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Keeping Secrets Sucks

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"You must release me from my oath. I can't keep your secret, Penny. I'm going to fold like an energy-based de novo protein in conformational space... like a Renaissance triptych... like a cheap suit."
Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

Secrets are cool. Everyone wants to be in on them, making one or discovering one. What's more satisfying about these is selectively spilling the beans. One of the guiltiest pleasures of secrets comes from breaking them like a colorful easter egg full of surprises and skeletons. But actually keeping one? That sucks.

To keep a secret requires that characters not just withhold information, but actively lie and at times even kill for it. Formerly honest souls now have to struggle with constantly lying. Even less honorable characters may find it eats them up inside, trying to claw its way out with talons of guilt. Depending on the secret, the keeper may even be in for a great deal of inconvenience... and danger. A Secret-Keeper doesn't just cover for their friends' Super Hero troubles, but will end up taking the social bullet for them, suffering quite a bit... when they aren't getting kidnapped or tortured to reveal that Secret Identity, that is.

This is especially excruciating for characters who are The Fettered, The Confidant, are magically restrained from spilling the beans, or simply caught between the conflicting loyalties.

Of course, most secrets do eventually come to light — this is fiction we're talking about after all: every secret is made to be spilled. Depending on the secret, the keeper usually has a falling out with one or more characters and may face great danger. Of course, if handled well it can make for a great cathartic payoff when this character chooses to unburden themselves and share the secret.

There is, however, a method for a person having a secret to be sure it won't be leaked, but it's only available to villians. The method is, "Three can keep a secret... If two of them are dead."

