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The Pros & Cons Of Keeping Your Relationship Private

In a generation of over-sharing, will your relationship be healthier on the low?

Love & Relationships

Oprah and Stedman. Beyonce' and Jay Z. Taraji P. Henson and Kelvin Hayden. Kerry Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha. Rihanna and Hassan Jameel. The late Nipsey Hussle and Lauren London. Off top, they are some of the celebrity couples who choose to keep their relationship intensely private.

I don't blame 'em either because in the day and age of social media, smartphones with cameras and folks who seem to feel entitled to everyone's business, if you truly want your relationship to go the distance—and to remain healthy and strong while doing so—keeping certain things quiet, under the radar or even confidential, can be one of the smartest things that you could ever do.

Still, there is a bit of a fine line between being private about your love life and keeping it a secret.

A secret typically implies sneaking around, being cryptic and/or taking a bit of the cloak-and-dagger approach to what the two of you have going on. If your relationship falls more into the Column B category, there are some pros and cons that come with taking that sort of approach. If you've never considered that secret relationships can be both good as well as bad, take a moment to check out why it's always a good idea to consider both sides of the coin.

PRO: It Gives You the Chance to Solidify Your Relationship

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We all know what they say about opinions (everyone has one and they are just like a—holes; sometimes literally). Well, if there's ever a time when there seems to be absolutely no shortage of them, it's when folks catch on to a new relationship that exists. If you put it on social media, that gives the opportunity for exes, trolls and pure haters to put their two cents in. Even if it's not online, you've got friends and family members, on both sides, who typically choose to weigh in with their thoughts and perspectives (whether you like it or not).

That's why I definitely think that a benefit that comes with keeping your relationship on the low is you don't have to listen to incessant chatter from other individuals. You can take the time that you need to pay attention to what the two of you think, want and feel—and build from there.

Not to say that outside influences shouldn't be factored in to a certain degree (sometimes others can see what you can't or refuse to look at). But since your relationship is a secret, you can control who, how and when you let others in. That is a good thing.

CON: It Can Put Unforeseen Pressure on It as Well

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Stephanie Mills once sang about not being able to go on being someone's secret lady. In another tune, Luther Vandross once asked why he couldn't tell anyone about his relationship. Xscape ("My Little Secret") and TLC ("Creep") also sang about messing around on the low. Something that all of these jams have in common is the importance of assessing motive. If you're in a secret relationship, is it really as innocent as wanting to give your situation time to grow and develop? Or is it something a bit shadier like one or both of you are married or in a long-term relationship?

Or, could it be that you are actually fine with things being out in the open, but he isn't? If this is the case, even if he isn't seeing anyone else—hiding around, not going out much or never meeting his world can start to take a toll on your self-esteem. It can have you feeling like, if he is as into you as he claims, why doesn't he want to show you off? Why isn't he forthcoming about what he has with you?

Yep. That is one of the challenges that comes with agreeing to not telling anyone about your relationship. It can start to eat away at you and put tension and strain on what y'all have going on. Sooner or later, something will have to give.

PRO: No One Will Know About Your “Downs”

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Despite what Instagram and the hashtag #relationshipgoals may show you, every relationship has its fair share of trials and tribulations. The thing about social media is you are able to control who knows and sees what—and how much.

Over here, nothing irks me more than passive aggressive shots that some couples take on their social media accounts, whenever they are going through it (because they do have each other's phone numbers, right?). And so, if there is a real plus that comes with no one knowing about your relationship, it's that they will not be aware of your problems or issues. The two of you can quietly and privately resolve them together without anyone criticizing or butting in.

Although it is critical that I say this is only a perk if, what you are going through is normal day-to-day stuff, and not abuse. If you are being mistreated, in any way, your relationship is not a secret. Sistah-friend, you are being isolated. It's time to let someone know exactly what is going on. Soon, please.

CON: On the Other Hand, They Won’t Know About Your “Ups” Either

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How do you feel when a friend of yours announces her engagement on Facebook? What about when you're invited to a surprise birthday party that another friend's man is throwing for her? How about when a couple that you know posts an anniversary pic on their IG? Whenever I experience these types of things, it's a reminder that good times are meant to be acknowledged and celebrated. Yet, you rob those who care about you of the opportunity to share in your joy if no one knows that your relationship even exists.

If you are naturally private or introverted, this point might not matter to you—at least, not immediately. But there will come a time when, as your girls are braggin' about how good the love they have is, because all you can do is nod and grin, you'll start to feel a little resentful that you can't say the same.

PRO: Secrets Can Be Seductive

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Meeting up in undisclosed locations, being intimate with someone no one else knows about, sharing something with another person that is only between the two of you—there's something very seductive about all of that.

It's attractive. It's enticing. It's erotic. I get it. More than I get it, I've been there.

On this side of seductive, there is also something that's very "grown woman" about knowing that you don't need others to be aware of your relationship in order to enjoy it; that it's not about wanting to go public, just so you can feel some sort of validation of your worth (due to being with someone). And, there is also something sexy about not feeling like you have to share every detail of what is happening, whether it's inside or outside of the bedroom; that so long as you and "yours" are pleased, that's all the affirming or approval that you truly need.

CON: Again, Secrets Can Be Seductive

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As a marriage life coach, I've certainly seen my fair share of affairs. Three common reasons that come up is a lack of consistent sex in their relationship with their spouse, someone feeling as if their partner takes them for granted and/or sheer boredom. If you've never cheated, all of these reasons might lean on the side of semi-ridiculous to you, but let me put it to you this way—the Lifetime channel would probably not exist if people weren't pulled into the lust, intensity and even drama of a lot of their movies. Same thing goes for illicit relationships; they tap into all of these feelings as well.

But if there's one more "con" to consider if you are currently keeping your relationship a secret, it's the fact that it can make it that much easier for him or you to keep another relationship a secret as well. Just think about it—you've already mastered how to limit information, sneak around and put on a poker face. Sometimes the seductiveness of secrets can make it tempting to start something up with someone else. And hey, who would know since you already know how to keep things on the low?

This point right here takes us all the way back to motive. If your relationship is a secret because you are protecting its value, that's one thing. But if it's a secret because you're doing some stuff that you know you ain't got no business doing, well, all I can say is if you sow a secret relationship, you'll probably eventually reap one. Only this time, it'll be the kind you didn't want—your man being in a secret relationship with somebody else.

Secrets aren't bad if your reasons are good. And by "good", I mean right and healthy. Choose wisely, y'all.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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