Recently, Reddit user Master_Notice_6690 asked r/AskWomen, "What’s a secret you could never tell your parents and why do you feel you can’t tell them?" The responses range from dark to relatable to really, really heartbreaking. Here's what they had to get off their chests.
NOTE: There are mentions of sexual assault and miscarriage.
1."How upset I was when they told me we were adopting my youngest brother, and how I still have complicated feelings about that. I love my brother so, so much, and I am so glad he is in my life. But at the time, my two older siblings were pretty severely ill with chronic illnesses and I was already being parentified with my three younger siblings. I cried for a long time in bed that night because I felt like they already couldn’t take care of the kids they had, and now they wanted to add another for me to take care of."
"I’ve only recently begun to admit this to myself, thanks to therapy. At one point my therapist said, 'You can love your brother and also feel like your parents shouldn’t have made that decision at the same time,' and that hit me hard. It’s all a confusing mess though, because obviously if they had waited to adopt again then we wouldn’t have my brother, and that’s not what I want."
2."How kinky I am. Mainly because no parent EVER wants to know that, but my reasoning and proclivity towards kink comes from breaking the cycle of sexual trauma in my family in a way that makes me feel empowered and safe. My mom thinks kink is so dangerous and demonized. In general, she seems to just not be able to even engage in light conversations about the subject."
3."As a kid I frequently stole their electric toothbrushes and bigger hairbrushes to use as sex toys. Then I discovered their actual sex toys around when I was a teenager and used those. Only ever did it when I knew I was going to be alone in the house for an extended period of time and always covered my tracks by putting things in the exact same place so it looked like I never even stepped foot in their room."
"I did something similar with my older sister and stole her lingerie to wear so I could feel cute masturbating by myself, and sometimes going on dark Omegle so I could have company.
I did all this cause I was a very sheltered child and never had the opportunity to explore my sexuality pretty much at all. The only reason I’m actually able to hookup with people now is because I have my own car and my parents just happen to not check FindMy for the one to two hours I need, before I zoom over to the nearest neighborhood and park my car in front of a random house and pretend it’s a female friend’s house. I’m not even sure if they know I’m not a virgin to this day. Especially my mom — since I’m the younger sister and a very small person she still definitely sees me as her little girl, and only occasionally acknowledges that I’m a literal adult in college whenever it’s impossible to ignore."
4."When I was 12/13 years old I would get on chat roulette and masturbate for strange men. I foolishly also started looking for men to meet up with in real life. I had sex with men that were well into their 30’s or 40’s. One man in particular, I was seeing for several months without my parents knowing but he got caught picking me up from school. I denied everything, saying I just met him. I never plan to tell my mom the full truth because they went through hell with the courts trying to get a restraining order on him. They really just thought he was out randomly picking up little girls, but it was honestly my idea."
5."My father's pornography completely shaped my early sexuality (from eight on). He didn't show them to me…I found them. It made me believe awful things about myself, about women, about him...it led me to thinking somethings were normal and they weren’t. I put myself into sexual situations that weren’t safe or healthy because my dad's porn made me think this was normal. The first time I saw a ball gag was in the mouth of a woman. It took 30 years of undoing this sexual implantation that was entirely started by my FATHER. Who I now think of whenever I’m asked to do something I don’t want to do in the bedroom. He wonders why I’m a feminist…I mean…should I tell him ?"
6."That I was groomed into a sexual relationship by some old creep and went through a whole fucking court case throughout my final two years of high school and the only reason the police didn't tell them is because they thought it would take two years to complete the investigation and get to court and I'd be 18 by then — and they were right. The story was on the news and everything and I remember mum reacting to it... nerve-wracking stuff."
7."I was sexually assaulted by my first serious boyfriend. They know that. What they don't know is that when I attempted to break up with him, he swore he'd ruin my dad's career if I ever made an accusation against him. His folks were a big deal in my dad's industry and they were wealthy and better connected than we were. My dad now works in a different state entirely, but the statute of limitations has already passed."
8."That I'm in early stages of a cancer diagnosis. They live too far away and they are poor so they would want to help and would probably bankrupt themselves to help me. Plus my mum would be catastrophic and it would just be draining. Dealing with my own emotions is already too much. I don't need hers, too."
9."I don't love them. Both my parents love me in their own way, and I do think they want what's best for me. That being said, it was made known since birth how much of an inconvenience I was to them. They were not there to support me and, in turn, got angry when I lashed out. I get along with them well enough nowadays. I appreciate them for the good they've done. Do I love them? No."
10."I was groomed by adults on the Internet as a teenager and manipulated into doing sexual acts on webcam with them. It was the early 2000s, these predators were posing as kids in the 'teen chat' of a popular local music festival. My parents wouldn't have had the knowledge to protect me. I would do this on the family computer while my brother played upstairs and they were at work. They realistically couldn't have known much better then, but would feel awful about not having protected me."