Of course, if the keeper is having their buttons mashed in, they may blurt it out to hurt another character. Much to their regret later on. Villains on the other hand will use it to blackmail the keeper... which of course, doesn't stop it from coming to light eventually. When a character genuinely doesn't want to spill the beans, it's because They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason. This is one of the reasons The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life. A trait of the Guilt-Ridden Accomplice.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Briefly touched upon in Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops, when Nobita, Doraemon and Shizuka discovers Zanda Claus, the ownerless Humongous Mecha they randomly found, turns out to be a Weapon of Mass Destruction capable of wiping out entire cities, and resolves to keep Zanda Claus' existence a secret while hiding it inside the Mirror World Indoor Pool. Then the real owner of Zanda Claus, Riruru, managed to befriend Nobita and he have to give her the Indoor Pool gadget behind Doraemon's back, with Riruru demanding Nobita to keep their meeting a secret. Nobita ends up quiet and moody trying not to let his family know about it, finally losing it at dinnertime when his dad Nobisuke randomly mentions his colleague's interest of fishing while his mom Tamako talks about a friend of hers spending so much time applying make-up before a mirror. Doraemon realize Nobita's peculiar behavior, puts two-and-two together, and caught Nobita sneaking to the fishing-hole at night before discovering the robot invasion conspiracy.
  • The fact that everyone in Higurashi: When They Cry is hiding something is one of the main reasons for how badly things always turn out. Because everyone is keeping secrets, they can't trust each other and work together, and the Hate Plague will seize on that distrust and turn one or more of them into a delusional, homicidal serial killer, which is the last thing they need with everything else that's going wrong. Interestingly, though, They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason also comes up and is an important part of at least two arcs.
  • Inuyasha: Totosai's role in hiding his dead master's plan for developing Sesshoumaru enough to finally obtain Bakusaiga results in him putting his life on the line, as Sesshoumaru detests being manipulated so much he has a tendency to kill anyone he catches doing that.
  • Symphogear: The heroine's need to keep her magical girl deeds secret puts a big strain on her relationship with her best friend.
  • In Aim for the Ace!, Coach Munakata's death happens when Hiromi and the team are in the USA. The first ones to find out (Ranko, Todou and Osaki) keep her Locked Out of the Loop. Neither is happy about it.
  • A good part of Hiro's problems in Fruits Basket come from him having witnessed how Akito threw Rin out of a window but being unable to tell others. When he finally can't resist anymore, Hiro goes to Rin's boyfriend Haru and breaks down crying as he explains what happened.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, this is a common issue for ghouls that live among humans.
    • After his transformation into a Half-Human Hybrid, Ken Kaneki becomes terrified of his lifelong Only Friend learning the truth. He begins to lie and avoid Hide in an attempt to protect him from the truth, before finally cutting all ties with his human life. In turn, Hide does everything in his power to find his missing friend. It all turns out to have been for nothing — when they are finally reunited months later, Hide confesses that he knew almost the entire time and never said anything. Unfortunately, it (seemingly) was his final act.
    • Touka lives in constant fear of being discovered and takes great pains to maintain her life as an Ordinary High-School Student. Her greatest fear is that her Muggle Best Friend, Yoriko, will learn her secret. To protect her identity, she repeatedly threatens to kill humans who might know and regularly makes herself seriously ill by consuming human food Yoriko makes for her. And eventually it too nearly becomes all for naught when Yoriko is arrested and almost executed for harboring her ghoul best friend, because it couldn't be proven that she never knew.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi: Byakko Senki, Suzuno's parents Takao and Tamayo are greatly saddened by how they're the only ones who know what's truly behind the deaths of Takako's mentor Einosuke Okuda and his daughter Takiko.
  • In Red River (1995), Kikkuri and the rest of Kail's entourage must keep the news of Ursula's upcoming execution from him since he's caught in serious trouble. They're really, really unhappy but know that they can't let Kail get distracted by such terrible news.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma swears to keep Ryouga's curse secret, even when Ryouga uses his cursed form to sleep with Ranma's fiancee Akane. Ryouga's cursed form is as a cute little piglet that Akane adopts as a pet. Double Subverted in that while Ranma won't come right out and say it he does drop a megaton load of hints, but Akane just doesn't get it - and the times she does seem to realize it, Ranma goes out of his way to protect Ryoga's secret.
  • Please Teacher!: Due to a series of contrived events, Mizuho and Kei end up having to marry each other, but since she's his teacher, they need to keep their relationship a secret from everyone else. This naturally brings up a lot of angst to both of them as they start to genuinely fall in love with each other, but they can't show affection in public. In fact, their honeymoon ends up ruined because Kei's classmates just so happen to stay at the same hotel as them, forcing them to try and sneak out to have some alone time. Fortunately, by the time of Please Twins! their relationship seems to be public knowledge at the school, so they don't need to hide it anymore.
  • Witch Hat Atelier: Coco is a normal girl who, due to unusual circumstances, was accepted as a witch's apprentice. In the process, she learns the closely guarded secret that the world actually operates on All-Accessible Magic, and witches lie about it being an innate gift to prevent it from being abused. Keeping this secret causes her a lot of pain, especially with her non-witch friend Coustas who was crippled in an accident and wishes he could use magic to heal himself, but knows he can't because, unlike Coco, he wasn't born a witch. Coustas eventually learns and is furious at Coco for having watched him suffer without doing anything.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe superheroes are persecuted by this:
    • Paperinik, alias Donald Duck, suffers greatly from the contrast between the lack of respect he gets in his civilian identity and the admiration, or at least grudging respect, he receives as Paperinik, especially because he fully understands the Irony in having become Paperinik to take revenge for the disrespect and finally getting respected only in his masked identity while said identity sometimes making things worse for him, as he'll miss important engagements due his superhero duties and cannot explain why. In the "classic" stories (outside the Paperinik New Adventures continuity) he even lacks a confidant, as his identity is that important-to the point Gyro reacted to being told about his identity for this purpose by wiping his memory of it on the spot.
    • Paperinika, alias Daisy, goes through Donald's same problem at balancing superhero work and civilian identity. Thankfully, her Gadgeteer Genius did not wipe her memory of her identity, so she has a confidant.
    • The infamous Belligerent Sexual Tension between Paperinik and Paperinika is only made worse by the fact they hate each other as superheroes (or at least try) and are loyal to their respective significant others... Who just happen to be each other.
    • The Red Bat, alias Fethry, shares the same trouble with the different treatment his identities get as Paperinik. Differently from him, he can take it in stride thanks to a more optimistic character and knowing he's treated that way because he's a terrifying klutz.
  • Robin: For a long time, Tim Drake's biggest problem with being Robin was that he absolutely hated lying to his father about what he was doing and did not at all like when Bruce made him weigh his loyalty to his father against his loyalty to the mission. The flip side of this coin was that Bruce wouldn't allow Tim to tell his in costume girlfriend Spoiler his secret identity and refused to trust her for years no matter what she did to prove herself and how many times Tim vouched for her.
  • Spider-Man: Things would be so much easier if everyone Peter Parker cared about knew he was a superhero. Subverted when one of his closest friends proves to be a deadly enemy.
  • Sunny feels like this in Sunny Side Up because she's tired of keeping her feelings hidden — that the fold out bed her grandpa has her sleeping on is uncomfortable, anger that her grandpa hasn't stopped smoking and is hiding cigarettes around his house, and that she feels it's her fault for what's going on with her brother Dale regarding his substance abuse — including guilt at not speaking up about it before, and that his hitting her on the fourth of July was her making things worse for him. Her grandpa assures her it is certainly not her fault that Dale's behavior has changed and not her responsibility for making him better.
  • Superman:
    • Superman's son Jonathan really hates the idea of hiding who he is from others.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, Linda Danvers really hates to keep her secret identity from her loving adoptive parents, and frequently wishes she could come clean about all her secrets. She at last gets her wish right before her public debut.
    • Young Love: Back when she and Dick Malverne were dating, Linda Danvers often wished she could reveal her hero identity to Dick instead of cooking up ridiculous ploys to keep him fooled, but her cousin warned her against letting suitors in on the secret.

