Is It Okay To Keep Secrets From Your Spouse: Keeping Secrets From Your Spouse

After the story broke that New York governor Eliot Spitzer was having sex with prostitutes, relationship experts popped up on every news channel, dispensing theories about Mr. Spitzer's behavior. Opinions about why a married man (and one with a great deal to lose) would behave this way ranged from him having unmet needs to sociopathic tendencies. One expert even suggested that "men are ruled by their genitals." In all the analyses of this scandal, though, what no one brought up was the role of secrets.

The truth is we're never going to know why the ex-governor did what he did. But the reality is that Mr. and Mrs. Spitzer are not alone in having to deal with the devastating effects of an extra-marital affair. It is estimated that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will be unfaithful at some point in their marriage.

In my therapy practice I've worked with both men and women who were unfaithful, and many who were on the verge of starting an affair. There are many reasons why someone makes the decision to cheat on their spouse or partner--one often overlooked dynamic has to do with the power and lure of living in a secretive world.

The Power of Secrets

Some people are drawn to the idea of keeping secrets. Whether the secret involves an extra-marital affair, gambling, shopping, or alcohol/drugs, keeping a secret seems to hold a special meaning for the secret-holder, beyond the content of what is kept hidden. For obvious reasons, secrets spell big trouble for your marriage or relationship.

True intimacy cannot exist when you build walls of secrecy around each other.

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Let's look at five reasons you might keep secrets from your partner (or vice versa):

1. The Secret as an escape

Here the secret acts as an escape hatch from a mundane or distressing reality that you feel little control over. People who feel trapped in painful marriages are vulnerable to creating a secret life that promises relief from the heartache of a deteriorating relationship. For some, the secret might involve emotional infidelity; others might have a physical affair. The secretive relationship can exist for many years alongside one's marriage or the affair can act as catalyst to leaving an unwanted relationship.

2. The Secret as a source of energy

The function of this type of secret is similar to escapism but the emphasis is on the charged energy you feel when you enter into the secretive world. The secret is seen as offering a much-needed adrenaline boost to a lackluster life. One client who had a gambling addiction (that was kept hidden from his family) described how his secretive life made him feel "alive" in ways that eluded him in his day-to- day life. People who remain overly repressed and constrained in their relationships (and in general) are prone to this type of secret.

3. The Secret as affirmation of your disowned self

Typically, people behave differently in their secretive world: The individual who feels stepped-on in his life seeks omnipotence; the high powered executive who bullied his/her way to the top becomes helplessly submissive; the dutiful, and highly ethical husband is transformed into the bad, punishable child. When deep- seated fears of rejection and shame block you from bringing all of yourself into your marriage or relationship, secrets become a powerful way to express these disowned (polar-opposite) parts of yourself.

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4. The Secret as an avoidance of intimacy

For many, emotional intimacy is the life energy that makes them feel alive and whole; but for others, a deep connection to another becomes a strait jacket to be avoided--fear of intimacy is a reality for many couples. When you struggle with fears of intimacy, you struggle to maintain your autonomy, while also attempting to give of yourself emotionally. This is a balancing act that does not come easy. When intimacy is being avoided, the creation of a secretive life acts as a possession, a line drawn in the sand that delineates you from your partner or spouse.

5. The Secret as a means of control/power

In a sense, all secrets give you a greater sense of control. At lease initially. This usually changes at some point, as your secretive life spirals out of control--which is often the case when you try to hold onto secrets while being in an intimate relationship. But for some, their secrets are designed to act as a means of power over their spouse--a way of controlling something, anything, that their partner cannot have access to. The importance of this secret is that you gain a sense of control over your partner by maintaining a secretive existence.

The need to keep secrets originates out of an early need to protect yourself. When a relationship (or some aspect of a relationship) becomes intolerable to a child, s/he begins to retreat, hiding within the protective world of secrets. A child who has been emotionally injured learns to count on the reliability and safety of secrets.

The challenge for all of us is to create a relationship that feels safe, a union that allows a deep and rich sharing of ourselves. When our hard work and commitment pays off in the form of a mutual haven of intimacy and respect, the heavy curtain of secrecy will lift, allowing a true connection to flourish.

