Secrets keep us sick
There’s a saying people in the addiction and recovery community are often reminded of: “secrets keep you sick”. Our secrets keep us in a state of denial, faulty thinking, and ridden with guilt and shame. This makes it really hard to work on making positive changes in our life and to reach a sense of being and feeling well. Our secrets don’t just keep us sick though; they keep our marriage and our partner sick too. This is especially true in cases of infidelity.
Step one in addressing a problem is to define it. When you go to the doctor because you’re sick, the first thing the doctor does is to assess and identify a proper diagnosis. The doctor can then appropriately and effectively treat the illness. When it’s difficult to define the problem and no known diagnosis is discovered, not only does it make it hard to know how to treat the problem, but the effectiveness of the chosen treatment plan is now greatly reduced. The same is true when we keep secrets from our partners. Many times a partner will feel something is wrong, but because they are unable to define the problem, it either goes untreated or the treatment strategies fail.
There are several reasons why a partner may choose to keep an affair a secret (i.e., shame, fear), or be reluctant to share the details of the betrayal. However, without all the information, the betrayed partner is trying to put together a puzzle without having all the pieces and without knowing what the final image is supposed to look like. They’re forced to draw potentially inaccurate images on blank puzzle pieces and put them in places they may not fit. Their completed puzzle will be distorted, ugly, and won’t make sense. Because of this lack of understanding the problem, their attempts to fix it will be ineffective.
Alternatively, when the partner having an affair chooses to take the courageous step of being honest, of sharing the secret, of giving their partner all the information they need to properly define and make sense of the problem, of showing their partner all the missing pieces and how they fit together, then the puzzle becomes clearer. That relationship - and those individuals in that relationship - have the chance to work on being and feeling well.
If you’re holding on to the secret of an affair, I know how hard and scary and painful this is. I see the shame that’s eating you from the inside and the fear that leaves you paralyzed. You and your partner don’t have to suffer forever. There is a way out and there is hope of something better. I can truly empathize with both partners in these situations and counseling offers a safe, structured, and non-judgmental place to start sharing these secrets, better understanding the problem from both partners’ perspectives, and working at creating a new image together that both partners can see as as beautiful. Secrets keep us sick - let’s work on being well.