    Fan Works 
  • The King Kuei's mother, the Dowager, says this is the reason a Secret Relationship falls apart as one would have to constantly hide in The Stalking Zuko Series. Which was one of the reasons she opposed Kuei continuing his relationship with Song.
  • Fai is emotionally exhausted that he had to lie to everyone from day one about who he is and why he's running in Shatterheart. He couldn't let anyone get close to him without risking the truth and ends up on the losing end of a love triangle as a result.
  • In Foundling, this is how Chen viewed keeping Reimu, a human, a then-secret from the rest of the youkai, not that the latter was making it easier, as, doing what small children do, she made a lot of noise and is noted to be very curious, along with taking up more attention and food than a litter of pups (she may be exaggerating on the third one), which in turn, annoys her. Naturally, the chapter in which she narrates is aptly titled, "That Damned Secret".
  • Advice and Trust: Rei really wants to tell Asuka and Shinji about her true nature and everything else she knows involving SEELE and NERV, but Kaworu pointed out that they would be killed for knowing too much if she did. This leads her to take out her frustration on him because he's the only one she can talk to about it.
    Rei: She is crying and hurt and upset and I don't know what to do and yet she still tries to make me feel better and I just had to leave her and run away because if I don't she'll ask why I can't say anything or she'll get hurt and aaaaRRRGH!
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Powers of Invisibility, Juleka becomes the Secret-Keeper to both Marinette/Ladybug and Adrien/Cat Noir and has to deal with the fact that Marinette isn't ready to tell Cat Noir her secret or let him do the same. Things only get worse when Juleka finds out that Nino and Alya are dating and hiding it from Marinette and Adrien, mainly because they don't want it to get back to their parents. It's mostly played for laughs (so far), due to the awkwardness of having four new friends determined to hang out with her yet unable to talk about why they're suddenly so close with any of the other three around, culminating in Juleka having to walk out of a lunch with the four after being bombarded with text messages. Despite this, it's noted that Juleka is happier with them in her life than she's ever been before.
  • In The Sanctuary Telepath, Janine has to keep the murderous elemental in her brother's head a secret for safety reasons. It effectively destroys her close friendship with Helen and the only reason the relationship between her and James hasn't met the same fate is that he wasn't in that much of a danger and she could tell him everything after examining the situation a bit more.
    • It sucks even more for John as everyone believes him a serial killer while the entity controlling his mind was the real murderer. Janine and later James are the only ones who know the truth and treat him accordingly.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic Walking in Circles, Solas definitely isn’t very happy about the fact that he has to lie about his identity or his goal to Evelyn; at the same times, he’s afraid of her reaction upon finding out the truth. Turns out she doesn’t mind and even supporting his plan of taking down the Veil and thus destroying the current world.
    • After, they both have to lie to everyone else, but Evelyn does plan to tell some of her friends when the proper time comes.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Izuku feels horrible about keeping the nature of his Semblance, One For All, a secret. He knows he has to, but it eats at him whenever he's praised for how straightforward and honest he is. It's even worse when others come to the conclusion that his Brokenness was "a mistake" when he knows very well that it wasn't.
    • At one point in the story, he asks Toshinori when it should be alright to spill the beans to someone, only for Toshinori to remind him that this wasn't a secret to be shared lightly. The prestige of the Symbol of Peace would crumble if the public found out that what made him so powerful was transmutable and transferable, rather than an ideal everyone should aspire to. But at the same time, the secret is also Izuku's and only he can determine who he can trust with it. In fact, Toshinori felt the exact same way when he was Izuku's age and ended up telling Glynda Goodwitch, now his Old Flame, as early as his second year at Beacon.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku feels horrible about constantly feeding his mom lies and half-truths to keep her from worrying about him or calling the cops on Peter.
  • In A Very Kara Christmas, Kara is forced to turn Dick Malverne's advances down because she has not yet mastered her "little, totally normal and definitely American-born amnesic orphan" act, and he could notice something is amiss with her.
  • In The Day After You Saved the Multiverse, Superboy does not dare to tell his girlfriend he has now super-powers and he has been away for one week because he was helping other heroes save the Multiverse. He is not a good liar, though, and his girlfriend realizes he is keeping secrets from her, which puts strain on their relationship.
  • In The Mouse in the Walls, while Mirabel tries probing Dolores on whether she knows about their Secret Squatter, the closest answer she gives is that what makes it so hard to have super-hearing is that she has to pick and choose what information she can share.
  • When Dolores discovers that Bruno has been hiding in the walls and that Mirabel has been visiting him in Through the crack in the wall, she is chomping at the bit to tell someone.
  • All Mixed Up!: Mariana Mag had her old partner, Oksana, keep quiet about her rebellion against Odd Squad. Oksana complied because, like Mariana, she had tried to convince Oprah's previous boss, Olesya, to accept cases involving music in addition to mathematics only to be reprimanded for it and ordered to never offer up the suggestion again. Other connected fanfics in the Ships Ahoy! universe would reveal that being an accomplice, as well as the demotion she received as punishment from Oprah once she found out, took a very heavy toll on her and is why she prefers to work alone.
  • In OSMU: Fanfiction Friction, Orla tells the Van Computer to fly to a specific location, telling it that she is sneaking out of the van and going to someplace alone. She also tells the A.I. not to alert Opal, Omar or Oswald of where she's going, as she doesn't want to put them in danger. This ends up being a bad idea when Orla becomes lost, injured, and defeated by a dragon in her intended location, the island of Hy-Brasil, and Opal, Omar and Oswald end up having to look for her in a Race Against the Clock before the island disappears.
  • In Prehistoric Earth, Alice and Will end up roped into helping Cynthia in her secret spy mission to find and expose a villainous additional spy at the park who's trying to sabotage the park and assist a hidden group of prehistoric animal smugglers. The fact that they are forced to keep their work in this task a secret from several people they consider friends, plus Alice's own younger brother, for the sake of said other people's own safety at best and for fear of one of them being The Mole at the very worst, ends up taking quite a toll on them.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Frozen (2013), under her parents' instructions, Elsa is to keep her ice powers a secret from everyone including Anna (after she was struck by her ice powers and the trolls alter her memory so she doesn't remember them), fearing that it will not only hurt and kill other people by accident but would also lead to her getting burnt at the stake for accusations of witchcraft. This led to Elsa living a miserable life where for thirteen years, she is forced to become The Shut-In and drive her sister away to prevent her from knowing of her powers and strained what was once a close bond shared between them. The psychological damage done to Elsa is so great that when her powers are exposed, she accidentally plunges her whole kingdom into an Endless Winter out of sheer panic when trying to run away from them.
  • In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Miles ends up in conflict with his parents as a result of his terrible work/life balance causing him to never be there when they need him. He's especially scared of telling his By-the-Book Cop dad he's Spider-Man, as even though he's become more accepting of his vigilantism since the first film he can be difficult to talk to and Gwen advises him not to after her own bad experience with her cop father.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A rare AI example: HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sequel and the novels have confirmed that HAL went crazy because he was ordered to keep something very important secret from the crew when his entire prime directive was to provide accurate, truthful data. Ordering a computer to lie can be a very bad idea:
    "Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error."
    • Heywood Floyd was not pleased when he found this out.
  • In Big Eyes, Margaret is uncomfortable from the start about Walter claiming authorship for her paintings, but reluctantly agrees when he argues that it's the best way to profit from her work. As he becomes increasingly attached to the fame that follows though, conditions for her get worse as he forces her to paint for hours in a cramped room, lie to her daughter, and isolate herself from her friends and neighbors. It gets to the point where she has a brief mental breakdown, hallucinating people in a grocery store as having big eyes, like the subject of her paintings.
  • The old Shaw Brothers gangster film, The Brothers (1979), where the protagonist is a gangster and mob enforcer who had to hide the truth about his job from his girlfriend and mother, and also the fact that his younger brother is a cop and is trying to hunt him down. It ends horribly by the end of the film.
  • In The Guilty, Rashid confides in Asger that lying about the latter's killing of a suspect has taken an emotional toll on him, and caused him to start drinking.
  • Juice: Neither Q nor Steel can tell anyone that it was Bishop who killed Raheem unless they want to be the next victims.
  • This is the source of Charlie's Angst in the sequel of The Santa Clause—he can't tell his friends that his father is Santa Claus.

