Secrets and Boundaries in a Marriage

by Dr. Coach Love

Secrets weaken a marriage. Secrets erect walls and create distrust. But is there such a thing as a “good” secret? Here are my thoughts.



The key to an excellent marriage is intimacy. Physical and emotional intimacy are the two primary types. To build intimacy, couples must share “enough” of his/her “appropriate” thoughts and emotions. Relationships differ on what is in considered “enough” and “appropriate.”



Withholding certain personal thoughts, emotions, and experiences can create a false sense of intimacy or prevent any intimacy from developing. Examples might include not expressing lifelong passions or personal trauma. False intimacy is a pseudo-closeness based on falsehoods …either omissions or straight up lies and deceit.




So, are secrets intimacy blockers? You bet they are! But withholding can also preserve intimacy as well as block intimacy.



  • Intimacy building is a delicate balance of intelligent editing of personal thoughts and feelings. Some stuff we tell. Some stuff we don’t. Interpersonal boundaries are established in this process. We must be emotionally intelligent in our editing.


  • We need clear boundaries to secure our individuality and not control others. Boundaries are the cognitive, emotional, and physical space between others and us—what is our business to control and manage and what is not.




So how does the undisclosed information called “secrets” relate to boundaries?



I divide undisclosed information into categories: secrets, surprises, and privacy. Here’s how I describe each one.







Secrets are the kinds of things we tell our kids not to keep. This helps protect them. I think that for adults, keeping secrets from our spouse suggests the need to hide something bad and/ or avoid a situation:

  1. He/she might get angry (or upset).
  2. Maybe he/she won’t love me any more if he/she finds out “my secret.”
  3. Perhaps he/she will want to argue or debate if I tell.
  4. Or he/she would try to tell me what to do if he/she knew.


Surprises, in general, are considered the good things we hold in confidence temporarily—-the surprise birthday party, gift, etc. But not everybody likes or appreciates surprises.



Privacy is something to which we are all entitled—even in our intimate relationships. We do not need to bear our complete souls to anyone.   Intimacy is still possible in relationships where selected matters are kept to oneself.


BUT— what do our partners have a right to know? Anything? Everything? Whenever we express our intimate personal thoughts and feelings to anyone, we take a risk. We become vulnerable with them.



Secrets, surprises, and privacy establish boundaries in a marriage. If you build too many boundaries, it’s called putting up “walls.” When you have too few boundaries, you either control people or let them control you.



The answer about keeping secrets in a marriage depends on how you look at your personal values and goals for your marriage.



Think about that and the differences between secrets, surprises, and privacy. Then decide for yourself.



MORE INFO: Quizzes-Marriage Check-Up #1-Formula, Marriage Check-Up #2-Secrets; Reflections- Unconditional Love



© Copyright 2008 P.H. Pickett. All rights reserved. Reprint with permission

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