11."I could never tell my mother that the guy she gave me permission to date was actually abusing me emotionally and is just generally not a good person (I was 17 at the time, so I needed her permission. She’s strict). I can't tell her because it feels like my fault. I begged her to date him, ever since I was 13. She would just be very sad and disappointed if she knew the truth. She brings him up all the time, but she doesn’t know we aren’t in contact anymore so I can’t blame her."
12."That our upbringing wasn’t great. Both my parents were brought up in really bad situations (mum and her sister were constantly sexually assaulted by their brothers who were violent and alcoholics. Dad was hit by a car when he was five and had to relearn how to do everything — eat, walk, talk — and his parents hated each other and took it out on the kids, there was a lot of violence there too). I think they did their best and compared to their upbringings, ours was great. But we were still hit a lot, not talked to, and punished for very little things (like touching the TV remote)."
"My mum always says we’re a close knit family and my dad says he’s glad he turned away and didn’t end up the way his dad was. Well, we’re not close knit and my dad was still an alcoholic and abusive. My dad is definitely better nowadays but my mum has spiraled. They both have these ideas about how our family is and I don’t have the heart or desire to shatter it and make them even more depressed."
13."That I fucking hate their guts and I'm only taking care of them because of some base instinct to not let pathetic old people in declining health rot in the gutter. But every morning that I hear them rustle around in their room and know that they are awake and lived through the night, it makes me angry. It makes me want to scream. And I can't wait for them to die."
14."I had a miscarriage and it was in no way emotionally traumatic for me. My mother, if she knew, would mourn terribly for that pregnancy and judge the fuck out of me for not being upset. So she doesn't ever need to know."
15."I used to do sex work. I feel like they would be so ashamed of me, because I didn’t do it out of desperation — they’ve always helped me financially. I did it because I wanted power and control after being assaulted multiple times."
16."That my husband and I are swingers. Even though my mom was a hippie and did all the things that one associates with a hippie (free love, lots of drugs, civil disobedience, etc.) I don't know that she'd understand. Or she'd ask too many, very detailed questions about our decision because, well...that's just her."
17."I requested the entire file of my sister's death, which includes crime scene photos. I've never told my parents I have these photos. My mum will want to look at them and it will destroy her just as it destroyed me."
18."They’ll never know I’m married. ... We’ve been together since we were teens. They don’t know it, but we got married on our 10th anniversary and we’re almost at 12 years together total. ... I’ve kept it from my mom for a handful of reasons. The first was that when she first heard I was dating my now-husband, she was mad he was Mexican. This was incredibly frustrating considering she’s Filipino. She often just reiterates the awful things said about Hispanic people in general from the news."
"She never wanted me to leave home. She doesn’t want me to get married, have kids, or own my own house because it means moving out. When I became an adult, I tried moving out on three separate occasions. And each time, she would berate and belittle me, and I would chicken out of moving. This went on for years. ... When I told her I was moving in with my now husband (then boyfriend), she lost it. The first thing that came out of her mouth was that I needed to hide my money from him. ... Then she said that if I left, it was going to be my fault that she and my dad would never get a house. They counted on my savings as a means to help them eventually buy a house and for me to use it as a means of starting my own life meant they wouldn’t have access to it anymore.
... Things are different with my dad. I’ve always been closer to him. I love him so, so much. And I feel guilty not telling him that I’m married. But our relationship started getting complicated in the last few years because of how tense things are with my mom. ... One day I mentioned eloping in the future, and that I didn’t want my mom there. I couldn’t stand the thought of her being present. And he had asked me that if I did get married, to not tell him about it. I asked him why. He said it was because if my mom found out that he knew that we were getting married before she did, she would get angry at him. And that if I had invited my dad to my ceremony but not my mom, things would go to hell between them. He said that if he was invited to the ceremony, my mom had to go. As much as I wanted my dad there, there was no way I was going to have my mom attend. Not after the way she spoke about my husband even though she never even tried getting to know him. It didn’t matter that we had been together for 10 years at that point. So we eloped, had a friend and a photographer as our witnesses."
19."When I was 3–4 I had a very abusive babysitter. One of my first memories involves this woman brushing my hair, yanking it, and when I cried out, hitting me with the hairbrush so hard I fell into a nightstand and broke it, at which point she literally beat my ass with the hairbrush. Afterward she dragged me to the car, decided to take me and the other kids she was watching to the bank, made me wear a paper bag over my head, and while everyone else got a sucker and ice cream because I was 'crying like a baby,' I got to sit and watch them eat."
"When I got home, my parents saw the bruising on my butt and legs and freaked the fuck out — like, murder level freak out. They asked what happened and I told them. They called to confront her and she made up some story about how I fell down the stairs and landed on my butt after having a really bad dream, that I had been yelling and crying in my sleep.
