Do you keep secrets? Secrets come in many forms. Some are healthy, but some are toxic secrets.

What are toxic secrets?

A toxic secret is one that will block you from intimacy and puts walls between you and your loved one. It can keep loved ones from truly knowing and supporting you. Many secret keepers feel like they walk around wearing a mask to protect others from seeing who they really are. They fear the vulnerability of someone finding out who they really are underneath.

Some will call secrets white lies, or lies of omission. People might hold secrets to protect others, out of fear it could hurt someone or end a relationship, or because it’s a part of their job.

As a therapist I hold many secrets. I can’t count the number of times someone has said “I’ve never told anyone else that.” Usually after a person reveals their secrets they experience a powerful sense of freedom. As the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.”

Toxic secrets can “haunt” you and cause emotional havoc. They can become poisonous and bleed dysfunction into your relationships and your moods without you even realizing it.

Here are some examples of toxic secrets:

  • Current Abuse– Keeping the secret that someone is hurting you emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically will make things worse for you and possibly for others. If you do not voice your pain, the perpetrator could inflict abuse to someone else down the road. Sharing this secret could save someone else’s life- including your own. (**If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help to consult on a safe way to disclose the abuse and get help.)
  • Past Abuse- Statistics of abuse are staggering. Unfortunately, many victims of abuse hold this secret for years before ever telling someone. Some people take this secret to the grave. Many hold this secret out of fear of what will happen if they share. Some rationalize that “it was in the past” and doesn’t need to be resurrected. Most feel excruciating shame from what happened and prefer to keep the secret hidden in order to avoid feeling the shame related to it. A secret of this magnitude often creates toxicity in unexpected ways and relationships as it grows. One of the first steps of healing this horrible wound is to share the secret with a trusted support system.
  • Affairs- When you have an affair, it will block your relationship from being fulfilling. Even if it’s scary to reveal this secret, many couples are able to heal and create a relationship they never thought possible if they walk the road of recovery in a healthy way.
  • Addictions- When someone is struggling with an addiction, it will thrive more when they keep it a secret. The first step to overcoming an addiction is not keeping it a secret anymore from yourself and others.
  • Legal issues- Keeping these a secret could be dangerous and cause pain for others around you. If you have a past or present legal matter, choosing to not reveal it in a close relationship could cause them to feel betrayed. You’re lying to them by hiding part of yourself.
  • Health concerns- Keeping these fears inside will block you from being able to lean on a support system and your doctor. You may need help from others. If they don’t know what is going on, they won’t know what to do to help you.
  • Emotions- Hiding your emotions can result in internal turmoil. Keeping your emotions a secret will cause you to carry your pain alone. Sharing your emotions will keep you real and open up doors to emotional intimacy in relationships.

I’m not saying you need to share every detail of your life with everyone you meet. There are boundaries to keep in mind and you need to make sure you are revealing secrets to people you feel emotionally safe with.

Remember toxic secrets have more power when they are kept. The more you keep them, they more alone you will feel. Break free from your toxic secrets by opening up and starting to process them.

What scares you about sharing toxic secrets with those you love and trust?