Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Family Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


The studies included in this dissertation investigated the experiences of individual romantic partners as secret keepers and couples as collective secret keepers. Study 1 investigated the topics of secrets kept by individual romantic partners and public perception of secret keeping in the context of romantic relationships via qualitative content analysis. The analysis of secret topics resulted in the following themes: (1) secrets about the Redditors’ relationship, (2) secrets about the Redditor, and (3) a discussion of secrecy. The analysis of public perception resulted in the following themes: (1) normalization, (2) advice, (3) comfort, (4) personal reactions, and (5) a request for more information.

Study 2 investigated the experiences of collective secret keepers. Inductive analysis was used in the analysis of participants’ (n = 522) responses to questions investigating: (1) the topics of collective secrets, (2) the reasons for keeping or disclosing the secret, and (3) the reasons for disagreeing over the disclosure of the secret. Further analyses revealed a relationship between secret topic and the overall relational impact of collective secret keeping (F(27, 385) = 1.64, p < .05, 2 = .10); some topics were found to be more distancing than others. A relationship between relationship satisfaction and disagreement between spouses over the disclosure (F(1, 310) = 5.83, p < .05, η2 = .02) was also found; disagreement on the disclosure of a secret was found to result in lower relationship satisfaction.

Study 2 also investigated the relationship between collective secret functions and relational outcomes via multilevel modeling. A relationship between secret functions and the following relational outcomes were found when the collective secret was kept: relational impact (χ2= 14.18, df = 1, p < .001), relational closeness (χ2= 14.18, df = 1, p < .001), and relationship satisfaction (χ2= 17.60, df = 1, p < .001). A relationship between secret functions and the relational impact was also found when the collective secret was disclosed (χ2= 3.12, df = 1, p < .10).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)