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Family Matters

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Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

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Should You Reveal Your Secrets to Your Spouse?

 

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

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? Besides, the person living with a secret carries a burden that may interfere with intimacy.

Secrets tend to fall into three categories:

1) Indiscretions (i.e., affairs, drug use, contracting an STI, etc.)
2) Rule violations (i.e., partying, drinking too much at the office party, etc.)
3) Conventional problems (i.e., 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 reaction.

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 relationships require honesty. Scripture tells us to bring things that are in the dark into the light. That is how healing begins.

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. Don’t reveal your secrets to people you cannot trust. In fact, better to keep those secrets between you and your spouse.

If you need help getting through the process, find a therapist. In the end, your relationship will be better without the secrets.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, September 13, 2013 2:03 PM

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