Fess Up or Shut Up?
Use these clues.
Fess up if...
- You want your spouse to do something differently. He doesn't have ESP.
- You broke a parenting agreement.
- Your spouse might find out anyway. Are you writing your secret in a magazine (might only apply to me)? Is there a paper trail (phone bills, credit card bills)?
- You're only keeping mum because you're embarrassed. Talking about it usually makes you feel better.
- The secret affects the family (for example, you lost your job or were diagnosed with a medical condition).
- Just thinking about the secret makes your heart pound and your stomach ache. "Such secrets are damaging to your mind and body," warns Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress.
Shut up if...
- The secret will hurt your partner's feelings and sharing it won't accomplish anything.
- It's about someone in his family. If your husband's brother may be cheating on his wife, let someone else bring it up.
- It would really upset your partner, and you've reformed. For instance, you had a fling years ago but have been monogamous since.
As for me and my datebook snooping, I eventually did confess. As I came clean, I found my hands shaking, my face hot with embarrassment. "Most couples keep secrets because they don't know how to divulge them," says Alyce Barry, author of Practically Shameless. "One of the most painful experiences is revealing something you're not proud of and being met with rejection."
Yet in the majority of situations, we have little to fear. "Once a secret is discovered, what's most upsetting is the secrecy itself. Many times in therapy, what a partner agonizes over is, 'Why couldn't he tell me?'" says Alexander.
When I told my husband about the datebook, he asked two questions: "Why did you do it?" and "Is there anything else you'd like to know about me?"
We talked, hugged, and grew closer.
Alisa Bowman and her husband live with their 4-year-old daughter in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. See Alisa's blog at projecthappilyeverafter.com.
Originally published in the June issue of American Baby magazine.