A stolen kiss behind the library shelves, coded text messages and hidden hand holding are well-known moments to the 50 per cent of KU students surveyed, who have admitted to keeping a secret relationship.
One third-year KU student, Sarah*, kept her white boyfriend a secret from her Indian parents for 18 months, knowing her father would not approve of her choice. She said: “I have had to lie my way through a lot of things.
“I have been on holiday with my boyfriend, been away for weekends and I even spent Christmas with my him and his family last year.
“I think my dad is worried that by dating out of my culture, I will be diluting it and westernising it.”
Secrecy intensifies the relationship
Psychology studies have shown that secrecy intensifies the emotions people feel towards their partner and the relationship.For this reason, when asked about previous relationships, secret ones are recalled much more frequently.
People are more likely to have a prolonged obsession with a secret relationship, even after it has ended, than one that was public.
Television programmes, films and novels portray secret relationships as steamy and exciting. These couples are taken on a rollercoaster of extreme emotions.
They experience despair because of prolonged separation, ecstasy when they finally lay their hands on each other and anxiety over being discovered.
Why do people keep the relationship secret
However, ‘excitement’ was not listed as a reason for keeping a relationship secret by the 100 students who participated in the survey.
The reasons varied, but overall students were hiding a relationship that parents, friends or society deemed inappropriate.
Married partners, issues of race, the opinion of parents and disapproving friends were all among the reasons given.Sarah explains that her father was one of the first generations of Indians who migrated to Britain.
She believes that his opinion might have been affected by stories of friends and family who experienced racism when they first arrived.
Keeping secrets from friends and family
Sarah explains how her lies required painstaking detail and evidence: “Once when I went to Brighton for a weekend with my boyfriend, my parents weren’t buying my lie that I was actually being sent off for training from work, so I had to fabricate a letter at work.
“I used the company’s letterhead paper, just to show them.”
A holiday in Egypt with her boyfriend required a similar task to maintain their secret relationship.
She says: “When I went to Egypt last year, I had to make sure we took lots of pictures of me by myself. So we would take two sets of everything, one set of us together, and another set of just me.
When lying becomes second nature
“Then I had to sort them into two albums just in case my parents wanted to see holiday snaps. It took some effort, but to me, these precautions were automatic.”
The detailed lies and convincing evidence seem to be second nature to Sarah, yet she still chose to come clean.
“I decided to tell my parents about my current boyfriend because I hated lying to them about who I was with and where I was all the time.
“I felt guilty about lying, but I was also aware I hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Telling the truth
Unfortunately her dad has still not accepted her relationship.“When I told my dad he didn’t speak to me for two weeks. I think he’s thinking I am somehow betraying my culture and my family.”It is possible that these secret relationships are doomed to fail from the start.
Do long distance relationships last?
Psychological studies have shown that secret relationships are less likely to last as the partners hiding their relationships from others are less likely to think of themselves as a pair and, therefore, are less likely to be committed to each other.
Sarah disagrees and says: “I don’t think that we are any less likely to be committed to each other because he was a secret.
“If anything, it makes me feel that we are more committed to each other because we have had to work that little bit harder.”
*Name has been changed because the student wished to remain anonymous.