The Open Secret


The Open Secret

Affairs Are Usually a Collusion of Mutual Deception

By Emily Brown

May/June 1993


A SECRET AFFAIR IS ALMOST AN OXYMORON, LIKE AN UNMOVING earthquake—no matter how much effort is expended on keeping it hidden, its impact severely shakes, and sometimes devastates, the comfortable certainties of marriage. Presumably "unknown" to the spouse, the affair nonetheless has enormous power to create feelings of shame, tension, distrust, fear, suspicion and self-doubt in both parties—feelings that seep like a dark taint into the entire fabric of family life. A hidden affair is not just a betrayal, but a time bomb that can destroy the structure of belief, faith and integrity that is at the core of our sense of security with those closest to us.

The secret affair fundamentally alters the quality of married life. Not only is the affair hidden, but the process of secrecy results in a web of lies necessary to hide the original secret. The infidel has to sift through the ordinary details of daily existence before speaking: he or she has to think about where time is spent when not at home; movies seen and restaurants visited that may be unknown to the spouse; exposure to new opinions about art, politics and clothing styles that might reveal another life. When one spouse is having an affair, the other spouse becomes the outsider, the one not in on the secret, the de facto third party. The spouse often lives in a miasma of half-truth and doubt, a world in which nothing about the relationship to the infidel seems clear and straight forward. Knowing something is amiss,…

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Topic: Couples

Tags: affairs | secrets



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