marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Four Marriage Killers: Secrets

We believe in being honest….”[1]

I recently read a sociological experiment[2] that was done on a popular marital affair membership website. I was intrigued to learn that the website boasted over 100 million members.  

The researcher showed that the married men were mostly looking for sex while the women, on the other hand, were looking for emotional validation, romance and intimacy. 

While there were some women who would meet in person, he found that most of the women only wanted to talk. They wanted to be intimate online or over the phone and would avoid direct contact.

He learned from these women (both in person and otherwise) that the reason they were looking for affairs was that their husband was gone a lot, or had stopped romancing them, or just plain wouldn’t talk to them. 

To me this demonstrated that intimacy is so essential to our marital well-being that 100 million married people (an amount equal to 1/3 of the entire United States population[3]) were willing to risk their marriages to get it. 

But rather than talk to their spouse about what they needed in their relationship, they signed up for an online site to have a marital affair – and tried to keep it a secret.

Secrets: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Evil

Aren’t secrets a good thing sometimes?  

In the American English vocabulary, there are lots of terms for information that is not freely shared.  To help give clarity, here are the most comprehensive types that relate to this topic: 

Confidential: A bank withholding your personal information from unauthorized users is protecting you from potential theft or fraud. A bishop or stake president would receive information in interviews with individuals in his congregation, and this information is not to be shared with others, including the bishop’s spouse. 

If confidential information is revealed too soon, security is compromised. Good people could get hurt or perhaps killed. People could be humiliated needlessly. Trust in the one holding the confidence (and perhaps trust in others like him or her) is undermined. The person entrusted with the confidence is reduced to nothing more than a hypocrite and a gossip.

Sacred: This includes traditions or ordinances, persons, places or things that are only meant for worthy persons in good standing to learn and know about and share amongst each other. Often this knowledge is shared in dedicated places. The LDS Temple is a good example of this, although there are other examples from other religions and traditions as well. 

Sacred is not the same as secret, because it is intended to be shared with those who can be trusted not to mock it or make it ordinary. Married people are usually not inclined to openly share all the details of their intimate life for fear of their beloved spouse or children being mocked. That information would then be sacred.

If the sacred gets out, it tends to be mocked and ridiculed. Something special becomes cheap and degraded instead of holy and ennobling.

Secret: A “secret” in the context of this article is information held by one person and is usually hidden away from others, most notably that person’s spouse. This information is generally toxic to the relationship because the person is ashamed of sharing this secret or fears the outcome of sharing it. 

A secret then is something where a person’s trustworthiness is already in jeopardy and   the information is withheld to protect the guilty and harms the innocent by not being shared. If not checked, such secrets can become a gateway to more serious sins. 

Informal Secret Combination: Secrets can lead to other sins in order to protect the secret, such as lies, neglect and even murder. Another, more toxic kind of secret is what we in the LDS Church call a “secret combination”. 

An informal secret combination happens when others are involved in order to keep a secret from the innocent so the offender can keep sinning. Even so, it could be accidentally or purposefully exposed by any involved. This could hide such activities as adultery, fornication, theft or an addiction.

Formal Secret Combination: This kind of secret is shown in the stories of Cain and Lamech in Genesis[4], but is more clearly mentioned in the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.[5] This is when oaths, covenants and tokens are exchanged by those entrusted with the secret, for the purpose of gaining power over others or hiding serious sins. 

In our context, it could be a spouse plotting their divorce to cover up an affair, or the husband’s mistress plotting to murder the wife. This level of secret combination is the lowest level of evil a person could go into in order to keep a secret. 

If a secret combination is pulled into the glaring light of day, those persons involved are exposed for their wrongdoing and hypocrisy, and innocent people tend to be protected from further wrongdoing in the future.

