Are Your Secrets Hurting Your Marriage?
What and how to confide, and when to hold your tongue.
Why We Keep Hidden Secrets: The Motives Include:
Fearing the consequences: If you tell, your spouse may leave you.
Protection: The secret could hurt your spouse, so you keep silent to protect your partner.
Independence: Gives you a sense of power to know something your spouse doesn’t know.
Avoidance: If you don’t talk about something problematic, you can avoid dealing with the unpleasantness around it.
Shame: The underlying emotion in most secret keeping, shame keeps us from revealing something to someone we love for fear of disgrace, embarrassment, and loss of respect.
Whatever the reason, keeping a secret is almost always a huge burden requiring vast quantities of energy to keep it hidden. Worse, yet, it can become a habit-a way of dealing with things that are uncomfortable. In any close relationship, it almost certainly will build a wall between you and your partner you love.
To Tell or Not to Tell:
Everyone’s entitled to privacy, so you may keep things to yourself if they include opinions, observations or one-time events from which you learned a lesson. You don’t need to spill the beans:
- If you cheated in college once, flunked the course as a result, and never repeated that mistake.
- If you think your partner’s last fling (before you-and never mentioned since) was cheap looking .
- If you fantasize about a one-nighter with a movie star.
- If a friend told you something in confidence and it would be a violation of trust to reveal it.
The secret affects your spouse’s ability to make important decisions. Example: your partner’s planning a vacation with money you’ve already secretly spent.
The secret affects your spouse’s health or well-being. Ex: You’ve had an affair and may have an STD. Or you’ve secretly quit your job and now both of you are without health insurance-only your partner doesn’t know it.
The secret affects your health.
You experience a recurring rapid heartbeat, your blood pressure goes up, you have frequent stomach problems or headaches.
Timing is everything:
If you’ve held a secret for years, don’t suddenly ambush your spouse.
Neither of you is stressed or upset about something else when you approach your partner.
Both of you are sober:
Just as drinking and driving is a deadly combo, so too can be drinking and secret telling.
You have time to discuss. Don’t start the dialog before bed or when you are getting ready to go to work.
Start the Dialogue:
Telling a long-hidden secret requires good communication skills. If your goal is for the relationship and not just an unburdening of your own guilt, you’re already headed in the right direction. So how do you convey that to your partner?Wanna know a bunch of my secrets? I tell them all in my memoir, Saving My Life: A Least Likely to Succeed Success Story.