Marital Secrets

Secret-keeping is unhealthy and destroys trust—particularly in marriages.

Fighting couple

Article courtesy of Light University Online, the #1 Online School for Biblical Counseling, Life Coaching & Crisis Response Training

“Please don’t tell Daddy!”

When I picked Megan up from school, I knew something was wrong. As we made our way to the car, she looked up at me with sad eyes, “Mom, I’ve got something to tell you,” she said. “I got a warning card today. But let’s keep it a secret and not tell Dad. He’ll be so disappointed.”

I gently explained to Megan that Daddy and Mommy feel it is important not to keep secrets from each other and it would be best to let Dad know about the warning. After discussing it, she reluctantly agreed. Later that night, she learned how difficult but freeing it can be to face someone you love with a disappointing or painful revelation.

Webster defines a secret as something kept hidden, unexplained, or from the knowledge of others. Synonyms for secrets paint a dark portrait… covert, stealthy, underhanded. The obvious conclusion is that secret-keeping is unhealthy and destroys trust—particularly in marriages.

The Down Side

A healthy marriage has little or no room for secrets. Unfortunately, some couples regularly keep marital secrets. Like Megan, they would rather concentrate on the motivating factors that keep secrets from being revealed.


A secret can be as seemingly insignificant as hiding the extra money spent on your golf clubs or as important as “covering” for a dishonest child. Other forms of secret-keeping include privately carrying the weight of drug abuse, hiding an addiction, or allowing undiscussed issues such as abuse to adversely affect the marriage.

Secrets are usually maintained for two key reasons—fear and shame. Fear includes the sense that something bad could happen as a result of disclosure of a secret. Shame included the ongoing embarrassment and unresolved guilt that result from a secret. However, failure to disclose results in a double bind—a lose-lose type of proposition. If I do disclose, it may bring irreparable harm to my marriage. But if I don’t disclose or continue with my secret, I will never resolve the guilt and shame that I am carrying—and surely this will erode the marriage over time. The end result leaves the secret-keeper confused, fearful, and walking on a tightrope.

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Dr. Tim Clinton, President of Light University Online
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