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The Secrets Couples Keep

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Secrets You Must Spill continued...

As many couples find out too late, when you keep a secret that profoundly affects your family, you face a double whammy when the secret eventually — or inevitably — implodes: After the first shock wave from the hidden truth rips through the family, you're hit with the secondary tremors that come from the resulting feelings of betrayal and distrust. "My husband was running a retail Website, and he assured me it was doing well," recalls Karen,* a 39-year-old mom of two. "I thought I could stay home with my children and not have to worry about making money myself." A year ago, however, Karen discovered that her husband's business was in the hole for more than $1 million, and he had taken out a line of credit against their house. The truth came out only when he announced that he would have to take an additional job. "I was furious!" Karen says. A year later, her family has begun recovering from the financial blow — they've settled in a new town, and her husband found a good job — but Karen is still dealing with her sense of hurt, anger, and betrayal. "He says he didn't tell me about it because he thought he could turn his business around, and he was just so embarrassed that he couldn't support our family. But I couldn't believe he left me in the dark for all those years," she says now.

When confronted with such a big, sudden revelation, it's natural to think, Why didn't you tell me? I'm the one person on earth who is supposed to understand! But the reasons men, in particular, keep secrets like these are multilayered, say the experts. They may, like Karen's husband, want to keep up an appearance of being strong and in control — out of fear that you'll stop loving them if you see them in a different, vulnerable light. They may be loath to deal with the turbulence they know their secret will unleash. And yes, some men may just hope that silence will help them avoid a fight. "Men are wary of women's emotional reactivity and usually shy away from conflicts," says REDBOOK Love Network expert Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men. "They'll do anything to avoid making a woman furious, though they usually end up making things worse."

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