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Freedom of choice

Be glad we don't live in a culture where marriages are arranged or we are restricted to 'equally-yoked' partners like in a religious cult. The best advice is to discard any lingering baggage from childhood and get to know yourself really well before you settle down into such a binding relationship as marriage.

There is nothing worse than blindly sacrificing yourself to an institution that you don't even know you believe in simply because you don't know yourself at all.

Death by love vows

Have you ever noticed that the deadliest words ever written by man are in the archaic wedding vows, 'Until death do us part'? For many eons this concept has been taken literally instead of symbolically in that the death referred to should be of the marriage relationship.

Think about it. You 'fall in love' at eighteen years old and are bound to these words until one of you dies? That is indeed a prison where there is zero room for personal and spiritual growth, which is why the fundamentalists in the church wrote them: to control the people. True, it has happened for some couples to grow in these ways together under these extreme conditions, but it is a rarity.

Back to what's important

The most important person in this world is you and getting to know that person should be the first step in anyone's life, and it takes about thirty-five years. Each step you take after that becomes a deliberate choice where even the thorns recede on the path at the very sound of your footsteps. That's very poetic!

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Let's look at some logic in what is not and what is in regards to marriage when you're getting serious about taking the biggest step of your life.


- is not a purpose in life
- life itself is purpose that may or may not include marriage(s).

- is not the ultimate goal in life
- being the ultimate you is and marriage can be a part of that journey.

- is not a hindrance to your life plan
- it complements the plans you already have by sharing fulfillment in life.

- is not restricted to occurrence or time
- it can happen once, often, or never in a lifetime and may last hours, days, months, years, or decades. You may be gun-shy after the first one and dance around the notion at arm's length for years.

- is not to satisfy familial and societal needs for the status quo;
- it is a confirmation to the rest of the world that you are making a commitment to stay with another person through thick and thin for as long as your capacity to love will sustain you.

- is not a ball and chain where no one has the key
- it is opportunity to choose to love another person in a new way every day.

- is not access to a bottomless bank account
- it requires financial independence of both parties from the start. Even if unforeseen circumstances change for one party later, the relationship began with actualized self-worth from both and has the capacity to return to that state.

Two guidelines

1. Relationships are for sharing loves with another, not expectations.

2. The person of your dreams may stay in your dreams for a long time until you are ready to meet them in the real world.

This the line you do not want to cross.


Planned post-nuptial change

Conforming, controlling, and otherwise manipulating someone into what you want or planning to change yourself or your partner after marriage is never a part of love, but a sign of your own insecurity. You will never be happy in the relationship and will reap the backlash of resentment and hostility, because it seems nothing is ever right for you. The truth is that you don't want to see your own shortcomings, so you remain entranced in unrealistic future thought based on fickle far out fairy tales. Also, you will never have a real love, only a picturesque prop, until one of you tires or expires and you get another.

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Infidelity unacceptable

Lying to yourself when a marriage is not working will cause torment in deluding yourself that it is, because deep down you hold the truth and it will eat at your nervous system and show itself through addiction or disease.

Mid-life crises are great excuses for lazy people who have no mind of their own and we all go through many hormonal and emotional extremes in our lives without resorting to such radical expression. Much too often the grossly accepted mindset of an affair sets in and takes the entire family for a hellish roller coaster ride through tunnels of emotional turmoil. It is a sign that they have been ignoring the loves in their life for far too long.

Infidelity is a heartless and cruel act that begins with just a thought. A relationship is not the place to play with the dangerous love bug or another person's affections. Resolve to remove yourself from the relationship or give your partner the opportunity to make that choice for his or her self.

It is yet another sign of immaturity and insecurity that we must test a love that we are unsure of or cannot even attain in ourselves. At least own up to your negligence and don't be surprised by any of the natural or logical consequences that may result from your actions and lack of respect. Cheating on your 'loved one' truly is unacceptable behavior in a relationship and is a sign you need to get help or get out.

