When we discuss our feelings or experiences with another person, we are communicating more than just the information contained in those words. We are also saying: "I found this interesting and want to share it with you" or "this is important to me, and I hope you will understand why I feel this way."
Romance novels are often based on the premise of a Big Misunderstanding or a Dark Secret. As readers, we sometimes become frustrated by characters who could clear everything up if they just had an honest conversation. There are Reasons why they don't however, and it isn't only because there would be no story if they did.
We all wear social masks to some extent or other as we go through life. You may pretend that you really enjoy your Aunt Betty's pumpkin bars (even if they taste like she used last year's Halloween pumpkins). You probably avoid letting your BFF know that you really find her boyfriend annoying. In a new relationship, it is normal to show your best qualities and hide the more irritating ones.
No one is perfect, and we often carry around some heavy emotional baggage. Letting a loved one see one's vulnerabilities requires a great deal of trust. That's why, in a romance novel, the conversation wherein the hero or heroine reveals the Dark Secret often seems more intimate than their first sex scene (which may come either earlier or later, depending on the particular book). The stakes are high -- will the revelation result in rejection by the significant other? Will he or she respond with true acceptance, or merely tolerance and/or forgiveness? Will they even understand each other's reactions?
How many of us take the time to really listen to our own significant other? Do we listen shallowly to the words and respond with conversational small talk ("That's nice, Honey" or "I'm sorry you had such a rough day")? Or do we listen deeply to the words and also to the coded message they carry?