I just finished reading one of my now-favorite classic novels by my all time favorite author. The woman was struggling in her relationship with her new husband, and was extremely distraught. She could feel that something wasn’t right in their relationship– like there was something he wasn’t telling her, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. This intuitive feeling was so strong for her, she felt like she was going crazy, but she was too insecure and afraid to bring it up with him. She blamed herself for the feelings she had, thinking that she was imagining them, afraid to validate her own perception of things. She went from day to day unhappy, with this feeling absolutely haunting her, and their relationship becoming more and more distant. Then she did what anyone who feels like there is secrecy in their relationship does– she began looking for the truth. And just as it always seems to happen, she found what she had been looking for. It wasn’t until the secret came out that she felt relief to move on with her life. Secrets are like this… Invisible, yet haunting to a relationship. They are destructive, potentially foundation destroying, and can make a relationship feel like a living nightmare. They violate boundaries on every level imaginable. I see this time and time again in my work with people in marriage counseling, especially as it relates to infidelity. It’s sometimes very difficult for the secret keeper to understand that it’s not the act surrounding the secret, but the secret itself, that is so devastating. I can’t tell you how many times I have explained to someone having an emotional affair that it wasn’t about how intimate the relationship became (or whether or not they had sex), but the fact that such a big secret was kept, which created such mistrust and devastation… sometimes to the point of no return. People who are keeping secrets in their relationship are usually deluding themselves to think that those around them are unaware of the change. Luckily, secrets tend to come out in the woodwork, like like nature’s way of clearing the air and bringing the truth to light. Unfortunately, not all secrets are repairable, depending on the stage of the relationship and the motivation of both people to work on things. Good, healthy relationships don’t keep destructive secrets. If you think there is secrecy in your relationship, be brave! Confront the issue… The truth really will set you free! And if you are a secret-keeper, ask yourself what that is about for you… Why do you need to be keeping destructive secrets? No matter how difficult, the truth will be much kinder than the loneliness and aftermath of the emotional tornado awaiting you when it eventually comes out anyway.
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.