Keeping Secrets

Posted by: Shel 20 Comments

Keeping SecretsI was keeping a secret from my husband, Steve, and it was starting to wear on me. Having to watch what I said, not meeting the eyes of another who was alluding to it in front of him. And it wasn’t even my secret. But I had agreed to keep it.

As constrained and burdened as I felt, I knew this was a good secret. One that, when revealed, would make Steve very happy. Rebekah Alexander, dear family friend and graduating art student, had done a magnificent charcoal sketch of Steve’s recently deceased father and was exhibiting it at her senior show before gifting it to Steve.

Seeing Steve’s face when he spotted the work of art was priceless. He was – literally – moved beyond words. And I was relieved to be out from under the veil of secrecy. Able to talk about his father without fear of slipping up and ruining his surprise.

It made me think about the weight of keeping secrets from our spouses. If I felt this burdened with a guilt-free secret, how could I endure living with a negative one?

Sometimes life, liberty, or freedom depends on keeping a secret. But for most of us, it’s guilt, shame or some other debilitating emotion that controls. If a toxic secret you are keeping from your spouse is eating away at you, consider sharing it in a way that won’t burden another. (In other words don’t dump it on somebody and swear them to secrecy. )

Is it something that, weighing the soul-stifling burden of keeping it versus the consequences of coming clean, you would be better off coming out with? If it doesn’t seem like it at first, is it something you could talk to a counselor about to find a way to deal with it and share it with your spouse? What about a pastor or priest?

Keeping secrets from our spouses can lead to a slow erosion of mutual trust and damage our marriages irreparably. Unless we’re protecting life, limb or liberty it’s not worth it.

WAYNE HARRINGTON by Rebekah Alexander
WAYNE HARRINGTON by Rebekah Alexander
Steve and Rebekah with portrait - this gives some size perspective
Steve and Rebekah with portrait – this gives some size perspective

If you’re looking for an up-and-coming artist to commission while you can still afford her, call Rebekah Alexander at 405.602.9827.

Portrait by Rebekah Alexander
Portrait by Rebekah Alexander
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  • What a great way to bring up the impact of secrets! Even a wonderful secret changes behavior in a marriage. Thanks Shel for a great post and the beautiful art.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Lisa – I’m still in awe of Rebekah’s amazing work. I was lucky enough to snag one of her pottery pitchers – I didn’t include it because she can’t take pottery commissions.

  • Beth


    This is a wonderful tribute to Wayne and I can only imagine how special it is to Steve. Life is full of wonderful happenings and you are so blessed to have a talented friend to portray a very special love one.

    • Shel Harrington

      We are indeed, Beth! Can’t wait for you to see it in person!

  • Gina

    Shel, you are always spot on. Secrets always erode trust – whether it’s hiding money, chatting online, whatever. It comes out eventually, one way or another, and even a happy secret is exhausting. I totally understand Rachel wanting to surprise him with this beautiful piece of work, but I also agree that another person shouldn’t be burdened. I can’t even imagine the internal workings of a person having an affair-especially an ongoing one.

    • Shel Harrington

      I can’t imagine it either, Gina – which is probably a good thing! I’m glad there are people like you who can help spouses trapped in their own deceit work their way out. In our case, I was happy to help however I could – Rebekah needed pictures of Steve’s dad (she didn’t know him) and we had to coordinate how to get him to the art show, etc. Part of the ‘burden’ was containing my excitement – not to mention the ‘little white lies’ that had to be told to explain things like Rebekah calling. Worth it in this case – but sure wouldn’t want to do that on a regular basis. At least I could see the end in sight!

  • Kay

    Wow! The size of this portrait is just amazing, & is such a beautiful picture of his dad. Seeing Steve admire it is even more amazing! Precious!

    • Shel Harrington

      I was surprised how big it was, too, Kay – not surprisingly, she worked on it for almost a year. How do you thank someone for that kind of generosity??

  • Terry Foster

    Beautiful art work, so very talented…..what a wonderful gift for Steve…..

    • Shel Harrington

      I wish you could have seen his reaction, Terry – it was one of the most poignant moments I’ve experienced in our 37 years together – beyond special!

  • Wow! Rebekah is so talented. I would have said that was a photograph, not a charcoal sketch…amazing! Such a wonderful gift for Steve. Thanks for sharing, Shel.

    • Shel Harrington

      It really was a wonderful gift, Jill – the labor of love as well as the resulting portrait. It was a privilege to witness the unveiling with him – Steve’s range of emotions, Rebekah’s joy at seeing his reaction, Rebekah’s parents’ pride, other’s celebrating Rebekah’s talents . . . what a special evening!

  • Thought-provoking article, Shel. And beyond amazing art.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thank you. I sure agree with you on the art – I know you’ll see it a some point and I think you’ll be surprised at the talent all over again!

  • my spouse kept a damaging secret from me for years and it was a burden for him-finally he revealed it and our marriage was over even after trying to fix it…trust was broken!

    • Shel Harrington

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Lin – it sounds like it was a very painful experience. I hope others take your words to heart and make wise decisions.

  • What beautiful art! Yes, secrets are a very heavy burden. I can feel a riddle forming: what’s the heaviest thing in the world that has no mass . . . .

    • Shel Harrington

      Wow – that IS the perfect riddle question, Luanne – so true!

  • Ashley

    AMAZING WORK! She is truly talented! I’m sure that was an awesome surprise for Steve! She’s going to go far!!! Thanks for sharing! I’ll pass on her name and number for sure!!!

    • Shel Harrington

      It WAS an awesome surprise for Steve – so incredibly special on several levels! Thanks for passing on Rebekah’s info, Ash – her heart is as good as her art.

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