Each month, tens of thousands of people search the internet for marriage and relationship help tips. There are a lot of seekers out there looking for ways to improve their relationship (this is great news!).
And, according to Google, almost five thousand people search for the phrase “marriage secrets” each and every month. Is there a difference between looking for relationship help information versus looking for marriage or relationship “secrets?”
As a psychologist and marriage/couples counselor, I think there’s a pretty significant difference.
Why You Should Stop Looking for Marriage/Relationship Secrets
I recently read an article purporting to divulge the “secrets” of successful marriages. Two of the secrets listed (drum roll, please…) were communication and treating each other with respect—the cat’s out of the bag now! Although, in all fairness, the article included several reasonable pieces of marriage/relationship advice, as a reader I was disappointed. Where were the promised “secrets” this author had discovered?
Sometimes, the use of the word “secret” in relationship articles and marriage books (especially in the title) is a marketing strategy to increase your curiosity and motivate you to read further. And depending on the goal of the author, it may be a way to get you to purchase a product s/he is selling. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but as the reader you should be fully aware of what the word “secrets” implies—especially when it comes to marriage/relationship help articles/books.
The use of the word “secrets” can impact your perception in the following ways:
- The idea of “secrets” implies that once you discover the hidden gem that only this author knows about, your life will be forever changed (this sets up unrealistic expectations that can lead to disappointment and worse, the belief that your relationship cannot be helped if the “secret” fails to improve things);
- The notion of self-help “secrets” suggests a short-cut to your destination–an easy (or easier) path to your relationship goals (the implication is that hard work can be avoided);
- “Secrets” also suggests that the answers to your marriage/relationship problems lie outside yourself (this can make you passive in the change process, reducing your sense responsibility for the change that may be needed);
- The term may also lead to the mindset that a mysterious and obscure fix is needed (rather than something transparent and practical, which is often the case).
If there is an undiscovered, one-size-fits-all mystery to be unearthed about marriage and committed relationships, I’m yet to find it in my work as a marriage/couples counselor.
It’s no secret that marriages and relationships take effort and focused dedication in order to work; And it’s no secret that holding on to intimacy over the life of a relationship is a challenge for many of us.
So should you stop reading relationship help articles and marriage books that have the word “secret” in their title? Of course not! These books may offer practical and helpful information. Just don’t be lulled into the mindset that you will discover something mysterious or an easy solution that only that author knows about.
As you work toward improving your relationship, seek information and knowledge, not secrets.
Dr. Rich Nicastro