A secret is personal information you keep to yourself.
Your secret could be a time you messed up, a situation in which you wronged someone or an argument in which you said something you regret.
It was a time in your life when you weren’t being the person you wanted to be.
Or maybe, the harm was inflicted on you. You're embarrassed you didn’t see the fist coming until it sucker-punched you right in the gut.
Either way, sharing your secret requires strength, courage and bravery. Ultimately, the guilt or pain crests, and you feel an excruciating loneliness.
Keeping it inside is too painful.
You recall a saying about how sharing your secret halves the burden of carrying it alone.
But who do you tell? With whom do you share the burden?
Many people choose their best friends.
This person is your best friend for a reason.
There’s history between the two of you. There’s mutual trust and respect.
There’s a proven track record this person is a good listener and offers perspicacious advice.
You chose this person to fill the role of your best friend because he or she is reliable, unflappable, kind-hearted and authentic.
You feel completely confident this person won’t judge you when you reveal your deepest insecurities, your most heinous screwups and your most intense emotions.
So, you do it. You tell your best friend.
You become vulnerable to him or her. You trust he or she won't use that information against you in the future.
You believe he or she won't ridicule you for what you’ve done, make you feel ashamed or privately derive pleasure from your revelation.
He or she will not store your secret away in his or her back pocket and then bring it up at a later date and use it against you.
You feel relieved. The weight has been lifted off your chest. Your burden has been halved.
Your friend offers level-headed and well-reasoned advice, and you are pleased you entrusted him or her with your secret.
You feel this way until you see your friend again a week later. This person admits he or she told his or her significant other your secret.
Your friend gives you some advice from the SO.
You stop dead in your tracks.
Your cheeks blaze, and little pinpricks materialize on your skin.
You can't help but imagine your friend and his or her SO sitting in bed one night, talking about your personal failures, insecurities and fears.
Plain and simple, you feel ashamed.
This feeling permeates your entire body down to your bones, and you start to regret ever trusting your friend to keep your secret.
You express genuine feelings of betrayal to your friend, but he or she fails to understand. Your friend insists his or her SO is not going to say anything.
He or she wholeheartedly believes his or her SO is an exception to the “don’t tell anyone” request.
He or she honestly never thought, even for a second, there was anything wrong. Why wouldn’t he or she tell his or her SO?
This person views his or her friend’s secret as falling under a sort of everyday “spousal immunity” rule.
But how does sharing a friend’s secret with your spouse help your marriage?
Obviously, it doesn’t. This revelation was a violation of privacy and trust in the friendship.
When you told your friend, you weren't seeking his or her SO’s opinion or perspective because you don't know him or her like you know your friend.
This person is your best friend. His or her SO is not.
You didn't choose to reveal a side of yourself that wasn’t very pretty to your friend's SO.
As such, you don't feel comfortable with this person knowing what makes you feel as vulnerable as standing naked in front of a room full of people.
Yet, now your friend's SO knows your most closely held secret and is inevitably scrutinizing, analyzing and processing it in a way that affects how he or she sees you as a person.
So, while you tell your friend you don't want to hear what his or her SO has to say, you're also writing yourself a mental note.
The next time you have a secret, you will find someone else to discuss it with. You no longer trust this friend with your most intimate feelings, biggest fears and most epic screwups.
In writing this reminder, you feel sad.
Sharing secrets is a bonding experience that draws two people closer together, and you don’t want to lose that.
But trust in friendship is paramount, and you have every right to want to feel confident that when you say, “Don’t tell anyone,” there is no exception.
Between friends, there is no spousal immunity.