep your thoughts about their pushy ‘helicopter parents’ to yourself, or just grin your way through an extra special anniversary dinner they spent hours preparing - even though it’s totally burnt and outrageously under-seasoned.

In fact, research by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, suggests that harmless little untruths could actually help to keep relationships strong. 'Loving lies' that are told to protect someone’s feelings - paying a parking ticket on their behalf without them knowing that they got it, not revealing exactly how the cat died and telling them you like their outfit - so the theory goes, can help to strengthen bonds in a relationship.

And in a viral Reddit thread that’s received more than 10,000 comments since it was posted last week, people have been sharing the small secrets they keep from their significant others to prevent upsetting them - and no, we’re not talking about horrible, hurtful lies such as cheating or stealing.

The responses range from the strangely funny to the actually very sweet, including a husband replacing his wife’s beloved necklace so she won’t have the heartbreak of knowing she has lost it, or a woman who feigns ignorance about the latest memes so her partner can proudly ‘show’ her his new favourites and feel like he’s on trend, to one undercover fitness buff who secretly sneaks out of the house at night to go to the gym when his wife is fast asleep.

And other folks have been sharing some of the lighthearted things they keep from their partners:

If the biggest secret you’re keeping from your partner is that you’ve got a covert biscuit stash, then you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Lucky you!

But what if you’ve got some deeper, darker secrets that you’re hiding from your partner?

Research shows that holding onto confidential information like how much you earn or ‘extra-relational thoughts’ can have a negative effect on your mental health and wellbeing.

Anita Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, found in her research that people who hold onto personal secrets for a long period of time are more likely to suffer negative side effects, such as shame, guilt and anxiety, according to The Telegraph.

Don’t lose all hope, though, because another study from the University of California Santa Barbara found that offloading your deepest, darkest secrets to someone - as long as they don’t blow up in a fit of rage - can ultimately boost your state of mind and self-esteem.

“The revelation of secrets seems to decrease rumination and increase self-esteem,” the studies co-authors wrote. This basically means that confessing to whatever lie you’ve told stops you turning that secret over and over in your mind - a habit that can lead to depression.

So to all you loved-up lads and lasses out there, it’s probably best to be straight up with your significant other (except when your other half gets a bad haircut - in that case, just nod and smile, folks… always just nod and smile).