Are We as Sick as Our Secrets?
A good friend is going through a lot of pain over some secrets she has discovered about her SO (significant other). He believes it is ok to have secrets, she and their therapist do not. She put the question out to trusted friends and got some very good feedback:
...little white lies are different than 'secrets' in my book. Omissions or half truths that may impact the way someone you love makes an important decision...those are the little pieces of information that should be shared regardless. The person will appreciate you and trust me...I think I speak for most when I say I would rather have the hurtful truth than the kind lie, and I have heard many hurtful truths that shocked me and i needed a minute but the kind lies have left scars behind...
...I happen to think that they are healthy and fine...in a relationship that's healthy and fine. If you're older than 5 then you should know when a secret (or withholding or lying) is going to hurt someone you love. Then you make the choice to do it or not. From my (unfortunate) personal experience, if you have to set rules about stuff like that then you've probably chosen someone who doesn't deserve you...
First of all, there are secrets and then their are secrets! A secret about self or other harming activity is probably a secret that is unhealthy. Addictions, unlawful activity, affairs, and abuse fall into this category. If these types of secrets are kept, harm comes to the person who keeps the secret as well as the SO of that secret keeper.
Then, it depends of the philosophy of each partner. If both partners feel fine about secrets then, that is fine for that couple. If both partners prefer to be open books to each other…then fine for THAT couple. It is when the couple is not in synchrony when trouble arises. When you have a difference of opinion on this important issue, you may have a relationship that is doomed to fail or full of pain and suffering.
In the twelve steps, there is a suggestion that we come clean, except when to do so would injure them or others. This means you don't go to your ex partner and say, "I had an affair while we were together" if this is not something that the partner had no curiousness about. If the other partner is obsessed with the possibility, at times it brings relief to know the truth.
The main point I would like to make is that secrets tend to eat the secret keeper alive. Confession is good for the soul so once you can find someone who will not be harmed by the info and who is trustworthy, a good confession can be very freeing as long as the confessed offense is no longer being perpetrated. I have worked with couples, and one member of the couple tells me that he or she is having an affair. I tell the client that either I cannot work with them as a couple anymore, unless he ends the affair, or he needs to come clean in the couples session so that the issue can be processed. In this case it would have been better for the offending client to confess to someone other than their couples therapist, if he does not want his SO to know.
It is pretty easy to see that this is very tricky business. The important variables are 1) the gravity of the offense, 2) the agreement that the couple has about secrets, and 3) the effect that the secret is having on the secret keeper. As usual, I have no hard and fast rules on this subject, but personally, since our conduct is pretty ethical, I am an open book to my partner….and he is to me….it is just so much easier.