How Secrets And Lies Can Harm The Mother-Daughter Relationship

secrets and lies

We Have All Kept Secrets And Told Lies

Is keeping secrets and telling lies a part of your mother-daughter dynamic? Let’s begin with the reality that most people have kept secrets and lied, often to keep the peace or protect others they care about. So, this article is not about judgment or morality or whether keeping secrets and telling lies is right or wrong. This is about how keeping secrets and telling lies in the mother-daughter dynamic can cause serious problems.

Keeping Secrets Can Be A Misguided Attempt To Protect

Many mothers have kept secrets from their daughters because they truly thought it was the right thing to do. And, in some cases, it might be. In other cases, there may not be a good outcome for telling the truth or keeping secrets. A mom who hides the fact that her daughter is adopted or fathered outside her marriage isn’t an easy choice to make. If a mom has suffered abuse or an attack in her past, she may not want to share that information with anyone, much less an innocent daughter.

While it may seem like keeping information like a rape secret, it can have unforeseen consequences. Protecting daughters from knowing how predators work can  leave daughters unprepared for very real dangers she may face. Not sharing information about mental health, alcoholism, or other issues also puts daughters at risk because they won’t know how to take care of themselves. Moms may want to shelter daughters from painful realities, but  secret keeping with good intentions prevent girls from knowing that drinking when you come from a long line of alcoholics might have dire consequences.

From Physical Health To Mental Health We All Need The Info To Keep Safe

Think about families who have breast cancer in the family. You’ve seen the lengths they go to do testing and keep their mothers and daughters safe and healthy. Unfortunately, it is not common for families with addiction or mental illness to do the same, often leaving family members to figure out on their own what’s going on, or going wrong, with their bodies and brain. The same can be said for basic safety, learning disorders, family abuse history, sexual identity, and so much more. We still live in a society where many women don’t feel comfortable or safe sharing what’s going on with them, and what’s happened to them, whether it’s a mother or daughter.

A Daughter’s Secrets And Lies Can Create Terrible Trouble Too

I’ll speak from my own experience on this one. I hid my addiction disorder from my mom for years. My intention was not to hurt her, quite the contrary, I didn’t want to disappoint her. I wasn’t ready to change my lifestyle until I was, and the path of least resistance was to keep my use a secret and lie whenever confronted, which was often. Let me explain what this does, it creates distance and a lack of trust. For me, it turned lying into a lifestyle. It’s hard to keep track of what you’re saying from one moment to another, especially when you’re not sober. This behavior eroded my relationships with those closest to me, and addiction led me into real mental health crises. My secrets and lies almost killed me.

Whether a daughter is lying about seeing a boyfriend or girlfriend that her mom doesn’t approve of, or hiding an eating disorder, there can be serious consequences for hiding the truth. A mom can’t protect her daughter if she doesn’t know what’s going on. Trust me, no one knows better than me how difficult it is to be honest with a mom you’re scared of, or don’t want to disappoint. It can become a shame spiral, but for that reason too, being honest is crucial.

Note* if telling your secret will result in life-altering consequences that put you in danger do not share! For example, if you think you might be gay and you have hard-core religious parents who won’t accept that, tell someone who is safe and will keep your secret. The point of this exercise is not to put anyone in harm’s way. We’re trying to reduce the damage, not create more. Look to counselors, outside help, or a safe adult to talk to.

Secrets And Lies Can Cause Real Health Problems Too

Not only does keeping secrets and telling lies cause stress, but that anxiety can lead to more mental health and physical problems. I’ll explain–when you get used to keeping secrets or telling lies it can become a lifestyle. This is when bigger behavioral problems can get started. Holding shameful or painful secrets might eventually cause someone to self-harm or abuse substances to feel better. There’s also the stress factor. We all know that ongoing stress or negative feelings will cause your body to produce more cortisol and struggle to self-soothe. Ever notice when you’re majorly unhappy sometimes you get headaches, stomach aches, or acne? Stress manifests in physical ways. Secrets and lies will cause stress.

So, the takeaway here is if you are holding onto shameful secrets, whether you are a mother or a daughter, take time to think about whether this is the healthiest way to go. And, always seek professional help if you are unsure of what to do or have intense feelings you don’t know how to manage. Asking for help is an important part of healing any relationship.

We wrote an entire chapter on secrets and lies in our new book! It is now on sale for pre-order! Check it out here!

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