Secrecy…an Enemy to Intimacy

Can you achieve intimacy with your spouse if you are keeping secrets? And is there a difference in secrets from the past and current secrets? What is the difference between secrets, and privacy?


These lines were definitely blurred in our marriage, right from the start. Jere thought it best to just not tell me about certain things in his life. After all, he did not plan to engage in those behaviors, and it could only hurt my understanding of the man I was marrying. And I didn’t know I was keeping secrets of my own; that my family upbringing had very weak boundaries on secrets and privacy and truth that were measured by things like not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, being tactful or being tolerant.

So we came into our marriage as secret-keepers, and right from the start, we had a really shiny and pretty exterior but a disjointed and unconnected interior. Truth is that was what we had both seen demonstrated in our growing up years, so while it felt normal, we also knew deep in our souls that there was more. And yes…secrecy was most definitely the enemy of intimacy in our marriage. Susan elaborates in her blog here.


So back to secrets, privacy and intimacy…Therapist Robert Weiss wrote about this very issue in Psychology Today recently. Here are some of his thoughts:

One of the great concerns in many romantic relationships involves secrecy vs. privacy. One partner thinks that he or she deserves a bit of privacy; the other views this desire as secrecy. Which is which? How can we know the difference between the two? And how should we navigate between these two extremes?

  • Privacyis best defined as the state or condition of being free from observation and disturbance by other people. For instance, when you leave a public event and return to the privacy of your own home, the person who sat next to you at the public event can no longer stare at, talk to, or otherwise annoy you. In general, keeping certain things private involves setting and maintaining boundaries that align with your individual needs, values, and beliefs. When your privacy is violated you might feel angry, and rightfully so, with a desire to pull away from whoever spoiled your privacy.
  • Secrecy is the active state of intentionally keeping information hidden from one or more people. In general, beyond professional requirements for confidentiality, if you keep something secret it’s because you fear the impact (on yourself or others) that the information might have if it were openly known. What often underlies secrecy is a fear of judgment and/or reprisal. When your secrecy is violated, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over the information and how others respond to it. Thus, you might feel afraid, anxious, concerned, and angry, and want to pull away. 

Using the above definitions, the difference between privacy and secrecy seems relatively clear, but this isn’t always the case: Consider, for instance, a husband who finds his wife’s sister very attractive, though he has no intention of ever acting on that attraction because he loves and respects his wife. This man might consider his attraction to his sister-in-law private. His wife, however, might consider it a secret. As an outside observer, it’s hard to say that one belief is more accurate than the other.


Weiss goes on to identify common ways partner’s convince themselves that they are enforcing privacy when they are really keeping secrets. He encourages couples to work together to create healthy boundaries and to set clear expectations, which Jere and I have now done. You can read the article here: 20160906robertweiss-secrecyvprivacy

Yes. Secrets are an enemy to intimacy. We have no secrets anymore, no opportunity for layers of division between our unity. It was a hard process, but has paid off incredibly as we live a marriage of connection, joy, promise…and you can have this, too.