Shhh… don`t tell anyone what I`m about to tell you.
There’s no doubt that secrets are destructive – what matters is when and how you reveal them. If it is necessary to tell the secret resist the temptation to handle them at transition times such as weddings, funerals and new beginnings.
Secrets have an awesome if not a paradoxical power to unite people they also have a fierce way of dividing them. From mothers keeping quiet about their child’s paternity to couples having affairs, secrets permeate in every part of life.
Life is made up of secrets but the nature of secrets has recently changed in our society. Today’s families and marriages face special dilemmas about secrecy, privacy, silence, and openness. We live in a culture whose messages about secrecy are truly confounding. The questions we need to concern ourselves with are: When should I keep a secret? How do I tell a secret without hurting anyone? How do I know the time is right?
Secrets are kept or opened for many for different and complicated reasons – from blackmail to altruistic protection of others. Understanding the weight of the secret will give direction to the best ways and situations in which to reveal that secret and it’ll help you decide when and how to do so.
Although we encounter secrets in every area of life, secrets are most destructive when kept in the home. Families are our identity where we develop the ability to form close relationships with the outside world depending upon the trust and communication we feel with loved ones. If family members keep secrets from each other the emotional fallout can last a lifetime. Secrets in a family can divide family members permanently – they can discourage individuals from sharing information with anyone outside the family, inhibiting formation of intimate relationships, they can also freeze development at crucial points in life, preventing the growth of self and identity and they can even lead to painful miscommunication within a family causing unnecessary guilt and doubt.
The suspicion a person draws that something important is being kept from them can make them pursue the content of the secret in ways that violate privacy.- relationships corrode with suspicion. Some people respond to a secret with silence and distance, which affect areas of life that have nothing to do with the secret. Either way secret wedges a gap between those who know it and those who don’t.
Taking the risk of opening a long-held secret may seem like an act of betrayal with the anticipation of catastrophe of exclusion but breaking the rules of secrecy is necessary to attain freedom of mind, body and soul. Honesty is also crucial to making and sustaining authentic relationships. One of the best ways to ease your conscience into revealing a long-hidden secret is to tell an objective listener like a therapist, minister, priest, or rabbi. It can be an excellent avenue to dissolve shame, find acceptance & absolution and empathy and also seek new resources for support and strength but at the same time, sharing secrets only with professionals may negatively impact a marriage and other relationships. Paramount issues may be discussed in depth in therapy than with a spouse and that inhibits the growth of the marriage.
People just want a receptive environment in which to unpack a secret initially, room to explore the consequences of telling others, then the help to do it well, that’s how people end up on the couch or in a priest’s office praying the Hail Mary.
While there is no such thing as the perfect moment to open a secret, there are better occasions than a life-cycle ritual, such as a wedding or funeral because at that point relationships are already shifting, the excitement or bereavement of a major life change will prevent resolution of the secret. Either the importance of the secret will be lost in the event, or the secret will destroy the importance of the event. For people to have the strength to handle a life altering secret, it should be told during a normal time in everyday life, otherwise if the secret breaks out at the wrong place and time it could be an unguided missile.
Secrets are as much a part of our lives as birthdays are, it may seem impossible to extricate them from the daily routine but it can be done, even though some things are better left unsaid.
Everything in life has a good and bad side to it including secrets. Not all secrets are destructive, some are necessary to cultivate bonds between two people as long as no one gets hurt in the process. If your friend reveals to you that she was a sex worker in the past there’s no need for you to go around telling people, it stays between the two of you – that’s how trust develops and that’s how secrets.
“Secrets tend to get revealed when you’re feeling most loved and when you’re feeling most betrayed” – Unknown