Privacy, Secrets and Shame–Part II: Ludwig and Family, ct’d–The Secret and the Damage Done

It’s not the place here to go back and examine Manfred’s issues with sexuality, and his conviction that if he just tried marriage, all would be well. What does matter, ultimately, is the secret Manfred kept, and how damaging it was to himself and to those he loved–as all too often secrets can be..

Assuredly, the secret was eating away at Manfred, who suffered from his conflicted emotions concerned his brief gay affairs  But meanwhile, the secret was wreaking its own havoc on Uta. Women: consider yourself in a situation where your husband, a generally kind man, has withdrawn from you sexually—completely—with no explanation, and withdrawn from you emotionally, as well.

Honestly, what would be your first instinct here? You know it: “It’s my fault he’s not interested.” So, first, Uta felt something was wrong with her. She worked to lose weight, underwent beauty treatments [perhaps the third set of highlights would capture his fancy], and hired a wardrobe consultant. In essence, Manfred’s secret tore at the very fabric of Uta’s self-esteem, and undercut her own sense of womanhood.

It wasn’t until the night Manfred, sleepless with terror about his HIV diagnosis, finally confessed.

Uta had an interesting response to the outing of the secret. Suddenly, everything made sense.  Relieved of the idea that she was to blame for a failed marriage, Uta was more than willing to explain her un-part in the fiasco that was their relationship. Even the embarrassing truth was better than living with the pain of the unknown secret.

And let’s think about Manfred himself, and what the secret had cost him, by this point–before it possibly cost him his life.  His secret began with shame, and the secret behavior demanded by the secret yielded more shame, until it became intolerable.  He had to deny his very self.


But to leave it there would be to forget about Ludwig. He recovered from the ‘shock and awe’ that was his father’s coming out in a rather dramatic way. Or, rather, he recovered on some fronts.

But secrets have lives of their own, and can be transmitted throughout generations in a family. Ludwig was now no longer living with a  Dad with a secret; he was a young woman living with his own secret, the secret of a Dad’s father’s closeted gay life and  death from AIDS.

He was dating a woman that seemed more right than his previous girlfriends. But Ludwig feared losing her if he revealed his father’s story. The shame—that power-tool of secrets—was too great.

And there, with that last question, we have a snapshot of the very reason that so many people—even those who want to share their secrets and stop hiding—keep their corrupted confidences, more afraid of what the secret might do, than of its current corrosive action within.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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