Thursday, November 8, 2012

Marital Secrets - Dr. Tim Clinton

“Please don’t tell Daddy!”

When I picked Megan up from school, I knew something was wrong. As we made our way to the car, she looked up at me with sad eyes, “Mom, I’ve got something to tell you,” she said. “I got a warning card today. But let’s keep it a secret and not tell Dad. He’ll be so disappointed.”

I gently explained to Megan that Daddy and Mommy feel it is important not to keep secrets from each other and it would be best to let Dad know about the warning. After discussing it, she reluctantly agreed. Later that night, she learned how difficult but freeing it can be to face someone you love with a disappointing or painful revelation.

Webster defines a secret as something kept hidden, unexplained, or from the knowledge of others. Synonyms for secrets paint a dark portrait… covert, stealthy, underhanded. The obvious conclusion is that secret-keeping is unhealthy and destroys trust—particularly in marriages.

The Down Side

A healthy marriage has little or no room for secrets. Unfortunately, some couples regularly keep marital secrets. Like Megan, they would rather concentrate on the motivating factors that keep secrets from being revealed.

A secret can be as seemingly insignificant as hiding the extra money spent on your golf clubs or as important as “covering” for a dishonest child. Other forms of secret-keeping include privately carrying the weight of drug abuse, hiding an addiction, or allowing undiscussed issues such as abuse to adversely affect the marriage.

Secrets are usually maintained for two key reasons—fear and shame. Fear includes the sense that something bad could happen as a result of disclosure of a secret. Shame included the ongoing embarrassment and unresolved guilt that result from a secret. However, failure to disclose results in a double bind—a lose-lose type of proposition. If I do disclose, it may bring irreparable harm to my marriage. But if I don’t disclose or continue with my secret, I will never resolve the guilt and shame that I am carrying—and surely this will erode the marriage over time. The end result leaves the secret-keeper confused, fearful, and walking on a tightrope.

Tell Everything?

Couples often ask, “Is it necessary to go back and drag out all of our dirty laundry and discuss in every detail our past?” Several guidelines we have found helpful include:

First, remember that honesty must always take first place in your marriage. Although Scripture doesn’t speak directly about secret-keeping in marriage, it speaks plainly and often regarding secrets, honesty, and dishonesty in every relationship (Psalm 19:12; 90:8; Proverbs 27:5; Romans 2:16; Ephesians 4:25).

We believe that honesty is central to personal and marital maturity. And when you allow or commit to an unwavering trust, the marital response to personal issues of the past and present need to be cloaked with grace, kindness, and love and are not driven by fear, chaos, and suspicion.

Secondly, keep in mind that not every secret (of past or present) is fully known or accurately remembered. Therefore, recalling and disclosing honestly a secret in every detail is unlikely.

You do not have to know all for love to grow and trust to flourish in your marriage. You must also ask yourself another important question. “Is the information you are withholding harmful to the marital bond?” If the secret has the potential to cause damage, or if it is in any way jeopardizing the level of intimacy desired and required for your love to grow, then it needs to be disclosed.

Finally, do not get hung up on the past. If the secret is in the past—has been forgiven andresolved—and is not relevant to or helpful in the present, it is not necessarily important to disclose it. Often times, the desire to attain information about a spouse’s forgiven past is for selfish reasons and only causes more pain than good.

If you have a troubling secret to disclose, what should you do? We would encourage you to seek outside help. Bring in a third party who can provide guidance on how and when to disclose with the ultimate goal of keeping the marital bond strong. Pray individually and as a couple for God’s protection on your relationship.

Just for Thought

There are no secrets with God. Keep your marital bond pure. Because the sins we cover, God will uncover. And the sins that we uncover, God will cover.

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