  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In "The Mule", just before the climax of "Part 2", Bayta figures out a secret that could undermine their entire search, but she can't tell anyone or the Mule will win. She starts carrying around a blaster and fingering it during private moments. This continues until she finally kills someone with it.
    Bayta was more and more a creature of herself. The vivacity died, the self-assured competence wavered. She, too, sought her own worried, absorbed company, and once Toran had come upon her, fingering her blaster. She had put it away quickly, forced a smile.
  • A major factor in the resolution of Aunt Dimity: Snowbound. A wealthy young woman loses her betrothed at Dunkirk and turns her country home into a convalescent hospital for other troops. A valuable diamond parurenote  goes missing, and she is written off as crazy when she lodges her complaints with the military authorities. She gradually retreats into her own world, spending much of her time and dwindling resources on writing letters to Americans she thought were the thieves until her death. It turns out two American servicemen did steal the jewels, but fearing exposure, they hide the pieces for decades, and their children, disillusioned by the revelation, pose as stranded hikers to secretly enter the estate and return the full set.
  • The Framing Story of the BIONICLE book Tales of the Masks is the six Turaga arguing about whether to tell the Matoran and Toa of the lost city of Metru Nui and expose them to their true origins — thereby revealing that the tales they had been telling them for the last 1000 years were only Metaphorically True lies. In the end, they decide to do it. This causes Matoro to become quite mistrusted by his people (which still greatly affects his personality after he transforms into a Toa later on), as he was the only Matoran to have attended the Turaga's meetings and had to keep all of their secrets to himself.
  • Just about everybody in The Camp Half-Blood Series seems to be hiding a terrible secret. Just a partial list:
    • The first Great Prophecy. Secret keepers: Annabeth and Chiron
    • The Roman Camp from the Greek Half-bloods. Secret keepers: the gods
    • The Greek Camp from the Roman Half-bloods. (see above)
    • 'I'm a pyrokinetic. Secret keeper: Leo
    • Enceladus has my Dad. Secret keeper: Piper
    • I'm really eighty-three years old and back from the dead. Secret keeper: Hazel
    • My life is tied to a piece of half-burned wood. Secret keeper: Frank
  • The Dresden Files: Poor, poor Harry Dresden. He has to keep so many secrets it's a wonder he manages to get anything done. Especially notable was the first three books, where he felt he had to keep the entire White Council a secret from his Muggle friends, resulting in nearly destroying his relationship with Murphy. Things get better after an Internal Reveal, but later books are giving him more and more things he has to keep hidden.
  • A big theme in The House of Night series. Zoey almost loses all of her friends and almost dies because she didn't tell her friends she 1)knew that Stevie Rae was really alive and 2)was secretly involved with a professor. Stevie Rae also has problems with this when she does not tell about her relationship with Rephaim.
  • Lady Audley in Lady Audley's Secret resorts to murder a couple of times in an effort to hide her bigamy. She does crack eventually, though.
  • Reconstructing Amelia is basically Keeping Secrets Sucks: the Novel. Amelia is an extremely good kid who's never hidden anything from her mother or her best friend, so when she joins the Magpies and has to start keeping countless secrets, it eats at her. She finally ends up spilling most of them to her friend, even though she knows she's not supposed to because the pressure is driving her nuts. Tragically, the one secret Amelia keeps is what leads to her friend accidentally killing her.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, Lowry got red flags over how obsessively the psychologist was applying for a job at the Southern Reach and had her secretly investigated. He discovered that she's Gloria from the forgotten coast and used this information to blackmail her.
  • In the La Vita Nuova, Dante's attempts to keep the prying eyes of Florence from knowing which woman he's in love with ends up ruining his chances with her. Turns out, pretending to love other ladies makes you look like a medieval whore, something Beatrice in no way wants to associate with much to Dante's secret misery.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, when Leafpaw is the only cat who knows where the traveling cats went, she feels the strain of being loyal to both her sister and to her father.
    • Sandypaw in the SkyClan And The Stranger manga feels bad about a secret: he and the other apprentices (and a young warrior) were getting food from Twolegs. In fact, he says that keeping secrets is wrong and he doesn't want to be a part of it anymore. When they get reminded about never taking food from Twolegs, they look ashamed...and Sandypaw is seen smirking at them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All the time in the Arrowverse, especially Supergirl and Arrow. It is the cause of a lot of drama, especially when those who find out about a secret being kept from them become angry about it, and for good reason. And then those people keep secrets themselves, and the ones who were called out on it before end up doing it again.
    • Batwoman (2019). Kate Kane, as an out and proud gay woman, has never had or wanted to hide any part of herself from anybody, so having to hide being Batwoman is a personal hell for her. It doesn't help that she's a Bad Liar when it comes to making things up on the spot. Lampshaded when Kate and Luke Fox are talking about Bruce being Batman.
