3 Ways Secrets Destroy Relationships
Secrets. We’ve all had them to varying degrees.
Something happens, and we feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, or afraid of what would happened if we told the truth.
Secrets show up in many different ways and in every area of life. That extra money you spent. The mistake you made and tried to hide. The food you snuck. The person you found attractive. Your sexual fantasies. Your fears about the relationship. The amount of alcohol you drank. The deadline you missed. What you said to your kids when nobody else was around.
We get scared. We avoid confrontation and other people’s judgments or disapproval. We wonder if it’s the most loving thing just to hold it inside. We justify our dishonesty. We even start lying to ourselves.
We get confused about what to share and what to hold inside.
Secrets come up a lot in our office, and we see the damage they do. That’s why we’re inspired to write this month’s blog — because it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking it’s no big deal.
But it can be a really big deal. And we want to help prevent you from piling any more secrets on top of the love you share.
We are not suggesting you must share absolutely everything with each other when it comes to what you think about, feel, and do — in order to have a thriving relationship.
In fact, there are some secrets that are fun (like surprise parties) or important for other areas of your life (like confidentiality at work or a secret you are holding for a friend).
But secrets are a very slippery slope and especially when they involve contact with someone to whom you feel attracted.
Secrets are lies of omission, and research shows that the first lie is the hardest. After that, it can get deceptively easy once the pattern has begun.
So let’s have an honest check-in to explore whether or not your secrets are healthy and in integrity and the 3 ways your secrets may be destroying your relationship…
(1) Secrets create a barrier to connection.
Simply put, any place where you are withholding your thoughts or feelings, connection simply cannot exist.
Just think of a secret you’ve had at some point in your life. Did it make you want to fully open your heart to the person from whom you were keeping it? Was it easy to let love freely flow in and out?
No. It makes you constrict, put up walls, and want to pull away. Secrets lead to hiding, holding back, and defensiveness.
We disconnect to prevent our secret from being discovered.
Plus, over time, secrets wear away at our own mental and physical health and diminish our ability to be close and connected.
Here’s the thing. It’s okay to have some privacy in your life, but if you would be upset if your beloved found out whatever you are keeping from them, it’s a sure sign it has created a barrier to connection.
Secrets and closeness simply cannot coexist.
(2) Secrets wear away at trust.
Even if your beloved hasn’t explicitly discovered your secret, chances are, they can feel something is “off.” Consciously or not, this makes them weary, less secure, and more mistrustful.
We humans are incredibly intuitive. We pick up on mass amounts of information every moment that our brains cannot possibly process. And yet, on some level, we gain this gut feeling or strange sense that we can’t fully trust our beloved.
And, of course, when your partner discovers that you have been keeping something from them, it can take a really long time to heal, repair, and rebuild the trust that was lost.
(3) Gaslighting often happens, and it’s psychologically abusive.
We know that is a strong statement, but it’s because we feel passionate about the damage done by gaslighting.
If you aren’t familiar with this term, gaslighting happens when the secret-keeper manipulates the situation to make the other person question their perspective, reality, and sanity.
People who gaslight deny things they said or did and make you the crazy or controlling one for thinking it happened.
They turn the finger away from themselves and onto you. They make you wrong for thinking whatever you do.
We’ve seen gaslighting time and time again in our office, especially when an affair or addiction has occurred. Until the secret has been explicitly discovered, the other person’s thoughts and feelings are dismissed, judged, or ridiculed.
This can be deeply lonely, invalidating, painful, utterly crazy-making, devastating, and wrought with despair for the person who is being gaslighted.
Gaslighting is manipulative, selfish, and very unfair to the other person. Again, we know this is a strong statement. We just know how easily people can start lying to themselves about their own dishonest patterns, so we want to hold up a really clear (and compassionate!) mirror if this is a pattern you have.
If, after reading the above, you realize you do have some secrets that are negatively impacting your relationship, we lovingly invite you to…
Clean things up in your life. Clearly, there is some place you are living out of alignment and integrity with your values and who you want to be. Make whatever changes are necessary that allow you to feel proud of the person you are.
Practice self-love and acceptance. Some secrets are a result of our own shame, and we hold things in because we fear that, “if they knew X about me, they wouldn’t love me as much.” Usually, this is a result of us not loving ourselves and accepting our own perceived imperfections.
Be humble, and take radical responsibility. It’s easy to get defensive and blame your beloved for the secret you have (i.e. “I did this, but YOU did…” or “well, if they would just X, I wouldn’t have to X”). Take radical responsibility for whatever you did. Your beloved will hear you a bazillion times more easily if you own your role in it, apologize sincerely (see our guide on super-powered and effective apologies HERE), and humbly share your most vulnerable feelings (like sadness, guilt, fear, embarrassment, and so on).
And this one is KEY for BOTH of you >> Create a safe space to have these delicate conversations. Sometimes, one partner keep secrets because they don’t know how to effectively communicate about whatever it is or because they are afraid of their beloved’s response. In fact, we can unintentionally “train” our partner not to share things with us if we react to their mistakes with “I-told-you-so’s,” criticism, blame, and punishment. It’s a delicate thing and something to be highly aware of on both sides. Be sure to check out this guide HERE to help.
Get some outside help. We have couples reach out to us all the time who have something they want to reveal to their beloved in a safe space or whose world has just been turned upside-down from a secret being discovered. They want to heal from the past, address the root cause, and reach forgiveness.
As with all challenges, we approach these positively and compassionately and as extraordinary opportunities for transformation and growth. When done consciously and with expert guidance and support, trust can be regained, and an amazing and refreshing newfound level of closeness can be developed.
Secrets can be very tricky to navigate, and we simply want to assure you that you aren’t alone. We would be honored to help, and you will never be blamed, shamed, or judged. This human experience can get messy at times, but it’s never too late to get you back on track with being the kind of person you, deep down, know you want to be.
And if you read this and realized you don’t have any secrets that are causing harm — congratulations! May this solidify your commitment to keeping it that way. Living a life without secrets is a sure pathway to true freedom. We deeply honor you!
Next time you are tempted to do something secretive, remember this: the pleasure you hope to gain comes with an enormous cost that can last for years. There is nothing that compares to the depth of love, intimacy, and joy that can be shared in a transparent, trusting, and emotionally intimate union. And you deserve it!
Sending all our love and wholehearted support!
Infinite Love and Joy,