CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. — About 40 percent of married Americans admit keeping a secret from their spouses, but most have nothing to do with an affair or fantasy, a new poll has found. The most common secret is how much they spend.
Of those with a secret, 48 percent said they had not told their spouses about the real price of something they bought, according to the poll, being published today in the August issue of Reader's Digest.
"I don't think there's a marriage where that didn't happen," said one respondent, a woman married 26 years. "You always get those good bargains, you know?"
Another wife said: "I don't like to tell him how much I spend when I go shopping. I'm afraid he'll cut back on the budget."
It wasn't just women; the percentage was about the same for husbands. One man concealed the price of one small purchase: "The item wasn't very big but the price of it was."
The pollsters did not ask if the expenditure was for a gift.
The second most-kept secrets, at about 15 percent, are about a failure at work or a child's behavior. "There are times your kids do things that you know would make the other party ballistic," one woman said.
Only 2 percent of all respondents, equally split among men and women, said they had an extramarital affair that remained a secret. Fourteen percent kept mum about being attracted to another person.
In response to another question, 16 percent of both men and women admitted that, at least once during their marriage, they wished they could wake up and not be married any more.
Some people kept secrets not out of guilt but to avoid hurt feelings. One woman said her husband told her for years that her cocker spaniel had been stolen, to spare her the knowledge that it had been killed by a car.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos-NPD, an Illinois-based research group, which surveyed 1,000 husbands and wives by telephone in March. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
It also found that 20 percent of the nation's marrieds have dreams or aspirations they haven't mentioned to a spouse, ranging from living somewhere else (50 percent) to getting a dog (8 percent).
About 40 percent of the wives and 30 percent of the husbands said they wish they could persuade their spouses to be less messy. About a quarter of each sex said they can't get their partners to lose weight.
But one woman said she has no such problems.
"I could convince him to dye his hair orange if I wanted," she said.