If you ask me that question, the answer is usually no. I’m terrible at keeping secrets. Frankly, I hate it when people begin a conversation like that. It usually means that you’re going to be told some bad information, likely gossip, about someone you both know. It’s going to change the way you see them, and not in a good way. You’ll have to pretend that you don’t know that information, and be fake around that person because you probably want to continue being friends with them. It never ends well.

Secret keeping was used as a passive-aggressive means of communication in my family growing up. One parent would tell you a secret about someone else, which wasn’t a secret at all. It was usually their opinion of that person, either a disapproval of something they were doing or a decision they were unhappy with. Once you were told the “secret,” you were expected to act on it.

For me, I was expected to convince my brother not to drop out of high school, or my mother to change her mind and let my father move back into the house. No one ever thought of going to the person in question and having a discussion with them about their actions. Nope, never occurred to them. I was the fixer and had to make it happen. Often, I succeeded, and the pattern of manipulation, secrecy and lies was validated and allowed to continue.

When I left for college, I had no understanding that secrets were actually supposed to be kept. I fell into some really horrible traps with supposed friends who took advantage of this pattern of behavior in my family to extricate me from a circle of friends that they deemed me to be unworthy of. It was pretty awful, and I ended up very confused at the end of these situations because I simply did not know any better.

Eventually, through many years of therapy and trying to figure out what a normal, functioning life should feel like, I’ve seen the error of my ways and those who manipulated me for their own ends. I’m a bit wiser, but still very naive about social situations. I avoid people who divulge other people’s secrets, because I know nothing I say to them is sacred. And, if someone asks me to keep a secret for them, I usually tell them, I can’t.