Secrets that Sabotage a Marriage

  • Do you hide resentments and hurts, and pretend everything’s fine?
  • Do you have a spouse who dislikes sex or some aspect of sex, for whatever reason?  
  • Do you indulge in fantasies, or porn, to keep from bothering your spouse with your intimacy needs; to “keep the peace”?
  • Do you have transgressions in your past that you have not shared with your spouse, whether you have repented or not?
  • Are you making significant decisions about financial matters or employment decisions without consulting your spouse?
  • Are you addicted to any substance or activity that makes demands on your resources or time?
  • Are you experiencing a personal struggle, such as problems with flirting or strong attraction to others which you won’t share because it’s ‘my problem, not my spouse’s’? Perhaps you feel your spouse won’t understand and will feel betrayed and reject you?
If you’re married, you and your spouse are an eternal team. If one spouse is not allowed to help meet the needs of the other, trying to meet your needs alone may sabotage the relationship. In each of these scenarios, we find one spouse trying to carry a secret burden alone; a burden no one can successfully carry without harming the marriage. 

The key (that many couples overlook as an option) to overcome the burdens mentioned above is for the couple to work together as a team in addressing the problem. 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”[6]

If you want to maintain an optimum sex life with your spouse, and achieve a relationship you would want for eternity – you must confide your personal secrets to them.

This can seem frightening in the extreme, especially when we carry particularly dark secrets, or when we feel like our spouse is hiding things from us. It can get ugly, and no one would blame us for not wanting to share such dark aspects of ourselves with the person we love.

The good news is, once you confide your secrets to your spouse, your relationship has the potential of coming to life in a beautiful way as you and your spouse shares the burden together. It ends the cycle of dysfunction, and opens the road to healing in every way, including the sexual aspect. It does this by magnifying the “trust” factor in your relationship.

Can’t we just forget the past?
 “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”[7]

Secrets, especially sinful secrets, have a tendency to grow and develop a power of their own when not shared.

Such sins, even if they happened before we met our spouse, are sins against our spouse. What affects us automatically affects them through the requirement of becoming “one”.  These sins cannot be swept under the rug – we will have to share them and hope for forgiveness. If we do not volunteer the information, chances are it will come out eventually anyway and if it’s not from you, it could affect their trust in you. 

Ever tried to keep a toxic secret silent? We see too many examples of such things in the media today to think we can die with our secrets in us. Especially with today’s technology, sooner or later…. 

“… the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.”[8]
The Lord knows all our secrets…and loves us anyway. He encourages us to repent, always to repent[9]…and part of that repentance includes going to those who we have wronged. If we have wronged our spouse, forgiveness will come with confession – to the Lord, and to our spouse. Perhaps ecclesiastical leaders will need to be involved as well, but not before the spouse.

But what if they won’t forgive me?

They may not. There is always that chance. You can’t force others to forgive you.

However, you may not be giving your spouse credit.  Remember – your spouse needs to share all with you as well. Would you forgive them such an admission? Would you not be willing to help them with their challenge?

You may hurt your spouse’s feelings with your admission. You may force them to face hard realities that your relationship was not really what they thought it was. Out of that painful soul-searching, a new reality can be found where love may bloom again and a stronger bond of trust can be created.

We work so hard to impress each other before we marry – to put our best selves forward. After the wedding has ended, we can’t keep up any pretense for long.  Our spouse will eventually see all of our warts and wrinkles, love handles and temper tantrums…and hopefully continue to love us and accept us for who we truly are.  

Confiding Robs Secrets of Their Power

I suggest confiding in your spouse your anger, your pride, and your secrets. It gets easier the more often you do it. Tell your spouse when you find other people attractive, or when you want something you shouldn’t have; especially if those feelings are strong. When shared with your helpmeet, those feelings lose their power. When kept a secret, they fester and grow. 

Let them tell you when they’re tempted. Laugh about it. Wonder about it. Let them help you overcome an addiction, or share with them when you’re scared. 

If you are the spouse being confided to, remember that you are receiving sacred and confidential information; a vulnerable part of themselves. This is not the time for jokes or mockery. Remember the consequences for disregarding confidences or sacred information…loss of trust, or the cheapening of sacred things. Don’t kick your spouse when they’re down, even if you warned them….even if you saw this coming. 

Keep confidences between you and your spouse. I don’t recommend sharing personal details with others unless both spouses give their consent.  I do believe that confiding in a parent or grandparent, a bishop, or a qualified mental health professional can bring wisdom that can benefit your marriage.

