WoW 092: On secret sin and systemic dysfunction, Recovery part 9 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 092: On secret sin and systemic dysfunction, Recovery, part 9

This is Part 9 in a series on Recovery.
On Recovery, Part 1

On dualities, sacrifice, and treasure. Part 2

On devotion via acceptance, Part 3

On the vision of your life, Part 4

On exposure and commitment, Part 5

On expectations and resentment, Part 6​

On trust and the devastation of betrayal, Part 7

On the two essentials to recovery, Part 8

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To the degree that acting out is present, a primary relationship is systemically unable to experience deep intimacy.

When acting out is present, whether that be an addictive behavior or a secret betrayal, there is another element in the primary relationship that disrupts the connection of the couple. Acting out becomes the 3rd wheel in the relationship.

Instead of being able to exclusively give energy, attention, and desire to the partner, due to the relationship to acting out, intimacy is inevitably damaged and flourishing cannot occur.

This commonly appears as conflict that cannot be resolved, fueled by shame that cannot be healed in the betrayer, and a dynamic that the betrayed either does not know about or knows about and cannot stop directly, as only the betrayer can stop the behavior.

Betrayers often hope that if they simply stop the behavior but do not tell the betrayed about the acting out, they are protecting them. But the dynamic is not fully healed, the secret remains, and shame continues, often feeding the very acting out behavior that the betrayer wishes to avoid.

Furthermore, the betrayed remains in a prison of unawareness of the betrayal and cannot live fully in reality. This steals the ability for them to live in the full truth.

Eventually, if the acting out is not killed, the death of the relationship will follow.

If you think ignoring a betrayal secret will protect you, your family, and your relationship, think again.

Stopping acting out is necessary for flourishing, of course. What's less appealing on the surface is the betrayer being rigorously honest with their partner. Making a significant amends for the trauma and pain inflicted is the necessary terrifying yet healing surgery to the scourge of betrayal.

If you think keeping a betrayal secret will protect your spouse, think again.

Betrayal secrets only ravage your own soul and steal reality from the one you love the most.

The most profound way for a couple to experience healing is for the acting out to be stopped and the betrayal to become known so that the systemic dynamic in the relationship can be changed.

But sharing details doesn't typically help the healing. The extent of the betrayal should be shared, not the details, not the story. Once pandora's box has been opened, and the secret is out, the betrayed often wants to know everything possible. Despite this, the general best practice is to share the extent of what happened. Details rarely lead to healing but do often lead to further trauma and triggers. This is delicate territory and is best navigated with an experienced and wise mental health professional.

If you're harboring a secret, you know it's not working. The only way to freedom is to surrender your secret to God and find peace with Him. In doing this you will learn to find peace with others, hopefully with your spouse.

Yes, this level of commitment to honesty could destroy the relationship. But it could also revolutionize your relationship with God, give birth to new levels of freedom, restore trust, and spark genuine emotional intimacy.

Breaking secret sin through confession is one of the most courageous and excruciating things you can do. It is also the only gateway to freedom and growth that, until you walk the path, you can never fully realize.


To what degree have I compromised my relationship with the truth and with my partner?

Is keeping this secret actually helping?

If you keep this secret for another ten years, to what degree will things be better or worse? Describe this in detail.

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and prayers this week)


"If we are to love sincerely, and with simplicity, we must first of all overcome the fear of not being loved. And this cannot be done by forcing ourselves to believe in some illusion, saying that we are loved when we are not. We must somehow strip ourselves of our greatest illusions about ourselves, frankly recognize in how many ways we are unlovable, descend into the depths of our being until we come to the basic reality that is in us, and learn to see that we are lovable after all, in spite of everything!"

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Charles Feltman defines trust as "choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions," and he describes distrust as deciding that "what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation)."

Charles Feltman, The Thin Book of Trust


Deep vulnerability leads to deep transformation. There is no other way to the life you long for.

Live wisely,


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