Your partner can't/won't discuss their work - would this annoy you?

Its something of a common trope in movies and television shows that when one partner has an occupation that they are unable to discuss with others outside work (such as sensitive areas of law enforcement, intelligence work etc) it puts a strain on the relationship when they are unwilling to discuss their work with their partner.

Would it irritate you that your partner has an area of their life they are unwilling or unable to discuss with you? Would you view it as indicating a lack of trust in you? Or would you accept that there are reasons for it and not push the issue?


That’s how my (military intelligence ) brother has always been - He’d come home and tell hilarious stories about work, but when you sat down after and analyzed it, you’d realize that there was no identifying content. It’s just part of the job, and it is to protect you as much as anything. If everyone can honestly say that sensitive topics were never ever discussed at home, then there’s less likely to be further investigation in the event that something goes wonky at work.

The way it’s portrayed in the movies is completely unrealistic; working under confidentiality is both a lot more common and a lot less Wall of Silence than they paint it. There are many jobs where some things can’t be discussed due to confidentiality; others (sometimes the same ones) where exact terminology would go over most of humanity’s heads.

My brother the Controller (International), my sister in law the doctor and I, as well as our friends and relatives who are doctors, nurses, cops, or lawyers, manage to respect confidentiality and gripe or boast about work day in and day out. If Bro gave me a detailed explanation of what he did I wouldn’t get half of it, but if he says “I’m feeling great, today I did a couple of ‘impossible’ things :D” I’m glad to hear it and give him kudos on it. Same if he says “I’m going to kill my boss. You didn’t hear that, since your hearing it would make it premeditated.” “Hear what? I’ve got a horrible buzzing in my ears today…”

Nope. There’s aspects of my job that I can’t discuss, though nowhere near law enforcement or military type things.

I’d be a bit bothered if the employer couldn’t be told (even if that was “the government”) - because I assume that by the time we got to the point of referring to each other as “partner” as opposed to boyfriend/girlfriend they’d know that I don’t let things slip - if it’s confidential, it stays confidential - but I absolutely understand the need for secrets in workplaces.

My husband is a psychologist. For obvious reasons, he can’t tell me all about work. But he can make general statements that convey his happiness or frustration just fine - for example, ''I had a great day today, I actually got one of my kids to start talking."

The part of work he talks about the most is the research stuff, and honestly he’s at a level where most of that goes over my head. I find it difficult to concentrate when he’s talking about statistics, and I really wouldn’t mind if he talked about this less.

Nope, my husband won’t talk about work (out of pleasure principal) and it doesn’t bother me at all. Somewhere within the timeline of our relationship I had some nondisclosure-agreement stuff that I couldn’t tell him about; he doesn’t want to hear about my work anyway.

No. In fact I wish she’d shut the fuck up about it.

Thanks for the laugh.

Pretty much anyone who works in high tech can’t talk about their work. I can’t talk about some of our very proprietary technology, many aspects of discussions with clients or the future of our technical roadmap, that last part would be very interesting to even a layman.

Unlike the trope, it rarely comes up in conversation. Very occasionally, if asked a direct question, I’ll say that I can’t discuss that. Normally such things don’t come up. I never make a point of boasting about the secrets that I can’t tell and I certainly never make that idiotic overplayed “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you” joke.

We also have those days that go, ‘‘I had a terrible day at work. Let’s talk about anything else.’’

I work at a DoD research facility and have a secret clearance. I can’t talk about what I do with anyone.


I’ve worked in high-tech as a software developer for 20+ years, and have never had a job where I couldn’t talk about my work.

I can see SOME jobs as dealing with brand-new proprietary secret stuff, but by far most jobs are not like that at all. Even when I was working for a very big multinational corporation writing low-level software used by places like banks and other financial institutions, there was no issue with me discussing what I was working on.

Once upon a time, I had a highly classified job, about which I can Never Say Anything. I wasn’t married at the time, but, even if I had been, there would have been little I could have told my wife about the job. Nonetheless, there are many stories about work that I could have told, stories not unlike those told by holders of ordinary jobs to their spouses.

Hmm. I guess maybe that’s more true in my field which is manufacturing and development of new products or components of new products.

Hasn’t bothered us at all, when it’s happened.

It’s not that I can’t talk to her about my work, but rather that if I did she would have no idea what the hell I was talking about. I guess she’s gotten used to it by now, but it used to upset her when she’d ask me what I did at work that day and I’d start telling her. I could actually watch her eyes glaze over as I talked about the servers and routers and firewalls and WAN circuits (etc…). She had no idea what the hell I was talking about, so now she just doesn’t ask and she seems much happier.

Right. People don’t seem to get that I don’t give a shit about their stupid, boring jobs. Please note, everyone I’ve ever spoken to, that I have never once asked you about your work, how your day at work went, how you feel about your work, or anything work related. I’d be thrilled if my partner could/would not discuss his work.

Nope. My wife is bound by patient confidentiality statutes and the much weaker HIPAA privacy rule. I don’t ask but, even if I did, she wouldn’t tell. Conversely, I don’t talk to her about the details of my work, which has an intersecting relationship to hers. Believe me, the less I know about my wife’s work, the more comfortable I am.

As long as I had a general idea of what he did for a living, it would be totally ok if the details had to be kept secret.

My wife and I are government statisticians, and in that capacity, we’re in the same situation as a number of people in this thread: there are specifics we can’t talk about because of confidentiality concerns (we’re bound by law not to reveal information that would help people determine the identities of respondents to government surveys), but we can certainly talk about the nature of the work in general, and the ebb and flow of particular projects.