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How much do you value honesty in your relationship?

A fifth of married people have a secret that could destroy their relationship, new research claims. Kerry McKittrick asks couples how highly they value the truth

White lies, fibs, half-truths, tall tales – it's fair to say that just about everyone has fudged the truth with their significant other at some point in their lives.

Whether it's "Of course I didn't smoke!", "It was only £30 in the sale", or even "I only had a couple of beers last night", many would argue that a little mild dishonesty within a relationship is acceptable, even expected.

While it's one thing to lie about money or social engagements, though, the line can become blurred when it comes to more serious issues such as infidelity or financial problems. Indeed, a recent survey from law firm Slater & Gordon has revealed that in 20% of marriages one partner is keeping a secret that could destroy a relationship.

We ask four couples why honesty is such a crucial part of being together.

'Honesty is vital in a marriage... we don't even tell white lies'

Oonagh Boman (47) lives in Dromore and is owner of the Oonagh Boman School of Make-up. She is married to Leslie Graham and she has two children, Skye (16) and Brad (12), from a previous relationship. She says:

Leslie and I have been married now for three and a half years and honesty is absolutely vital in a marriage as far as I'm concerned.

I think that honesty is the best policy and I believe that nothing is that bad that it can't be talked about. I also think that you should be truthful from in the beginning – the longer you keep something a secret, the longer you have to lie to conceal it.

We don't even tell white lies. I work and Leslie works, so if I want to spend money on shoes then it's my money to spend and I don't need to hide it from him.

Likewise, he is a car enthusiast and he can spend money on his car and he doesn't have to justify it to me. I don't care if it costs £50 or £500, as long as he tells me.

If I see one little lie then I'll start getting worried about what other lies there might be.

I keep my friend's secrets – I'll tell Leslie that so-and-so has told me something and asked me not to mention it, but I won't tell him what the thing is.

I would never pretend there wasn't anything for him to know, as that would be a lie.

We are very honest with each other and I think it's easier that way.

Children learn from the people around them and how those relationships work.

My kids have often heard me say that honesty is the best policy and that things could never be so bad that they can't come to me about it.

I always make them look me straight in the face when they tell me something so I know they're telling the truth.

They say that a good liar needs a good memory and that's true because people who lie will always get caught out.

Everyone exaggerates the truth, but out and out lies just make my blood boil."

'Stefan is really terrible at lying ... I can always tell by the tone of his voice'

Tracey Rodgers (47), from Belfast, is director of model agency Style Academy and is married to Stefan Rodgers, a personal trainer. She says:

I think that one in five people having an important secret is quite a high number, actually. I got married when I was older and, I think, being a bit older and wiser you wouldn't want to enter into marriage with a big secret because you would have learned that you'll always get caught out eventually.

Stef and I don't have a specific policy about being honest. He actually started out as my personal trainer and people always say that you confide in your hairdressers and trainers. Mind you, we knew we had something very special quite quickly.

Neither of us had been married before so we did talk about all of our past relationships to figure out why we were both still single. It all came out as a matter of course. He did say to one of his friends about me 'She knows everything now, there are no secrets'. So it has come naturally to us.

We're both honest about how much we spend on clothes, for example. In fact, Stefan takes great pride in telling me how much things cost because he never used to care what he wore and everything was mismatched. Now my influence has rubbed off on him and he's obsessed with clothes.

Stefan is really terrible at lying anyway, so if he tries to get one past me I can tell by the tone of his voice. He works 12-hour days with gaps in the middle and I'll ask him if he went home in the middle of the day. He'll say no because he should have emptied the dishwasher when he went home, but didn't. I can always tell because there will be an apple core in one place in the house or a plate in another – he always leaves clues that he's been home!

At the same time he'll ask me if I've worked out because it's something that comes naturally to him and not me – sometimes I'll say I did a bit, when I haven't at all."

'There are secrets you don't mind your partner keeping, like a surprise party'

Kirstie McMurray (41) is the co-host of the Downtown Radio Breakfast show. She lives in Bangor with her fiance, Andy Brisbane, and her children Katie (14) and Connor (16). She says:

Andy and I are very honest with each other, although we've never actually sat down and said that we would tell each other everything.

There are some secrets that you don't mind your other half keeping. For example, Andy planned a surprise 40th birthday party for me and I knew he was up to something as he had been acting completely differently. I actually started getting paranoid!

Andy and I talk a lot so keeping secrets isn't natural for us. We come home and tell each other all about our days. As far as I know there's no secrets – not on my side anyway.

When we were both giving up smoking, though, he was sneaking cigarettes behind my back and I was none the wiser.

The excuse was that he couldn't cope without them and that he was keeping it a secret from me for my own good so that I wouldn't slip back into the habit. In the end we both went back to smoking anyway so it didn't do any good!

Secrecy isn't necessarily lying about things but it is concealing the truth and I was always taught as I was growing up that I should be honest.

Marriage isn't easy and so many of them fail these days anyway. If you're the type of person to keep a big, important secret from your other half then it probably won't work out anyway. If you hide one thing like that then you'll almost certainly hide others."

'We don't feel that we have to tell each other absolutely everything'

TV presenter and journalist Emma- Louise Johnston (36) lives in Dromore and is married to Jonathan Crawford. They have two children, Emily (3) and JJ (10 months). She says:

I don't always tell Jonathan everything just because there's plenty of stuff that he doesn't need to know – he's at work all day and I'm home with the kids so he doesn't need to be told every detail of the playground and the dirty nappies.

However, honesty certainly is an important part of our relationship. Even though I might not tell Jonathan every tiny thing that happens every day, I know that I could if I wanted to.

If a friend tells me something in confidence and asks me not to tell Jonathan then I wouldn't. We're not the kind of couple who feels that they absolutely have to tell each other everything. Jonathan is very laid back and not the kind to be suspicious or jealous anyway.

I do have a friend who would have the occasional sneaky cigarette on a night out and doesn't tell her other half. It's not a big thing and she just keeps that secret to keep the peace more than anything else. I understand why she does it, but I personally have never felt the need to keep secrets like that.

I think if you kept secrets then they would always be hanging over your head and the longer you kept them the worse you would be. I don't handle guilt at all well anyway – even if I have an argument with someone then it would eat away at me until I made it right."

The pressures that come with not telling all ...

  • According to the recent survey commissioned by law firm Slater & Gordon, in 20% of marriages one partner is keeping a secret that could destroy their relationship and nearly all couples claim to keep at least one secret
  • Of those keeping secrets, 42% are confident that their secret is safe while the rest suffer guilty, sleepless nights while keeping quiet. Unfortunately, around a quarter of the secret-keepers questioned were convinced that their secrets would end their relationship if they were to be discovered
  • Most people interviewed said they had been concealing something for the last 10 years, while for some the time was around 25 years
  • Slater & Gordon also revealed that the cause for divorce in more than half of cases filed was because of some issue that had been kept secret

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