NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Are Toxic Secrets Ruining Your Relationship?

The ability to maintain privacy and healthy boundaries is a part of normal development.  As part of normal development, you don't divulge very personal details about yourself indiscriminately to people you're not close to in your life.  But when you keep secrets, especially toxic secrets, from your spouse, you can ruin your relationship.

Are Toxic Secrets Ruining Your Relationship?

What Is a Toxic Secret?
The following list are examples of toxic secrets:
  • You're having an extramarital affair
  • You're drinking excessively or using drugs when the rest of the household is asleep
  • You're overextended on credit cards and you haven't told your spouse
  • You have a bank account that you've never told your spouse about
  • You're being audited by the IRS and you haven't told your spouse
  • You have a child from another relationship that you've never told you're spouse about
  • You've lost your job, but you haven't revealed it to your spouse yet
I'm sure you can think of many more examples of toxic secrets, but this gives you an idea of what I'm referring to in this blog article.

How Can a Toxic Secret Ruin Your Relationship?
People who maintain toxic secrets from their spouse are often in denial about the effect on their relationship of maintaining these secrets.  They often think they can keep secrets indefinitely and it won't have any affect, especially if their spouse never finds out.

But even if your spouse never finds out about your secret, it can still have a detrimental effect on your relationship.

For one thing, it creates a lot of tension and makes the secret keeper guarded and defensive with the spouse.

If you're leery about your spouse finding out about a secret, you're going to be very cautious to do everything you can to maintain that secret.  This means you're must be careful about everything you say and do so that you don't reveal the secret, which can create a lot of anxiety and guilt for you.

You might also misunderstand simple things that your spouse says and even an innocent question like, "Where are you?" might cause you a great deal of distress if you think your spouse is questioning your whereabouts because he or she is trying to find out your secret.  This could make you irritable and jumpy which, in itself, can cause problems in your relationship.

Keeping toxic secrets can also cause health problems.  The guilt and stress involved with keeping a toxic secret can take a physical toll of the secret keeper.  Over time, this can cause stress-related illnesses.

On the other hand, if your spouse finds out about your toxic secret and s/he doesn't find out about it from you, at the very least, it will probably cause a great deal of emotional pain, anger and mistrust.

Many couples don't survive the kind of blow to their relationship involved with a spouse discovering a toxic secret.  Often, the spouse who feels betrayed doesn't regain the trust needed to remain in the relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy
Of course, no one can tell you what to do with regard to keeping secrets from your spouse.  

But if you think that keeping secrets from your spouse is eroding the emotional intimacy in your relationship or if your spouse has discovered your secret and this has become a major obstacle to the stability of your relationship, you owe it to yourself to get help.

Don't wait until it's too late.  The negative impact of toxic secrets has a way of getting worse over time.

A skilled mental health professional who has experience working with this type of issue can help you and your spouse to work through this problem if both of you want to salvage your relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.