Secret Relationships: The Back Alley to Love
Julie D. Lane Daniel M. Wegner University of Virginia
Vows are exchanged, parents blubber, rice is thrown . . . and the newly wedded couple lives happily ever after. Sigh, this must be love. If we are asked to draw a mental picture of a close relationship, many of us would visualize something along the lines of the traditional public ceremony of marriage. In our culture, this is the essence of togetherness, the front door to a lifelong loving relationship. As much as these images warm our hearts, however, face it -- this is an unabashedly idealistic view of how an intimate relationship begins.
In reality, couples may often follow a very different pathway to intimacy, one that is hidden from public view and discussed only in whispers. Romantic partners must sometimes find a back alley to love, one devoid of public commitment, a partnership forged instead through secret meetings and concealed communication. Instead of the solid foundation of a marriage known to all, partners in secret relationships establish their connections without the social support that comes with the consent of' their families or friends, without acknowledgment, and without ceremony or ritual. They are strikingly alone in their togetherness, isolated from all the usual accompaniments of conventional romance. However, although the clandestine route they travel is unorthodox, partners in a secret romantic relationship experience emotions and interdependencies that are no less real than those felt by members of a traditional public couple.
Ironically, keeping a close relationship under wraps can even increase the overall intensity of feelings and introduce aspects of obsession to the attraction. Secrecy's power to enhance a relationship derives from the fact that the maintenance of secrecy can become deeply absorbing for the relationship partners.