Family secrets

Secrets, secrets are no fun unless you share with everyone - right? Not quite, oftentimes there are things we want to keep private, like an old family recipe or the password to a secret family vault. But there's a fine line between secrets being just fun and games versus when serious issues that need to be discussed. Let’s try and walk that line, shall we.

Two sisters are taking a selfie. They are discussing family secrets. This is a close up image.

Family secrets can be complicated. Some siblings keep secrets with such skill that an MI5 officer with advanced interrogation training would be impressed. Others can’t keep it buttoned for more than five minutes.

Family secrets: when it’s good 

Talk to your friends and think about your own family, and you’ll quickly find examples of people who are keeping all kinds of information hidden. All siblings, at one point or another, have enjoyed a good conspiratorial laugh about stuff that happened when they were younger, which they hid from their parents. These are usually pranks like cutting off the family cat’s whiskers, getting into minor scraps at school, or stealing sweets. Does everyone really have to know about everything? Probably not. No real harm done.

If they can keep something confidential, it’s a sign that your brother or sister is also a good friend, and cares about your feelings. Knowing that you can really trust someone often gives you a strong sense of security. Siblings may be much closer to one another than they are to their parents or carers, especially if they are of similar ages and have lots in common.

Family secrets: When it’s bad 

Sometimes it can be a bit one-sided, with one sibling offloading all their personal problems and gossip onto the other one, then swearing them to secrecy. Without the usual amount of give and take, the person who keeps all the secrets can end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

If there are problems with the parents, such as divorce proceedings or financial difficulties, their kids can sometimes end up worrying about upsetting their parents unnecessarily. So they might end up keeping information and problems amongst themselves.

There are times when confidence may need to be broken too: when someone is being abused or bullied, is in trouble with the law, or has mental health problems, for example. The person who lets the secret out may end up feeling guilty and ashamed, and the other one can feel hurt and betrayed, even if they secretly know that they need more help.

When it’s not a secret 

Some brothers and sisters are only too happy to blurt out whatever you’ve just confessed to them, especially at an awkward moment. You get the little tittle-tattle, often a younger sibling, who runs off to the parents with every tiny detail as soon as the coast is clear. They’re usually desperate to gain the attention and approval of your parents, so it’s nothing personal. In many ways, this demonstrates that they’re the one with the issues, and not you. Now that you know this, please refrain from any kind of retaliation (including holding your little sibling upside down by their ankles, even if they say they love it).

You may also have the attention-seeking sibling, who picks the most humiliating time to reveal your secret, and probably embellishes the story as well. The tiny spot on your bum, the one that you wanted to borrow the antiseptic cream for yesterday, becomes a gigantic abscess plus genital warts when they broadcast it. They’ll happily do it in front of elderly relatives, your mates, or some cute person you have your eye on. Again, your first instinct might be to punch them, but think twice about doing so. There’s no denying that they are a different kind of evil, someone who thinks that putting others down will make them look better by comparison. But you don’t have to stoop to their level. Laugh it off, or come up with an even more stupid story yourself. 

Good luck if you have both of these siblings. All we’re saying is that you might need to invest in a bit of family therapy, so click here to find out more about that. 

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Tags:

secrets| siblings

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 28-Sep-2021