      Kate: How did Bruce make living a double life look so easy?
      Luke: Oh, he didn't; he was miserable.
    • This ends up being deconstructed a bit for Supergirl (2015) around its 100th episode. Having spent much of Season 5 blaming herself for Lena's Heel–Face Turn, Mr. Myxlplyx stops by and offers to change Kara's life by having her reveal her big secret to Lena. Unfortunately, in all the instances he shows, this only makes things worse, as somehow or another, even if Kara does tell the truth, it ends up getting her or someone else severely killed. As such, having learned that the outcome would have led to disaster no matter what, she visits Lena and blatantly declares that, whatever mistakes Kara herself might have made, she's fully prepared to stop her former friend.
  • Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory doesn't like being asked to keep a secret, and for a good reason.
  • You'd think the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer would learn to let people know about any drastic changes in their love life after season two or so. Failure to do so has led to character deaths, permanent bus trips, the gang nearly tearing itself apart with mistrust, and more.
  • Captain Awesome on Chuck is suffering from this these days. He stumbled on the fact that his soon-to-be brother-in-law was a spy near the end of Season Two. For a while, he thought it was cool and interesting, but after he got asked to use his skills as a doctor to help, that was enough for him. Unfortunately, the spy life didn't let him go... now he's not sleeping much, not working out, and trying (and failing hilariously) to lie to his wife about what Chuck does when he isn't around.
  • In Desperate Housewives, when Carlos accidentally kills Gabby's sexually abusive father, and the others help him cover it up, they become consumed with guilt which drastically affects their day to day lives.
  • Forever:
    • A recurring theme for Henry, complicated by the fact that he's been burned so badly and so many times when people did find out his big secret that he's almost pathologically incapable of telling anyone. In "Skinny Dipper" Henry is framed for murder and he almost flees his beloved life in New York because he can't share his secret. In "The Last Death of Henry Morgan" Henry's secrets, and his trying to protect Jo from them, nearly destroy their friendship.
    • Abe is pretty cool about it, but he's never been able to introduce his ex-wife, or any other romantic interests, to his father, and growing up he had to move and leave his friends behind whenever Henry's secret was in danger.
    • Played with for Lucas. He absolutely hates keeping secrets from Henry and is very bad at it. (He's also very bad at keeping secrets from beautiful women.) However, when he's let in on the secret of Henry's hidden basement laboratory he's thrilled, and he's very cool about concealing the fact that he gave Henry the pugio in "The Last Death of Henry Morgan."
  • Joey in the Friends arc when Chandler and Monica are keeping their relationship secret. It gets especially hard when he has to take the fall for them when they almost get caught - repeatedly. After one Embarrassing Cover Up too many, he turns the tables by "revealing" to everyone that he'd slept with Monica and she was obsessed with getting him back in the sack.
    • Later in the same arc Monica admits to Chandler that she's getting tired of having to keep secrets from Rachel because they're best friends and usually share everything. Rachel, who already knows, overhears this and backs off from her attempts to get Monica to admit the truth.
  • It's not always puppies and sunshine for the cast of Hannah Montana, mainly due to this trope. In fact, the title character breaks down twice for it. In the movie, she decides she's done leading a double-life and gives away her identity, but the crowd talks her into staying as Hannah. She breaks down again in the final season and finally reveals it on national television.
  • Subverted in House of Anubis with Sarah Frobisher-Smythe. Her entire life, people have been using her and trying to force the secret about where her parents hid their fabulous treasure, though she had no idea of the truth herself.
  • This is a major theme for Mitsuzane's arc, at least for the beginning, in Kamen Rider Gaim. At first, he just has to worry about keeping his life as a Beat Rider a secret from his prestigious brother who has hopes for him taking his company. Then said brother approaches him and reveals to him an Awful Truth when Mitsuzane threatens to expose his company's secrets. Now he's forced to keep that a secret as well as another Awful Truth... only for the people he cares about most to find out anyways. Needless to say, when the girl he has a crush on finds out both truths and is crushed when Mitsuzane's forced to stop her from exposing those truths to the town, he's pissed. Very pissed.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): For most of season 1, Matt Murdock keeps his second identity as Daredevil a secret from Foggy and Karen. When Foggy learns about it, as the result of finding Matt bleeding out from getting attacked by Wilson Fisk and Nobu, he is pissed off, and while they do reconcile in time to take down Fisk, their friendship is on noticeably thin ice. In season 2, the strain of Matt's double life and the reappearance of Elektra causes him to falter in contributing to the Frank Castle trial and almost costs him the new romantic relationship he was beginning to have with Karen. The realization that he's been driving them away leads Matt to decide to willingly tell Karen his secret.