Share with the Lord your challenges and your secrets, and he will grant you the strength to share them with your spouse.  If your spouse is weak and refuses to share, confide your fears and vulnerabilities to the Lord and pray for your spouse. Also, try to do all you can to be worthy of their trust so they can feel safe confiding in you.

 Remember that the Lord is a third party to your marriage, and has enough strength for both of you. Whatever secrets your spouse may be hiding will come out eventually. Build up your own strength for that moment by grasping onto the Lord and His atonement. His sacrifice is also for just such circumstances in our lives.

You can resurrect and give unseen power to your marital sex life through your commitment to air out your secrets with each other, and by always confiding in the person you loved enough to marry for eternity.

[1]  Pearl of Great Price, The Thirteenth Article of Faith
[2] Orlando, Charles. “Why Women Cheat: A Married Man Goes Undercover On Ashley Madison”. YouTango. <>
[3] Rosenberg, Matt. ”Current USA Population”. About.Com. New York Times Company. 2 Mar 2011.  <>
[4] Genesis 4:1-24 (greater detail is found in Moses 5:18-55)
[5] Many examples can be found, particularly of the Gadianton Robbers, in the Book of Mormon, and the Nicolaitane Band in the Doctrine and Covenants (see Topical Guide, Secret Combinations)
[6] 2 Corinthians 6:14
[7] Matthew 5:23-24
[8] Doctrine and Covenants 1:3 (emphasis added)
[9] Doctrine and Covenants 19


Chris said...

A very uplifting message and straight to the point. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great message!
I'm kind of receiving this from the reverse angle, if that makes sense. I recently discovered my husband had kissed another woman. I didn't learn it from him--I went snooping and found an email from the woman. In his responding email to her, he admitted enjoying the kiss, but said it could go no further than that, because he didn't want to hurt me.
While I greatly appreciate the fact he isn't willing to continue that relationship, I was still very hurt that he had allowed the kiss to take place.
This happened about a month ago, and I'm still struggling a little bit with it. I have not confronted him with the information I have. I don't know if I should. Part of me wants to, to have it aired. Part of me wishes he would just admit it to me, but I can understand why he would be hesitant to do so. I am more than willing to forgive him for it, it was just a kiss---although I'm still angry about it. What I'm finding difficult is the feeling of disappointment and betrayal, and occasionally wondering if he's thinking of her, and wishing he had pursued it.
So, my secret is that I know his secret. Should I just confront him about it, or simply forgive him and try to trust him and not pursue it beyond that?
By the way, one of the other reasons I don't want to confess I know his secret, is that this way I can continue to monitor his email--invading his privacy--to assure myself he isn't continuing anything with her.

Anonymous said...

I know that there are two schools of thought, regarding the issue of "full disclosure of past sins" to our fiance or spouse.

I happen to agree with Brent Barlow's opinion, that past sins should be left in the past. Unless the past sin is something that might affect your future spouse (i.e. STD's), or if they insist upon knowing your full past, then it is better to not divulge past sins.

One of the main reasonings that Bro. Barlow pointed out, was that it is better that your spouse not have to deal with the thoughts of your past sexual history, wondering how they might compare, wondering if your mind wanders to past sexual encounters when you are having sex with them, etc...

As a former Bishop, when asked this question, I usually told them that the past is wiped clean. If their fiance asks about their past, they can say something like, "I was not perfect, but I am clean and worthy to take you to the temple." If they insist upon knowing the particulars, then that is a possible sign that they are too immature to handle the truth anyway, and when the truth is shared with them it will likely result in a break up.

I have a close friend whose Bishop made his wife (at the time, his fiance) disclose to him her past sins, prior to them marrying. My friend wishes that the Bishop would have left it up to them to decicde what should be disclosed, rather than that information being forced on him. It has been something that he has struggled with, on and off, over their 20+ years of marriage (the thought of his wife being intimate with another guy, even though it was years before they met).

My advice... the past is in the past.

Your statement: "Such sins, even if they happened before we met our spouse, are sins against our spouse". I need to repectfully disagree with this statement. Before we met, there were no covenants made to eachother, our covenants were with God. Once we married, our covenant was with God and our spouse. Such a statement could cause a spouse to hold past sins over their spouses head, reminding them about their past mistakes, and not letting them put them behind them.

