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I Didn't Tell You Because You'd Be Unhappy

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A character decides to not reveal important information to another character because they don't want to ruin whatever it is the second character is doing. The reasoning for this is that this information will cause the second character to do something they would not want to do, but would feel emotionally obligated to do if they had this information.

The character who the secret is being kept from will almost always be upset when they find out about it.

A common motive for My Secret Pregnancy. See also Awful Truth. Sometimes it's also a case of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, if revealing the secret would break up the Love Interest's current relationship. Often overlaps with Lying to Protect Your Feelings. If the secret is kept successfully, it becomes a case of Let Them Die Happy.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball, most of Goku's friends don't tell him about his were-monkey problem because they were afraid that he'd put two and two together and realize that he was probably the very monster that killed his (adoptive) grandfather. He eventually figures it out when he sees Vegeta transform, but he's too busy trying not to get killed to BSOD over it.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, nobody told Miyuki about her duty to kill Tatsuya because she was 13 at the time and might have rejected it outright. Also, because knowing about it gave her more political leverage than anyone in the family was comfortable with.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War does this with Yu Ishigami and an old acquaintance of his, Kyoko Ootomo. Kyoko was a friend to Ishigami and, unbeknownst to her, had a boyfriend who was cheating on her and planning to distribute naughty videos he candidly took of her. Ishigami throttles him for it, but Ootomo comes in at the wrong time and believed that Ishigami was just hurting her boyfriend for no reason. To makes matters worse, Ishigami makes no attempt to explain himself to her or to the rest of the school, justifying his reluctance by saying he doesn't want her to be sad that her boyfriend was such a scumbag. A year later, she's happy and ignorant like he wanted, but when she does learn why he did what he did she's rightfully pissed and skeptical.
  • Chrono deliberately hides the fact that Fate is a clone from Nanoha in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha so she could focus on her fight against Fate. This was purely for Nanoha's benefit as he had already told Amy that Nanoha's victory was inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
  • In Natsume's Book of Friends, this is the reason Natsume is reluctant to tell the Fujiwaras about his problems with youkai and ayakashi - They'd have to live with the fact that he is attacked by invisible monsters every day, and that there's very little they could do about it.
  • In One Piece, Gaimon has spent twenty years driving people away from a set of treasure chests he himself has been unable to reach and open. Luffy agrees to retrieve them for an ecstatic Gaimon only to suddenly declare he's not going to bring them down after all. Gaimon bursts into tears and thanks Luffy for his kindness, having instantly realized the truth: The chests were empty all along and Luffy was trying to spare Gaimon's feelings.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu has a problem with disclosing personal issues, even when they have major consequences for others, because he doesn't like worrying people and bothering them with his own problems. This ends up biting him in the ass on a grand scale in the second half of the series.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, this is Chase's justification for not telling Gert, his girlfriend, that Nico forced a kiss on him. Gert does not agree. (Though she forgives him later, while dying, conceding that he did it with the best of intentions.)

    Fan Works 
  • In Franklin Lost Episode: Otter's Sickness, Otter, who has a disease that will kill her in a few months, decides not to tell Franklin about the Awful Truth for fear that he will be devastated. Unfortunately, this decision comes back to haunt her when Franklin finds out about her disease after he overhears his and Otter's parents talking about her disease.
  • In chapter 43 of Paper Luigi X, Knuckles receives a vision from his Master Emerald that Team Mario would be splitting up after their current quest, which would mean that Team Luigi would be splitting up as well. Soon the rest of the team is aware of the fact—except for Malon, who only gets informed of such after the final battle. She doesn't take it well.
  • There's a Supernatural alternate-season-four-fanfic where Zachariah edited Dean's memory hard at some point in the process of bringing him back, so while he's still Dean in all kinds of ways he has no particular emotional attachment to, for example, Sam or the Impala, and isn't likely to die for Sam again. Then Zachariah turns up and explains to him that, actually, Dean Winchester broke so badly in Hell that they couldn't bring him back, and he's just someone who was tortured so badly his own identity vanished, and Zachariah just refitted his soul so Sam would have a big brother to keep him stable. Dean eventually buys it but doesn't tell Sam for exactly this reason.

