Will Secrets Destroy Your Marriage?

Wedding Ring

He would propose any day. I was sure of it. From our first interactions on eHarmony, we both knew we wanted marriage. The only question was if we wanted to marry each other. The more time I spent with him, the more I was sure he was the man I’d been waiting for.

It wasn’t surprising when he asked for a private word one evening. As we sequestered ourselves in Grandma’s parlor, his nervousness was palatable.

But I wasn’t prepared for what he wanted to say.

“There are some things I think you should know before this goes any further.” As a man of integrity, he wanted me to know everything from his past. He bared his heart and I had a choice. Would I accept or reject him based on this information.

Could I forgive his past and trust him with our future?

An Example From Fiction

Jody Hedlund‘s newest book, Love Unexpected explores this idea in a poignant way.

Love Unexpected by Jody HedlundEmma seemed like a sweet girl, and he’d thanked the Lord more than once during his prayer time last night that He’d sent her to his rescue. But as before, he couldn’t keep from wondering exactly what Holy Bill had told her. Probably not enough, otherwise she wouldn’t have been quite so accepting.

Of course, Patrick had confessed everything to the Lighthouse Board and Delia’s father when he’d been hired as an assistant keeper down at Fort Gratiot. He’d been honest with them from the start.

Still they’d all agreed – including Holy Bill – that wiping the slate clean was the best way for him to move forward. They’d cautioned him against sharing too much with anyone for fear of starting rumors and bringing about reprisals.

He’d only told Delia about his crimes and in the most general of terms. She’d eventually consented to marrying him, even though she’d been hesitant. As it turned out, even the little she’d known about him had been too much. Not many weeks after they were married, he stopped visiting her bed because he’d hated the way she stiffened whenever he lay next to her, as if his merest touch repulsed her.

He didn’t blame Delia in the least. He hadn’t deserved her anyway. And he certainly didn’t deserve Emma now.

Guilt prodded him to share more with Emma. At the same time, he didn’t want to push her away. He’d already alienated one wife. Did he have to with this one as well? Couldn’t they live in accord without him having to open up the stinking refuse of his past?

Patrick’s heart is conflicted. On one side he longs to have everything out in the open, but on the other hand, he’s already lost one wife and he can’t stand the thought of losing Emma as well.

Secret Sins and Second Chances

We all have secrets, things we’d like to keep hidden from the the prying public eye. But should we keep those same things hidden from our spouse?

  • Desirable or Destructive?

Most secrets we carry are related to incidents from the past we are not proud of or comfortable with. They could be either things that we have done or others that have happened to us. We keep these secrets to protect ourselves and those we care about. By remaining silent, we attempt to keep the past where it belong, firmly behind us. But the past has a way of showing up at the most inopportune moments.

On the surface secrets seem desirable. They allow us to control our lives, but when we look deeper it is often fear that controls why we keep secrets. We are afraid of what will happen if we others find out the truth. We fear the hurt and shame revealing the secrets will cause, but what we don’t realize is often those same secrets are a barrier to real intimacy within marriage. By keeping things from our spouses, we don’t allow them access to the deepest parts of us. We shield them from dark corners all because of fear. But the Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

  • Repentance and Redemption

What if you’re living with a secret? I recognize that telling your spouse won’t be easy. A spouse has the greatest ability to hurt us when we make ourselves vulnerable, and nothing make us more vulnerable than laying our hearts bare before another person. But how can we expect our spouse to fight for us if we never let them into our corner? When the past catches up, and it always seems to, we want them on our side. Trust and intimacy can deepen when we are open and honest. Difficult conversation like this, though painful at the time, can create an avenue for reciprocal sharing and forgiveness if both sides respond in humility.

What if your spouse shares a secret? It is easy to feel angry and betrayed when someone you love has kept things from you. Those feelings are natural. But staying angry doesn’t help either one of you. Knowing the truth is a gift. It helps us understand our mates and help them through the ramifications of the secret they’ve been carrying. Sometimes the nature of the secret calls for forgiveness, other times it is a chance to support them in overcoming their past. It helps when we put ourselves in our spouses shoes and treat them as we would want to be treated.

Secrets affect us all, but how we respond to those secrets can set us apart.

Not many days after the conversation in the parlor, he did ask me to marry him. I agreed easily.

Though the secrets he confided were relatively small, I love him more for his honor and humility in sharing his shame. His honesty has laid a wonderful foundation for truth in our marriage.

Question for you: Do you have any tips for approaching difficult conversations with your spouse?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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