    • Iron Fist (2017): Ward Meachum has to keep secret for over 13 years that his father Harold is alive and is the one calling the shots at Rand Enterprises from behind the scenes. Once she learns about Harold being alive, Joy suspects that this was a contributor to Ward's drug addiction problem.
  • My Name Is Earl: in order to not ruin Christmas for Joy, he has to pretend to Joy's parents that he and Joy are still married, and then he finds out that Joy's mother is pretending to be wheelchair-bound and has to keep that secret or else ruin Christmas too. Since "ruining Christmas" was the item from The List he was working on at the time, he had to keep both secrets.
  • MythQuest: Keeping the portal to the mythworld a secret almost causes Alex to lose his best friend.
  • Connie Brooks in Our Miss Brooks is often unwillingly made privy to Walter Denton's latest prank. Miss Brooks has to keep quiet or risk having Walter suspended or expelled, sometimes making her an almost de facto confederate to his schemes.
    • i.e. "Cure That Habit" forces Miss Brooks to stay quiet about Walter's having sent a postcard to the titular alcoholism support group in Mr. Conklin's name.
    • "Wild Goose Chase" has Miss Brooks be forced to keep quiet about Walter pretending to be a quiz show host, and having tricked Mr. Conklin into believing he won a free T.V. set.
    • "The Cafeteria Strike" sees Miss Brooks have to cover up an impending protest by the students, led by Walter Denton.
    • "Dress Code Protest" sees Miss Brooks try to dodge Mr. Conklin's discovering Walter's idiotic scheme to protest the principal's new dress code.
    • "The Sweater" has Walter Denton put Miss Brook's name to an expensive present purchased by Miss Enright and gifted to Mr. Boynton. Miss Brooks is quite unwittingly pulled into the deception but is loathe to reveal it as it results in an atypically amorous Mr. Boynton.
    • "Stretch Has A Problem" sees a different kind of secret kept by Miss Brooks. Miss Brooks must keep secret Stretch's crush on Harriet Conklin while keeping the lovesick Dumb Jock ready, willing, and able to play in the state basketball tournament.
    • "The Grudge Match" again deals with the Stretch-Harriet-Walter love triangle, as Miss Brooks must cover up the fact that Stretch Snodgrass went to the movies with Harriet Conklin, Walter's designated squeeze.
    • Miss Brooks is quite the unwitting secret keeper. In "New School Bus", she has to hide the fact that Mr. Boynton bought an old paddy wagon to serve as a bus for Madison's sports teams.
  • In Pushing Daisies, Olive didn't know everyone's secrets—she never learned the show's biggest one, Ned's power of resurrection. However, she had at that point been privy to several secrets from all over the cast (Chuck being alive, Lily being Chuck's mother, and her own—an unrequited love for Ned) and sworn to secrecy in every case, which was driving her mad with conflicting impulses. She did slowly let some of them go by clever yes/no games and getting some of the secrets' owners to allow her to fess up, as well as outright admitting to Ned she was having trouble moving on.
    • For that matter, Chuck was being eaten up maintaining the lie that she was dead from her aunts, as well as having not let Ned re-dead her resurrected dad, making him "kill" an "innocent" bystander Dwight Dixon with his powers' Equivalent Exchange. And in the first season, Ned is likewise eaten up by guilt over inadvertently killing Chuck's father before he figured out how his powers worked. And not one to be left out, Emerson Cod is too ashamed to tell his mom he had a daughter (who had been kidnapped) and wants to tell her to maintain their honest relationship. By the time he tells her she had already figured out he was hiding something but had guessed wrong. Really, Keeping Secrets Sucks is a big theme for Pushing Daisies.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch Sabrina accidently turns Valerie into a witch due to charitable magic. (Valerie's mother wished her daughter would be just like Sabrina.) As soon as Valerie realises she has powers, she freaks out and worries that she will have to lie all the time to keep it hidden.
    Valerie: You have no idea how much stress I'll be under.
  • In Scream Queens (2015), it's revealed that 4 members of Kappa were forced to keep a secret that one of their pledges had a baby in their sorority house and later died because they were more interested in partying. The resulting guilt destroyed their lives - one of them became a reclusive shut-in, one of them became a crazy woman who stole milk and diapers, another killed herself, and the last one became an anchor for Fox News.
  • Chloe on Smallville keeps Clark's secret, but also keeps Lana's and some others. She lashed out at Clark at least once, when Clark complained that she didn't tell him about somebody else; she replied tartly that just because she's keeping his secret from others doesn't mean she can't keep others' secrets from him.
    • Pete found this out too, with Clark's secret torturing him for much of Season 3. Chloe eventually gets caught up in that aspect of it as well, withdrawing from life and having fewer and fewer friends who aren't in on The Masquerade. By Season 9 she's permanently become Watchtower and really has no life outside the infant JLA.
  • In Supernatural, the few times Sam keeps a secret from Dean that isn't too personal. And every single time Dean has to keep a secret from his brother (granted, that's mostly because he only keeps secrets about his brother's fate or things he's done that Sam wouldn't like).