    Film - Live-Action 

  • In Dragon Bones, Oreg doesn't tell Ward that their only option to prevent the villains from getting their hands on the eponymous dragon bones is to kill Oreg, which will make castle Hurog collapse and bury the bones under it. This is part of his plan, as he knows Ward would never accept the truth if he wasn't told about it by several people. So he waits until he has Axiel right there, a half-dwarf, who knows why, exactly, the dragon bones being stolen by the villain would be terrible. He then casually mentions what the villains are doing at the moment, and what can be done about it. Ward is not amused that he wasn't told earlier.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore admits that he made a huge mistake that ultimately cost Sirius his life by not revealing the Awful Truth to Harry in a misguided attempt to keep him happy. Each year he had the chance to tell Harry the reason he and Voldemort's fates were intertwined, and each year he held back because he wanted to spare Harry the burden. Dumbledore bitterly states that he acted exactly the way Voldemort believes everyone who acts on love and compassion does: foolishly.
  • In Kokoro by Natsume Soseki, Sensei hides the reason for his constant guilt from his wife so her innocence won't be tainted by the world's evils.
  • Played with in Isaac Asimov's short story "Liar! (1941)", one of several which eventually became the book I, Robot: The story focuses on a robot who, through a random fluke, can read people's minds. The robot promptly begins lying to everyone since it is programmed to not harm humans, which means it can't hurt their feelings by telling them an unpleasant truth i.e. that the person they are in love with doesn't return their affections. In the end, Susan Calvin, having been borderline Mind Raped by the robot into thinking the painful world around her was All Just a Dream, induces a Logic Bomb on the robot that would have made Captain Kirk proud.
  • In Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings has the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, where Fitz never lets Burrich know he's still alive because Burrich is married to Fitz's former sweetheart Molly and he wants them to be happy. Burrich finds out about fifteen years later, and is understandably upset, but he dies before Molly finds out, and Molly marries Fitz.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. Oliver Queen hides from his sister Thea that she's actually the lovechild of an affair between their mother and supervillain Malcolm Merlyn. Thea later admits that she was happy before finding out the truth, but this and other lies cause a major rift between them, causing her to fall under Malcolm's influence.
  • Baywatch episode "Baywatch Down Under". Jake learns that his ex-wife didn't tell him she had become pregnant with his child before divorcing him because she felt he needed to be free and didn't want him to feel obliged to stay with her.
  • In the short-lived series The Cape, an astronaut goes on a Shuttle mission as his wife is about to give birth. She dies of complications during the birth, and Mission Control keeps this from the crew until they return to Earth.
  • In one episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry's mother dies while he is shooting a film in New York. No one in his family tells him this because it was actually her dying wish that they not bother him about it. Larry is understandably upset that his mother died, had a funeral, and everyone has moved on- all while he was filming in New York and only just found out about it. He calls her out on this when he meets her in the afterlife.
  • In Season 3 of The Flash (2014): Most of the cast decides not to tell Joe about future events that affect his daughter, Iris.
  • For All Mankind has the lone astronaut on the Moonbase not being told his son was in a serious accident. In fairness NASA did consult his wife, but she was in denial and wanted to wait for another doctor's opinion. The astronaut only finds out when the Soviet base sends a message of condolence; he thinks it's a cruel prank until he's finally told the truth.
  • This happens in an episode of Lie to Me: Lightman doesn't tell Torres about her boyfriend being located at the site of an accident because she'll be more useful to everybody if she stays and helps identify the culprit.
  • Rome. Lucius Vorenus is furious at his Fire-Forged Friend Titus Pullo for not telling him that his wife had a child with another man while they were away campaigning. Pullo can only object, "You were happy!" and that he didn't want to mess that up. Unfortunately Lucius found out the truth at the worse possible time.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel", Sarek didn't want Amanda to worry about his heart condition, so she didn't find out about it until he had a heart attack right in front of her.
  • In Supernatural, Dean doesn't want Sam to know that he sold his soul to save him because it would make him unhappy. Sam finds out anyway. Actually, this is just a thing Dean does - for example, not telling Sam what he did while soulless (again, Sam finds out anyway). He's still doing it, not just up to season nine, but season fifteen, where they have a dust-up because Dean didn't tell Sam that Jack wasn't expecting to survive what they were doing.

