Keeping Secrets - Can it Help? Or Does it Hurt?

Q: Is it okay to keep secrets from my spouse?


A: You need to be honest, but you also need to measure how much about the facts you need to disclose. Self disclosure can be good, but it can also go too far. For example, if you are going to get married, your future spouse has every right to know about your sexual past, but he or she doesn’t need to know every detail and the name of every person from your sexual past. Sharing all of that can only cause pain. Be honest with where you’ve been, but be careful as to the level of disclosure you use.

We have had callers to our radio program who, at a point in their marriage, had committed adultery—had an affair. They have experienced the guilt and pain; they’ve gone back to their spouse; they’ve come clean with God. They call to ask us if they should confess the infidelity to their spouse. 

That’s a very difficult question. It can be very tempting to take the easy way out and not say anything. You can figure it’s over and done with and you don’t want to put your spouse through that. There is some truth to that, and in certain situations that may be the best course of action. But we also want to challenge you to think about the intimacy factor. By keeping your secret, how is it that you could ever experience all the intimacy that God desires in your marriage relationship?

First, consider emotional intimacy. When you are emotionally intimate with your spouse, you are connecting. You experience grace, listening, validation, honesty, as well as the sharing of hurt or disappointment. At that point of openness, Satan loves to zoom in and whisper in your ear the voice of condemnation, of unconfessed sin. He can’t do anything about the fact that he knows you’ve straightened it out with God, but he wants to make you continue to feel the pain of experiencing openness with your spouse while you’re holding something back.

Second is spiritual intimacy. You’ve been forgiven by God, but you’re also covering a sin. Proverbs 28:13 says,  “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” How will you deal with that?

Third is physical intimacy. When you move into physical intimacy with your spouse, does this affair come up in your mind? How is that affecting your ability to give yourself completely to your spouse?

There’s going to be a lot pain if you confess. There’s no doubt. It’s tough, but that’s one of the consequences you face for having committed the sin in the first place (if this is the only consequence you have from committing adultery, consider yourself fortunate). But if you come to confession to your spouse explaining your desire for that true, unhindered oneness, you’ll be a long way toward reconciliation. Have boundaries in how much you tell. You needn’t give all the details. Lay down the honest truth. Honesty and confession can carry a relationship into new places.

The best way to deal with secrets is not to have them. Be truthful. Live a life of truth. If there is something you’re hiding, then get it out. If there are secrets in your life that you know you need to tell your spouse, than tell him or her in love. Don’t view certain secrets as “small,” for there is always deception in secrets. Instead, ask yourself, “Would I say this, do this, or think this if my spouse were right here in the room?” If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t do it. To protect yourself, be willing to be openly honest with your spouse. For example, if you’re noticing the flirtation of a co-worker, express your concern to your spouse. That will hold you accountable.