  • In Pokémon Live!, the song "I've Got A Secret" is about Delia and Misty lamenting how they can't tell their respective secrets to Ash.
  • Many of Shakespeare's works involve how hard it is to keep secrets.

    Video Games 
  • Exaggerated in OMORI, where Sunny and Basil's keeping of what really caused their friend group to separate a secret prevents them from healing from their shared trauma.

    Visual Novels 
  • Deconstructed with the protagonist of Daughter for Dessert. He wants to shield Amanda from the struggles he and Lainie went through, but that means that he has to deprive Amanda of the full knowledge of one of her parents. Not to mention that Lainie’s relatives could show up at any moment and force the information out into the open.
  • In Double Homework, it weighs heavily on the whole class that none of them can dare tell the truth about the avalanche.

  • This is a common theme in El Goonish Shive.
  • The entirety of The Green-Eyed Sniper is focused on secrets that the characters keep from each other. Shanti hides her secret life as an assassin from her partner Blitz and her friend Sekhmet. Sekhmet hides from everyone that she's a wanted war criminal. And Blitz hides from Shanti that she has protected Sekhmet's secret for the past two years. None is them is happy with these secrets and there will be consequences...
  • In Jupiter-Men, Nathan's insistence that the twins keep their friends and family out of the superhero life puts serious strain on Quintin's and Jackie's relationship with Arrio. The twins constantly make flimsy excuses as to why they can't hang out like usual and have no time to relax due to Nathan's Training from Hell. Arrio is constantly worried about the twins's inability to explain why they're suddenly so busy. This comes to a head when Quintin and Arrio, both normally cheery and easy-going people, get into a heated argument in which Arrio assumes the twins have gotten involved in a gang due to their unwillingness to come clean to him.
  • Chapter 3 of morphE focuses on a bet for the captives to call their families. Amical allows them to but sets a fate spell to prevent them from giving anyone clues to their location. Billy is told he will lose his career if he does not arrive on set by the weekend, Asia ends up crying in sheer desperation for not being able to disclose information to help her guardian investigate her kidnapping and Tyler has to create an incriminating cover story to stop his family from worrying about him.
  • Tripping Over You: Part of the impetus for Liam to come out of the closet to his strict father is the extent he has to go to hide that he has a boyfriend, and the strain it puts on their relationship. It comes to a head when they take a weekend vacation together and Liam's planned cover story falls apart.

