Marriage At Risk: Keeping Secrets

People often ask me if they should be worried about one issue or another in their marriage. They tell me about a certain problem that is becoming difficult. Then they ask whether this problem could be a serious threat to their relationship?

In my work with families I have noticed some patterns among husbands and wives whose marriages are at risk. If we are committed to stay married for life, then it’s important to be realistic about the challenges of a long term relationship.

I knew a woman who, just before she and her husband divorced, began setting aside money at her neighbor’s place. Afraid that her husband was on the brink of leaving her, she’d drop by the house next door every now and then to drop off some cash for safe keeping.

The fact that this woman’s marriage ended had little to do with her neighborhood stash, but the stash itself should have served as a warning that danger was lurking. This wife was caught up in Risky Behavior #1: keeping secrets.

The beauty of a marriage is that it’s a unified pair—two become one, as the saying goes. When we hide things from each other, we drive a wedge into this pair, causing separation to occur.

I’m not talking about hidden birthday presents here, but most other secrets that aren’t safe for marriage. Even secrets that “protect” a spouse are divisive, because they emphasize the two over the one. They keep a husband and wife out of each other’s worlds and cause separation.

Secretive marriages often happen unintentionally. For some reason, a couple lacks an honest, supportive community around them. Secrets are a sign that you’re drifting as a couple. It’s keeping you from your spouse or limiting your potential to improve your relationship. Either way, it’s not worth the risk.