ERP 139: How Hiding and Withholding Damage Your Relationship

By Posted in - How To Improve Your Relationship & Podcast April 2nd, 2018 0 Comments How secrets can destroy a relationship

Topic: How secrets can destroy a relationship

Listener’s Question

“I love your podcast! Thank you so much for all your advice. I have been dating a guy ten years my age for just over a year. The first 5 months of our relationship I was emotionally cheating with my ex. When it become open I cut off communication and worked very hard to gain back trust. It’s been eight months on a rollercoaster of emotions trying to earn back trust. I did everything I thought to do to fix my mistakes and it seemed futile. It came to the point where I told myself I was “done” if he aggressively accused me and belittled me one more time. It happened of course and that was a turning point for me. I have lost interest in trying. Now my boyfriend decided he doesn’t want to lose me and wants to work on things and even offered to pay for counselling… but I can’t get my ex (whom I cheated on with) out of my head. I haven’t contacted him since I don’t want things to be more messy than they are but I don’t know what to do. Is my obsession with my ex is real or fake. Should I stay and fix this since my boyfriend wants to work on things or should I move on or contact my ex?”

(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.)

Points Discussed

  • It is nearly impossible to create a thriving, intimate, safe, conscious connection, when there is a lot of withholding.

“Withdrawal and projection are the natural outcomes of withholding. When you withhold, you keep inside yourself things that should be expressed. The very act of hiding these things takes you one step back from the relationship. A result of this withdrawal is that you will begin to project. In other words, you begin to attribute to other people things that are actually issues of your own. Withdrawal follows withholding so swiftly that often we do not notice the sense of distance at first.” By Gay Hendricks & Kathlyn Hendricks (Conscious Loving, page 48)

  • It is difficult to assess the quality of the connection (because you haven’t been fully present). You can only speculate what things would be like if you were really “in” the relationship.
  • Withholding leads to perceiving things inaccurately because we are not actually connecting with the other person, we are making up a story about it true for them and this leads to gross misunderstandings and disconnect. More importantly, it does not give room for the other person to really see you, meet you, and be with you AND this is what creates intimacy and connection.
  • This is a vicious cycle. The more you withhold, the more your partner senses something is off. Your partner has a choice in how he deals with the threatening feelings. Unfortunately, many people do not feel safe or have the skill to say “I am scared you are not really in this with me.” Instead, people will react out of fear and disconnect. This is where destructive behaviors happen. This is where the downward spiral ensues. Both partners turn away from each other, losing trust in one another and the relationship ( how secrets can destroy a relationship ).


1. Set limits about what type of behavior you are willing to engage with.

  • If he starts belittling you, then I would remove yourself from the situation.
  • It will be important to discuss this ahead of time. Let him know you care about his experience.
  • If he has concern, issue, or feelings about something, you are available to listen and be with him. But you are not willing to be the target.
  • Talking about it ahead of time will help him understand that you are not rejecting him in the moment, rather you are trying to create safety by removing yourself from a negative interaction.

2. Turn inward to reflect on some of your deeper motivations.

  • What does your ex represent for you? What associations do you have with him?
  • What are you missing in your current relationship? Want are you longing for?
  • What does fantasizing about your ex do for you? Is it a form of escape? For example, you are not wanting to face the pain and difficulty within your relationship.
  • What stops you from being completely honest and transparent?
    Are you afraid of his reaction?
    Are you afraid of hurting him?
    Do you feel scared of conflict?
    Do you not feel safe?
    Do you not want to lose your partner?

Many times people get preoccupied with questions like “Is this the right person for me? Is this the right relationship? Should I stay or should I go?” These are very difficult questions to answer. Instead, I would like to encourage questions like “How can we invest in a positive, constructive dynamic together? How can we build a safe connection? How can we build trust?”

You already know the dynamic isn’t working. Focus on repairing the interactions and this will give you a better opportunity of saving your relationship. I would highly recommend getting support to work through the areas that have been keeping you stuck, as well as to build a constructive path forward. At the very least, you will learn a lot about yourself.



Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 139: How Hiding And Withholding Damage Your Relationship [TRANSCRIPT]

Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. It is important that we understand how secrets can destroy a relationship and learn how to overcome it to save your relationship.

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