    Web Original 
  • The Paradise setting involves an unknown force changing humans into Funny Animals (and sometimes changing their gender, too) in a way that is Invisible to Normals—-forcing the Changed into a Masquerade since to everyone else they still appear to be their old human selves (and gender). Changed who have to maintain the Masquerade over the long term, keeping their true condition from friends and loved ones, often find it harder the longer they have to keep silent.
    • Christopher Mattiaz from MatthiasRat's stories has not been able to be intimate with his wife for two years because he changed gender six days after their wedding—and can't tell her why either.
    • Joey from Jetfire's "Veil" series kept his Change from his parents over three years and two gender changes before breaking down and telling them the truth—which made for fairly awkward interfamily relationships for the following month or so.
  • In Worm, when Taylor is attempting to infiltrate the Undersiders, she finds trying to hide her heroic intentions from them a great source of stress.

    Western Animation 
  • Dragons: The Nine Realms: In the second episode of Season 2, main character Tom wants to tell his mom Olivia about the dragons since he feels bad about hiding it from her.
  • The title character of Jem maintains a double-life as the titular pop star and as Jerrica Benton, which wreaks havoc on her love life since she ends up getting her boyfriend, Rio, attracted to both identities and never does get the nerve to tell him for fear of how he'd react to being led on. She also deals with the affections of Riot from The Stingers, who's attracted to her Jem persona only. It also causes other problems since her method of staying in persona requires that she wear a pair of holographic earrings (as opposed to make-up), such as not being able to get through metal detectors. Furthermore, since Jem is entirely made up as a person, Eric Raymond tries to exploit this in one episode by setting most of the city on a massive manhunt to learn her real identity, though she's able to get people to calm down and leave her be at the end of the episode.
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste in Miraculous Ladybug struggle with keeping their identities as Ladybug and Cat Noir a secret, although the former finds it considerably harder than the latter does. Both of them have attempted romantic relationships with Luka and Kagami respectively, only to end up breaking up with them because their secret identities mean they can't be honest with them.
    • When Marinette becomes the Miracle Box's new Guardian after Master Fu sacrifices his memories in passing his Guardianship on to her, she finds it an even bigger struggle, and five of her friends get akumatized when they think she doesn't want to be their friend anymore because she's keeping something from them. This culminates in her revealing her identity as Ladybug to Alya, one of said friends. She is noticeably less stressed after this.
    • In "Rocketear", Marinette forces Alya to adopt a new, more secret identity so that her boyfriend Nino will believe that she's been permanently retired as Rena Rouge (as he already knew that identity.) This is a disaster, as Nino thinks that Alya has been avoiding him because she's cheating on him with Cat Noir and thus he becomes akumatized as the Rocketear, whose tears cause explosions. At the end of the episode, Alya decides to spill the beans to Nino in order to assure him that he's the only guy for her.
    • In "Guilt Trip", Juleka becomes a nervous wreck after Rose gets admitted to a hospital and insists that she not tell their friends about it. Unable to bear this secret alone, she tells Adrien and Marinette about Rose's health issues and thus the news spreads to the rest of the class. Her subsequent guilt over betraying Rose's trust causes her to be akumatiazed for a sixth time.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Is Not Your Color," Rarity confides to Twilight Sparkle that she is incredibly jealous of Fluttershy for her job as a model, while Fluttershy tells Twilight that she hates her job and only keeps doing it for Rarity's sake. Hilarity Ensues, mostly from Pinkie Pie's constant reminders on the importance of keeping promises.
    • Eventually the stress drives Twilight mad and after struggling to keep herself quiet ends up blurting out Spike's "secret" crush on Rarity, even though the only pony shown to still be in the room would have absolutely no idea what she's talking about.
      Pinkie Pie: (sighs) And you were doing so well.
    • Averted with Pinkie Pie, who apparently has no problems keeping secrets whatsoever. Especially if she Pinkie Promises. At least until the Season 5 episode "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows", where she spends the entire episode constantly struggling to keep the surprise secret of Shining Armor and Princess Cadence having a baby from her friends and everyone else. After Cadance and Shining Armor finally deliver the news themselves, Pinkie literally falls to pieces. And she never wants to go through all that again.
  • In later seasons of Steven Universe, it is revealed that Rose Quartz and Pink Diamond were the same person, Pearl being the only person to know this secret after Rose gave birth to Steven. Due to her programming to follow her master's orders, Pink Diamond's final order to her as her master being that she never tells anyone, she is physically incapable of telling anybody the truth, watching helplessly as the actions she was accomplice to lead to most of her fellow Gems being corrupted into half-mad monsters and Steven floundering to discover the truth about his mother.
  • In Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, Jake/Stretch and Nathan/Wingspan both seem rather stressed about having to hide their double lives from loved ones. Jake attempts to reveal himself to his father a few times, but gets interrupted. Nathan's guilt over deceiving his girlfriend, Erika, manifests in a dream where he tells her the truth, which he acts upon after having it.
  • Subverted with Cornelia from W.I.T.C.H.. When the girls find out that their friend Elyon is the princess of Meridian and that Phobos is after her, Cornelia pushes that they inform Elyon, but Will speaks against it, explaining that telling her would only put her in danger. This turns out to be their undoing when Phobos appears and convinces Elyon that he's good, which allows him to take her to Meridian. Cornelia blames Will and her decision not to tell Elyon the truth and leaves the group, albeit temporarily.