Couples Academy

It’s A Thin Line Between Privacy & Secrecy


Secrecy is the number one organizing principle of an affair. However, secrets aren’t all fun and games. They fuel the lies, the denial, the deception, and all of the elaborate strategies that go into a cover-up. While most spouses are put off by their spouse’s secrecy, some become unwilling participants in it. Afraid to let family, friends and colleagues discover the betrayal, they too lie to protect the very person who lied to them.

We hear it all the time… “I need my privacy.” Or “I should be allowed to have some things that are kept private in this marriage.” As a marriage coach and infidelity specialist I would agree that some privacy can be permitted within a marriage. But these spouses aren’t talking about privacy, they’re talking about secrecy. There is a huge difference between the two.

“In marriage, secrets are as dangerous as lies. Marriage must be built on a foundation of total transparency and trust. You must prioritize trust and transparency in the marriage ahead of your own personal privacy. Unless you’re planning a surprise party or hiding a holiday gift, there are no places for secrets in marriage. Anytime you’re having a conversation, making a purchase, sending a text message, doing an internet search or doing anything else you hope your spouse never finds out about, your secrecy is actually an act of infidelity.” (Dave Willis)


We totally agree. And that is what we are talking about here—the difference between secrecy and privacy.

Privacy vs Secrecy

The following are a few quotes written by Dr. Laura Schlessinger from her book, Ten Stupid Things Couples Do to Mess Up Their Relationships, that might bring some clarity to this matter:

— “PRIVACY is something you ‘give’ someone out of respect. SECRECY is something you ‘withhold’ from one another.”

— “PRIVACY is when you want to go to the bathroom or pick your nose without your spouse looking —or try to buy them a gift without them knowing. SECRECY is when you feel guilty about something that you can’t tell your spouse.”

— “PRIVACY in marriage is your own personal space. In this, there is trust and respect. The other partner is aware of this space and respects it without intrusion. We all need a little private time to ourselves; otherwise we’d go nuts! SECRECY is destructive in marriage —it’s a lack of trust and respect. This is something the other partner is unaware of, and in essence, it’s a lie.

— PRIVACY is having some quality time or spiritual time alone. SECRECY in a marriage can be a form of deceit.”

— “PRIVACY is the withholding of info concerning yourself, the disclosure of which would be of no benefit to the partner, and which you don’t wish to share. SECRECY, on the other hand, is the withholding of info that may have an effect on the well being of the partner. This effect may be financial, spiritual, physical, or mental. PRIVACY is acceptable. SECRECY is not.”

Explanation of Secrecy

Below is another explanation of secrecy written by Jack in the article, Privacy Vs. Secrecy in a Marriage. (Jack had a “secret” affair. Since that time, he has worked to be open, and has changed his ways, which brought healing to his marriage.) Here’s an excerpt of some of what he has learned:


It is the act of keeping things hidden —that which is secret goes beyond merely private into hidden. While secrecy spills into privacy, not all privacy is secrecy. Secrecy stems from deliberately keeping something from others out of fear. Secrets consist of information that has a potentially negative impact —emotionally, physically, or financially. The keeper of secrets believes that if they are revealed either accidentally or purposefully, the revelation may cause harm to the secret-keeper and those around him or her.

Some secrets seem small but slowly erode trust. Fear of a spouse’s reaction can cause us to begin to hide something that we purchased or to say that we were at the office when we were with friends. A distance will begin to grow between us, and our spouse, bit by bit… Other secrets can wreak havoc on the very foundation of a relationship. These secrets are actions, beliefs or parts of ourselves that we deliberately keep hidden out of fear of its impact. Affairs, drug and alcohol use, sexual orientation or fetishes are examples of secrets that could have disastrous consequences if discovered. Secrets of this nature erode trust and security and create a chasm that makes it difficult for a couple to feel close and truly connected.

A person who is holding secrets will begin to create a false persona that they will hide behind in order to keep the secret hidden. When secrets of this nature are discovered or revealed they shake the underpinnings of a relationship and create feelings of betrayal, vulnerability, and insecurity in one’s partner.

In marriage, the Bible teaches us to cleave together “as one.” It is extremely troublesome to have secret cell phones, usernames, and passwords. It’s also problematic when one spouse doesn’t tell the other when he or she meets up or chats privately with someone else. Secrets are for people who are not in a covenant marriage.

If you desire to honor your vows, strive to be as open and upfront with your spouse as you can. There should be no room made for secrecy and hiding in a relationship.

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13

 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. – Luke 8:17

As you strive to improve your marriage avoid secrecy and embrace the habit of honesty and transparency.