My parents didn't believe her, even though I did and still do have very vivid and often violent dreams, but me being the sensitive kid that I was, I was so afraid they were going to hurt her for what she did, and I was more concerned about her than myself, that I told my parents that must've been what happened and I just couldn't tell the difference between dream and reality.
I know what the fuck happened. I didn't dream it. I didn't make it up.
... My parents still don't know that everything I told them was actually true, because even though I'm in my 30s now, and my parents are early 60s, I know they would still beat the woman to death if they found out she actually did this to me.
... Several years ago I was at the grocery store with my father and she came up chatting, dad reintroduced us and she laughed and smiled and acted like we were best friends. I remember nodding and smiling until dad wandered off before deadpan telling her, I remember everything, and she better think herself lucky I've kept my mouth shut all these years, and she needed to leave and stop acting like we were friends. I took great satisfaction watching the color drain from her face before she left."
20."My dad passed away 21 years ago, and I could never tell him he fucked up my and my sister's life by choosing such a horrible human being to be our mother and by looking away when his second wife physically and psychologically abused us during our entire childhood and teenage years."
21."I only have one parent — my dad — and the secret is that me and my sister suffered terrible mental abuse at the hands of our aunt and uncle for eight years. We lived them with after our mum died (my dad wasn't around) ... and it's affected us terribly. He wouldn't believe me even if I told him. It would crush his world completely knowing he left us in the hands of two people who he hero-worships for having 'looked after us.'"
22."That my partner and I are polyamorous. My mom is the child of a family broken by infidelity. Her father was the cheater and he was never sorry. He felt that he could love both women, and he couldn't see that his cheating was a devastating betrayal — that my grandmother would never have consented to that arrangement and was crushed by his actions and his refusal to apologize. [Being polyamorous] is my happiest kind of relationship arrangement, but especially because my partner's currently seeing someone and I'm not, my parents would 100% see it as me accepting abuse out of a lack of self respect."
23."That I never wanted children because of how I grew up thinking I had to be on the wacked-out diet my mother was on (she's 5'3 and 100 lbs soaking wet). My dad wasn't as bad, but if I wasn't being active like him, I was a disappointment. So, I didn't want to raise children with those tapes in my head. I'm not going to pass on screwed-up body images to my kids like the one I have to myself."
24."They once dragged me to the doctors because they thought I was doing drugs because I was low energy, unmotivated and started to spend time in my room all the time. Turned out I had glandular fever, but apart from that I was just really depressed as well because of how hard they were on me and the choices I wanted to make for my own future, while they were forcing me to study something I didn't want to, where I wasn't comfortable with the teachers nor my classmates, making for a very isolated experience. I was very young, but was already done with life. If my best friend hadn't popped up when she did, I probably wouldn't have been here anymore."
"Fifteen years later I'm doing really well, I have nice friends, a nice job, a house, a sweet husband, the cuddliest cat ever. I got where I am because of the choices I made, which I made against my parents' better judgment. So it's very triggering to either hear them say 'of course you're so successful, with all the good traits and support you got from us' or worse, 'ah, it's a shame you never did anything with your brain' as if me being happy and steady in life is still not good enough."
25."That I'm autistic. Might figure out a way to tell them at some point, but it just doesn't really feel worth it. My older brother was diagnosed as a kid, autism isn't an unfamiliar concept to them, no idea how or why they were oblivious when it came to me as a kid/teenager but they really fucking dropped the ball. Whenever I came to them with social issues I was having, just got told it was normal and I would grow out of it. Most of those issues weren't normal, though who the hell knows how many of my family members are neurodivergent and unaware, and they didn't just go away, had to figure them out the hard way years later after finally figuring out what was going on."
"Would have been nice if I had just known from the start, blindly stumbling through my childhood and teenage years wasn't fun and has left me with a variety of issues. But too late for that, figured it out fairly young still, moving forward as best I can. No idea how my parents would react, if I told them and got a bad response, they deny it, argue, whatever, it would hurt my relationship with them pretty badly, not really worth risking that over something they've long since missed the chance to help me navigate."
26."I was almost abducted by a drugged woman in college who wanted me in her car for money. She saw me carrying a lot of shopping bags out in public, in broad daylight. I was buying Christmas presents and was on my way back to my dorm when it happened. In hindsight, I should’ve told my parents and reported it, but I was so shocked I didn’t. Obviously I got away, but still knowing that it almost happened bothers me occasionally. It’s been almost 10 years now."
27."I stole my mom's high school diary when I was 12 and she’s been looking for it the last 40 years. The guilt is horrible but I still can’t get the courage to tell her."
28."My sister and I feel like the wrong parent died. My entire family devolved when my dad died."
29.And finally..."That every time they are involved in my child's interests and being affectionate and playful, I'm wondering why I didn't get this version of them."
What's a secret you can never tell your parents? Let us know in the comments or via this anonymous form.
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.