God has told us that when we repent of our sins, He will remember them no more. We need to strive for this type of love and mercy in our lives and leave past sins in the past.

Unfortunately, there are probably way too many people who are not emotionally mature enough to handle some secrets (from past mistakes). I say leave it in the past.

Love your blog though!

CoachSam said...

Dear Anonymous June 18,

Thank you for reading my blog, and sharing your circumstance with me. From what you shared, I sense your husband is trying to carry the weight of an attraction to another woman (a very heavy weight) all by himself, while you are also carrying the secret that should not be a secret – breaking into his “private” email.

There are some trust issues here that will not go away unless they are brought out into the light. He has yet to reveal the secret you already know, and still struggles with it. He keeps open the avenue of communication with this woman without telling you about it. You say you want to try and trust him, yet you want to continue monitoring his email without his knowledge. Someone has to make the first move here.

I would recommend approaching your husband and letting him know that you know his secret. You broke into his “private” email and found him out.

He might be angry that you violated his trust. Apologize, and let him know you don’t want to be a hypocrite. I suggest telling him you are revealing your secret, and wish he would have revealed his. Let him know you love him, and want to help him if he is having challenges with feeling attracted to another woman.

If you think that your husband will only be attracted to you and no one else, you are fooling yourself. You can also feel attracted to other men. Our bodies and our minds are naturally designed to feel this way, from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes. Getting married does not automatically shut that off.

Those attractions lose their power when we discuss them with our spouse, and avoid flirting with those we’re attracted to.

You as a couple need new ground rules. He has to cut off all potential communication with this woman (Dr. Harley’s website has excellent guidelines for ending the cycle of an affair and rebuilding your marriage – click on his link in the resource section of my blog). If he will agree to a new email account that you both can freely access, you will agree to forgive him for his indiscretion.

Aside from the new ground rules, however, you both need to consider how these situations developed in the first place. Why did your husband not trust you with his feelings or his email? Why did you feel the need to break into his email, when you are his wife? Why not just talk to him and tell him of your suspicions?

As I mentioned in my blog, the way to counter secrets is to confide in each other. Work with him so that he feels safe confiding when he feels attracted to other women. See if he won’t do the same for you.

Discuss why he feels attracted to her. What does he feel might be missing in his life or in the marriage (see my blog post on conquering gender prejudice in marriage, part III for some principles to discuss). Help him to discover a way out of this situation.

Chances are, what he’s missing is intimacy….not sex necessarily, but intimacy with you. He may be feeling intimacy with this other woman that he doesn’t know how to get from you without conflict. I don’t know for sure without meeting with both of you, but from my past experience, this is often the case.

Don’t forget to take these feelings to the Lord as well. In a volatile situation like this, it is vital that you keep the spirit of contention out of your conversation. The best way to do this is to keep your voices calm. Do not yell. Whisper when you feel frustrated, but try not to yell. This will help keep you from alienating each other.

Strong feelings from both of you can be modified if you ask the Lord for help. Elder Oakes’ talk, “Desire” in last General Conference (April 2011) addresses this issue. I would recommend you re-reading it.

Using these tactics can help your marriage to grow and thrive again in an open environment of confidence in each other.

Feel free to ask me additional questions if you feel you need more help or tools to help you in the healing process.

Anonymous said...

Have to say, all this is great in a perfect marriage -- where you are on the same team, where you can forgive, where you acknowledge that you love each other and you know that you are imperfect beings striving to become celestial beings.

Someone who is in a marriage where they are barely hanging on may need to take a more delicate approach. He might know that it is the right thing to do, but know that such a treatment would kill the patient, so to speak. Bread vs. meat, you know?

Anonymous said...

I told my spouse about my major past sins before we married. I thought is was really important. If someone from my past by rare chance ever told my spouse about my past it would cause problems. I would be upset if someone told me about some big mistake my spouse did but he never told me. I think its better to be honest and not have secrets. My now husband did not care or judge me for my past. He forgave me for my past and loves me for the person I am now. This made me realize what a wonderful man he is. Not everyone will forgive you for the past. Why would you want to marry someone that will hold the past against you? I am lucky I found someone, like me, that believes people can change. We can move past our mistakes and learn from them.