There are plenty of so-called truisms out there, all designed to make us “okay” with things that aren’t “okay.” For example, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We all know that’s baloney. Words can hurt like hell.
And how about this one: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” This truism has been readily debunked by the medical profession. Simply put, if you don’t know your tapioca pudding is laced with rat poison, having dessert will definitely hurt—if not kill—you.
It’s in the context of relationships where this truism is far too often heard and used as justification for bad behavior. If your sweetheart never knows you’re having an affair, no harm done, right? Wrong! Living with a big fat secret means there’s a big fat part of you that you can’t share with your partner. That big fat secret is the source of emotional distance from your partner and what will keep you from being 100% present in your relationship. In short, it’s what YOU know—and what you must forever keep from your sweetie—that hurts your relationship and, thus, your partner. Your sweetheart may never know about your infidelity and may never realize that he or she doesn’t have all of you, but don’t think for one minute that just because “ignorance is bliss” that you haven’t taken away what should have been given to your partner.
Now, if you’ve already done the deed and mended your ways, then “let sleeping dogs lie” because “confession is good for the soul” but sucks if you’re on the wrong end of that confession. Going forward, just remember that if you surrender to temptation, you will forever shut down a part of you that should be shared with your sweetheart.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t have your secrets or your privacy. It’s not critical that you share every little detail of your past or present life with your partner. A juvenile marijuana arrest may be so far in the past as to be currently irrelevant. Your current cocaine use is another story. That you once gambled away thousands of dollars in a drunken stupor may be an embarrassment you never share. Secretly spending every lunch hour at the track after a quick stop at the ATM is another story.
When you behave in ways that you hope your sweetheart never learns about, you put emotional distance between you and your partner. Worrying that your partner will discover the truth creates stress and anxiety that get in the way of your being a 100% present and loving partner. That hurts you. It hurts your relationship. It hurts your sweetheart.
Acting with integrity, living an open life, and behaving only in ways that are okay for your sweetheart to observe allows you to give yourself fully to your partner and to be fully present in your relationship. Emotional intimacy is the hallmark of a great relationship and what sustains a couple through the rough patches. Doing anything that causes distance or interferes with emotional intimacy hurts everyone involved. So, the next time you're tempted to do something that "won't hurt" if kept secret, think again.