When I was younger, I had this recurring nightmare. I had just killed someone, and was trying to hide the body. I hadn’t meant to kill anyone, and couldn’t even actually remember doing it, but there I was with the body, and I had to choose, quickly, between either confessing or hiding the evidence. For a long time, I chose the latter.
I used to keep many secrets. I think this was mostly based on feelings of shame. I wanted to be someone else, and in order to succeed I had to hide behind a wall of secrets.
Needless to say it didn’t work out, and years later I was still the same person. Not changed, hardly even upgraded, rather like a rock molded by external forces until the roughest edges are gone.
But I had learned many things in the process. One of those things was that secrets wear your heart out and gnaw at your soul. Most secrets are useless, since the weight of carrying them around is usually heavier than the weight of the consequences could ever be.
I’m all for honesty these days. It feels great to have nothing to hide. I’ve still got a few tiny secrets that absolutely no one knows. I’m not actively trying to hide them. They’re just things that I prefer to keep to myself, things I’d take back if I could. If I talked about those things, people might get the wrong idea of who I am. Those skeletons jumped into the closet a long time ago. What would be the point of digging them back up again?
I read an article about secrets in marriages. The cited study suggests that keeping secrets in marriages is very common, with 60% admitting to having at some point kept a secret, and 25% saying they were currently keeping a secret from their partner. The biggest motive for keeping secrets was protecting the partner from pain, and the second biggest, protecting self from shame. Most people reasoned like I do, that keeping a little secret that doesn’t hurt anyone, is better than possible complications. If no one knows, and no one’s getting hurt by it, what’s the harm?
The researchers thought it might not be this simple, and they might be right. Maybe there is harm. Not necessarily harm to anyone else, but harm to the person who is hiding behind the secret. Maybe it is a problem that I feel there are some things I need to hide, even now.
I don’t get that dream anymore. I haven’t killed anyone in my sleep for years. But maybe it’s not over yet. I still haven’t walked the whole path of honesty. To be whole, you need to be able to accept who you once were, who you are now, and who you are going to be and fuse those things into a complete person.
Secrets lock the door to one part of you, closing it off from the rest and leaving it ugly and untended like the prototypical secret room in a horror movie. You know, the one you enter through a hatch behind the washing machine in the cellar. The one where no one ever goes expect for the mad person (and his victims).
Real life is usually not like horror movies. My room is not that bad, really. It’s unpleasant, and I’d rather not carry it with me, but it’s a room of human failing and weakness, not a room of evil and terror. Maybe I should open the door and give it a proper airing.
What do you think? Do you need to spill all your beans for a relationship to be truly close, or are some secrets better left in the dark?