My Account

Are You Keeping Secrets from Your Therapist?

Therapy can help as long as you’re being honest in your sessions.

Share this post:

secrets in therapy

“I have said to you to speak the truth is a painful thing. To be forced to tell lies is much worse.”- Oscar Wilde.

So often, the challenges of being honest and transparent find their way to your therapist’s office. Many couples and individuals do not disclose important aspects of themselves or the relationship out of fear and discomfort. Of course, the comfort level with the therapist is a priority. Therapists must work on building rapport and creating a safe space for their clients to open up. However, even then, some individuals struggle to be honest with themselves and/or others.  This is also understandable from the trauma-informed perspective and should not be shamed. Rather, it should be explored, and telling your therapist about your struggles is the first step. 

Are you comfortable expressing your emotions when angry or sad? If your partner is upset with you, do you feel very uncomfortable and want to avoid interaction? Have you betrayed your partner and think that if they find out they will leave you? Hence, you are living with the burden of this secret? Is it difficult for you to share about your past since it brings up painful emotions in you? Powerful individual differences stemming from past experiences, childhood upbringing, and cultural norms among many other factors govern the answers to these questions. 

The most common stumbling block to transparency is how each partner “feels about feelings,” especially negative ones. In “What Makes Love Last?” Dr. John Gottman describes a person’s attitude toward feelings as “meta-emotion.”  “Meta” is a word that psychologists use to describe something that folds back on itself. “Meta-emotion,” for example, refers to how we feel about feelings. In his book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman points out that people who are emotionally intelligent can identify their feelings and tolerate how people around them feel. They can handle strong feelings of anger, shame, sadness, hurt, and anxiety. 

Unfortunately, many people did not learn these important skills because in childhood they did not receive attuned and consistent emotional care. This is usually done by parents who don’t know how to manage their own emotional states. As a result, these children become adults who have difficulties managing their feelings (and the feelings of others), so they turn to avoidance and numbing. 

Keeping secrets in therapy looks like the following scenarios: 

  • coming in for couples therapy and not sharing that you have feelings for someone else
  • not sharing that you had/have affair(s)
  • knowing that, if you share your true feelings about an issue, your partner will feel hurt thus not wanting to share to avoid causing pain
  • not knowing how to process your own feelings of guilt and therefore trying to dismiss them
  • feeling worried that you won’t be accepted if you tell the truth

These thought processes sound like: 

  • “If I tell you, the consequences will be too painful and I don’t know how to deal with that.” 
  • “I don’t know what to say if you get angry or start crying.” 
  • “It reminds me of when my father/mother/etc. got angry and sad and I did not have an answer then either. I didn’t know how to make things better.” 
  • “I care about this person and I don’t want to see them hurt. So I try to go around having this conversation.” 
  • “I don’t want the therapist to think poorly of me.” 
  • “If I show my true self, I won’t be liked anymore.”

Do these scenarios sound familiar? These are the fears behind keeping secrets in relationships and in therapy. However, if you never face the pain and discomfort of having vulnerable, honest conversations, it will only get worse and become a source of more trouble. 

Now, I understand that disclosing something painful isn’t easy. I hear you. You probably had negative experiences with that. It hurt on the receiving end too for your partner. However, here’s the truth: research shows that 90% of partners want to be told the truth regardless. Despite the pain, people feel better knowing. 

Let’s look at infidelity, for example. The betrayal felt by partners is as much about lying and secret-keeping as about the actual behavior. The best chance that a relationship will survive is if the person becomes honest and transparent.  The whole truth for the first time, although extremely difficult and painful, feels like a kind of freedom. Therapists trained in working with betrayal trauma can help facilitate the process of disclosure. 

Additionally, I often tell my clients that I doubt that they can tell me anything that will shock me at this point. Having thousands and thousands of therapy hours with various clients from different walks of life, I’ve heard many stories. I also feel a deep connection and feel honored that they choose to share their experiences, pains, and hopes with me. I am sure many therapists feel the same. So, regardless if you are in couples or individual therapy, find the courage and express yourself honestly and with transparency. 

Are you currently looking for a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist to use research-based approaches to help your relationship? The Gottman Institute is seeking couples to participate in an international outcome study on Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Learn more here.

Share this post:

Anna Aslanian is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the states of California, Florida, and New York. She’s the founder and director of a boutique practice My Therapy Corner. Anna is a Certified Gottman Therapist and a Bringing Baby Home Educator. Additionally, she is a Certified EMDR and Attachment-EMDR trauma therapist. She is trained in a variety of modalities such as Polyvagal Theory, Acceptance Commitment Therapy and more. Her specialties include couples/relationship work, addiction, trauma and anxiety. Anna provides consultations and supervisions to professionals as well as a variety of therapeutic services to clients. Visit her website, follow her on Instagram or like My Therapy Corner on Facebook.

Recommended products

Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $199.00.

Transform Your Relationship

The Gottman Relationship Adviser is a complete approach to relationship wellness. Measure your relationship health with the research-based Gottman Assessment, analyze five key areas of your partnership to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then start a tailored, step-by-step digital program proven to heal and strengthen your connection—all on your schedule and from anywhere.

The Adviser uses the legendary scientific Gottman Method to help you understand what’s really going on in your relationship—and gives you exactly what you need to improve it.

Original price was: $119.00.Current price is: $79.00.

Research-based Foundations for a Lifetime of Love.  The Gottman Relationship Coach is an inspiring and educational multimedia experience designed to enhance the well-being of relationships. Participants will be guided through research-based tools and communication skills that can transform relationships—all based on the popular Gottman Method. The first program, “How to Make Your Relationship Work”, is now available and includes:

  • The Gottman Method and How to Make Your Relationship Work
  • How do we predict the future of a relationship?
  • How to build a Sound Relationship House
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.


Created by “the Einstein of Love” (Psychology Today), this two-day workshop is grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable. See for yourself why millions of couples worldwide have benefited from the Gottman Method.

Quote from participant in most recent Live Virtual Workshop:

The Art and Science of Love workshop- where do I begin? It was an absolute stellar workshop. We were looking forward to this for weeks, and it exceeded our expectations! It was well-structured, and well-organized, and provided a wealth of information with real-time demonstrations of how to work through specific scenarios. The outstanding support that was provided throughout the exercises with therapists on standby- WOW! Priceless!

Includes the Art & Science of Love box set.  Please allow time for shipping.  Please Note: This is a live online event. To attend, you will need a reliable internet connection. Our staff will reach out to you with your personal registration and access information.

Related posts

Eating disorder

When Food Hurts Relationships

The Gottman Institute

Learn how eating disorders can disrupt and bring distance between partners ...

Read More

What to Expect in Family Therapy

What to Expect from Family Therapy

Michael Brown

Read this before you consider going to therapy as a family ...

Read More

Two Good Reasons to Save Your Marriage

The Gottman Institute

You'd be surprised what a good relationship can do for you ...

Read More

How to Know a Relationship Is Too Much Work

How to Know a Relationship is Too Much Work

Andrew G. Marshall

Can this relationship be saved? ...

Read More

Help My Spouse Wont Go to Therapy

Help! My Partner Won’t Go to Therapy

Laura Silverstein

Is it possible for one person to improve a relationship on their own? ...

Read More

The Digital Age Weekend Homework Assignment

3 Ways to Invest in Your Relationship

Jennifer Scott

Make deposits into the wealth of your relationship and see dividends in love. ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month