  • The Mrs. Hawking series: In part IV: Gilded Cages, Mary decides not to tell Mrs. Hawking about Arthur so that she doesn't have to deal with one more upsetting thing.
    • This persists into part V: Mrs. Frost to the point of a serious crisis in the level of trust in their relationship.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, so, so much. Without this trope, the musical would have no story. However, it's deconstructed in that Mrs Lovett doesn't refrain from telling Sweeney that his wife Lucy is still alive, but an insane, homeless prostitute because she thinks it will upset him; that's just how she tries to square it when everything hits the fan. In reality, it's just as much that she wants him for herself as it is altruistic.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Tifa of Final Fantasy VII avoids telling Cloud about what actually happened at Nibelheim. Considering the likely outcome of that knowledge it's understandable, but it really does cause a mess.
    • In Final Fantasy X, Yuna doesn't tell Tidus about her impending death because he would hate it and couldn't do anything to stop it. Also, she understandably didn't want to talk about committing suicide. In the finale, Tidus doesn't tell her that he'll fade away soon for exactly the same reasons.
  • In Fire Emblem, Lord Uther has actually been beset with crippling illness for most of the game. Oswin is aware of the illness from the beginning but doesn't tell main character Hector about it under Uther's orders. Uther knew that Hector would have left Eliwood and Lyn's party and would have spent the rest of his life regretting it if he were told.
  • SOMA allows the player to choose this or Brutal Honesty, as you encounter multiple robots who believe they're human due to Brain Uploading - and there's no guarantee that they'll believe the truth.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Colette hides what's happening to her as she's releasing the seals, that she's supposed to die at the end of the Journey of World Regeneration, and that she's being crystallized by a disease at various points in the story, all to avoid her companions (Lloyd in particular) worrying about her. However, keeping all of this hidden ends up coming back to bite her. Not telling anyone what's going on doesn't mean it isn't going to happen, and when what Colette is hiding comes to the forefront, the party often has no idea of how to deal with it. Colette ends up making numerous problems worse and nearly dies several times as a result, which Lloyd finally calls her out on late in the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert didn’t tell Amanda everything about her mother because he didn’t want to burden her with all the details of how and why she died. However, this left Amanda open to being manipulated by Cecilia, who used this mystery information to drive a wedge between him and Amanda.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rika not only doesn't tell Akasaka exactly why he'll regret not going back to Tokyo, in the manga, she actually cuts the cord of the telephone lines so he can't call the hospital his pregnant wife is at. It isn't until Ooishi finds him with Rika on a hill that Akasaka finds out his wife is dead. Rika gives this trope as the reason for not telling him because she knew that he'd fall into such deep despair that he wouldn't be able to help her.

    Web Original 
  • Minilife TV: In "Snowball's Late Night Adventure", Snowball learns from Rob that vampires like them are treated as mere servants and only have a few years to live. In "The Final Match", when Snowball calls out Chris and Ian for not telling him this, Chris and Ian explain they only did it to protect him from the truth after they realized how special he was made from other vampires.

    Western Animation 
  • The Goof Troop episode "Educating Goofy" has Goofy going back to school to set a good example for Max, but Max thinks he's there to embarrass him and enters in the same spelling bee as him to spite him. Later, when Peg tells him about Goofy's true intentions, Max feels guilty and decides to purposely lose so Goofy can get his diploma. However, P.J. has just told Goofy that Max felt embarrassed because of him and he decides to lose so he wouldn't be humiliated. Hilarity Ensues from there.
  • The King of the Hill episode "Peggy's Headache" features Peggy finally figuring out that Nancy has been having an affair with John Redcorn for years and Joseph is actually John's biological son. She plans on revealing all of this to Dale but before she can, she witnesses a sweet bonding moment between Dale and Joseph. Realizing telling the truth would ruin the family as well as Dale and Joseph's father-son relationship, she decides to keep quiet like Hank and everyone else.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color" features three instances of this trope at once. On one hand, Rarity is jealous of Fluttershy when she becomes a famous fashion model, but is afraid to tell her because she encouraged Fluttershy to do it in the first place; on the other hand, Fluttershy actually hates being a model but keeps doing it because she doesn't want to let Rarity down. Twilight, meanwhile, is more than happy to reveal the truth to the two, but both make her promise not to tell the other, and Pinkie Pie convinces her that breaking promises and losing your friends' trust is the fastest way to lose a friend FOREVER.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Roller Cowards" has SpongeBob and Patrick being afraid of going on a new roller-coaster they were hyped up about, but couldn't bear to tell each other so they wouldn't be disappointed in each other.


Video Example(s):


Didn't Want to Upset Helen

Brittas reveals that he didn't tell Helen about the inspector coming because he was worried and didn't want her to worry about the loss of their house and money.

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Main / IDidntTellYouBecauseYoudBeUnhappy

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