The Weight of Adult Secrets

“I’m having an affair with Jason,” Rebecca abruptly confessed as I was walking out the door of our town’s post office. She said it quickly and quietly. She looked guilty.

Rebecca is married with three kids. Jason is married with four kids. I am nobody in this situation; but now she’s made me involved. I have no idea why.

Rebecca and I are somewhere between acquaintance and friend status. I really don’t know her well. We live in the same small town. We see each other on occasion at school functions and kids’ sports. We rarely text and I don’t know her birthday. We’ve had too much wine together at various house parties, but that’s the extent of our friendship. I certainly wouldn’t feel compelled to divulge any deep dark secrets to her.

Yet, here she’s handed me this massive load.

It’s funny the difference between the weight of adolescent secrets vs. adult secrets.

Looking back, I was a terrible secret keeper as a teenager. No matter how many promises, pinky swears, and cross my heart and hope to die vows I took, no secret was safe with me.

And I’m pretty sure my secrets weren’t safe with those who promised to hold on to them tight.

Adolescence was hard. It was hormonal and painful. It was emotional and lustful. Girls were nightmares and sometimes we didn’t even treat our own friends with kindness.

Adulthood is hard. It has the façade of seeming stable and status quo, but it’s a fucking mess. Adults are also nightmares filled with hidden desires, bottled up resentment and a nostalgic yearning to be a carefree adolescent again.

The spilling of an adolescent secret feels like the end of the world.

The spilling of an adult secret can actually be the end of the world.

In that moment—in a small-town post office—I was handed incredible power. I held the fate of two families, two oblivious spouses and seven innocent children, whose worlds could easily be turned upside-down with just one simple whisper from me.

“How long has it been going on?” I asked.

She looked down at her feet and replied, “A few months.” She glanced up at me, almost wincing, expecting to see judgment on my face.

Who am I to judge? I know absolutely nothing about the factors leading up to this. Maybe Rebecca’s husband cheated on her? Maybe he’s abusive? Maybe she just fell out of love? Maybe her husband knows and doesn’t care?

“Promise you won’t say anything,” she added, as if it weren’t obvious. Not many people confess their affairs with hopes of being caught.

“I won’t,” I promised.

Even though I don’t necessarily condone infidelity, I did feel sympathy for her. She looked conflicted. She looked confused. She looked sad. Yes, her actions don’t show the greatest of character, but I sensed there was more than meets the eye.

I sensed that she confided in me—not because she wanted to talk about Jason—but because she wanted to tell me about what lured her into his bed.

Maybe in time I’ll learn the whole truth. But probably not. It’s not my truth to know.

Since that day in the post office, I have occasionally felt tempted to expose this gossip to other friends in the town. Friends with whom I am closer to. . .  friends who I trust.

But I know I can’t do that, as tempting as it is. I know that I can’t trust anybody.

The weight of an adult secret has insurmountable consequences if uncovered. I was handed the power to ruin lives and start a small-town scandal.

I’ve learned that keeping a secret can feel just as satisfying as spreading salacious gossip. Guarding this secret is protecting those spouses and children from humiliation and heartache. For me? I’d rather use my power for protection than destruction.