Domestic Abuse

Abuse and violence is an IN YOUR FACE signal to get out of the relationship the very first time it happens. It is a form of murder of the spirit and precedes murder of the body. You will not find those words in any definition of love through any of the ages, only from the lips of the psychopath. You can pervert your perception of the word all you like, but love will never cross that line.

If you find yourself accepting abusive behavior through fear or conditioning, remember that more people die in a marriage than a divorce. At the same time you could cause your own child's death down the road just by showing them how to accept abuse. You will find that sorry doesn't mean to the abuser what it should and you will be more than sorry when your survival instinct takes control where your brains should have. You may also be saving yourself or the abuser from the consequence of a murder trial, so think your way out.

Something to remember

A marriage license does not contain the word 'kill'. If you must read the traditional vows, ensure that you both understand the words "Until death do us part" to mean the death of the marriage, not of you or your partner.

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The relationship between the sexes has always been a make or mar venture in all generations of mankind. This particular relationship has been known to build people up or tear them down. It has built cities, it has destroyed nations. It has been the cause or has led to several wars in the course of the history of man. It is has brought joys and blessings and has also been responsible for the ruin of men and women, trauma, heartache, pain, anguish. Yet, it is the relationship between men and women that produces the best of all meaning to life and the blessings thereof.

There are processes and proven strategies for conducting the relationship between men and women to ensure that it fills the end of its creation. It starts with the foundation for joyful relationships. The foundational elements of joyful relationships include knowledge and skill in the practice of the following qualities:

• Mutual respect
• Trust
Faith in God
• Clarity of Purpose
• Virtue
• Integrity
• Honor
• Love
• Communication
• Understanding
• Independence

As you start the dating processes with these foundational elements, the relationship would make progress towards courtship. During the dating processes, people are expected to make efforts to meet several prospective partners for study and possibility of building an emotional connection. As soon as the possibility of emotional connection is considered, then it would be a wise time to move your relationship to courtship level. At this point, the relationship is narrowed to two people who could now get into more details of knowing one another with marriage consideration.

How do you know if your courtship partner is the right one for you? How can one know if the person you are seeing is the one person to be your spouse? The following six test questions which in turn are a pairing of the above elements into 6 groups would help all those genuinely seeking for a life partners to do so with a reasonable assurance of love between them.

These are:

Friendship and trust - Do you trust your boyfriend or girlfriend completely? Do you admire your partner for who he or she is without desiring to change him or her? Do you enjoy different activities together or do your time together typical gyrate around physical intimacy? Are you free of jealousy or endeavor to control each other's life?

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• Communication - Is your relationship peaceful and devoid of frequent wrangling? When there is disagreement, are you able to work through the issues involved without being abusive of one another. Can you discuss about anything with your partner? Your ability to listen to each other with enough patient to understand each other's point of view is a good way to know if you are communicating effectively.

Family and friends - Have kept the relationship open to your parents and siblings so that they know about what is going on between you two and are his or her family and siblings also aware of your relationship. Have you established your family's opinion of your partner and do you know if they feel he or she is good for you? Are you open and honest about your relationship without needing to hide certain aspects of from your parents?

• The future - Are you comfortable with the thought of marrying this person without expecting him or her to change into the person you can tolerate? Are you taking your time about marrying this person or are you rushing to get married at a particular time for one reason or the other? Would your date make a great parent? Would you like your children to turn out just like him or her?

• Morality - Has your dating period been morally clean? Is your relationship free of any sexual pressure, coercion and manipulation either from you or your partner? Do any of you take any drugs, alcohol or view pornography? Regardless of whether you are a virgin or not, are both of you saving sex for marriage? Outside mere abstinence from sexual intercourse, can you honestly say your relationship is pure?

• Spirituality - Do you and your partner practice the same faith and go to meetings together? Has the relationship with this partner helped you to be closer to God? Do you remember each other in your prayers?

Answering these questions honestly will help you know whether your relationship is growing towards love or lust.

Couples can love one another and yet find themselves drifting apart and headed for a divorce. There are steps you can take, with or without the aid of your spouse to get your marriage back into the loving place it once was.

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Author's Bio: 

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