Doing Life Together

crying womanI was in the grocery store yesterday and the tabloids were headlining the secret love child of yet another celebrity couple. While we tend to expect this from celebrity relationships, secrets are a problem for any couple. The question asked is if it is a good idea to reveal those secrets to your partner.

Let’s think about how it feels to find out after the fact. Do you really want to be surprised with a secret 10 years into a marriage, especially one that may have impacted your decision to marry in the first place? And the person living with a secret carries a burden that may interfere with intimacy as well.

Secrets tend to fall into 3 categories: 1) Things that are taboo–affairs, drug use, contracting an STI, etc. 2) A rule violation like partying, drinking too much at the office party, etc. or 3) More conventional problems like failing a test, hiding a health problem, etc.

We keep secrets from our loved ones for all kinds of reasons. We may be afraid of  disapproval; we may want to protect that person, or we may worry about his or her reactions. But self-disclosure actually helps relationships and builds intimacy. Living with secrets is like living in a house with a cracked foundation, it never quite repairs and creates problems. While you don’t have to reveal every thought in your head to your partner, keeping secrets about important issues is not recommended.

Revealing secrets can hurt the other person, but it is the only way true repair can begin. You’ve already hurt the person by engaging in the behavior or keeping something important from him or her. Healthy relationship require honesty.

In relationships where trust is absent, self-disclosure can open the door to betrayal, gossip and violations of your privacy. Think, Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky! So don’t reveal your secrets to people you can’t trust. In fact, better to keep those secrets between you and your spouse. If you need help getting through the process, go to a therapist.

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