The Crushing Burden of Other People’s Secrets

I carry the weight of the secrets kept from me

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
5 min readOct 30, 2022


Vintage storage chests
Photo by Sam Jotham Sutharson on Unsplash

Having recently unearthed two massive, life-changing secrets that directly impacted me, I spend a great deal of time contemplating the life I lived before I knew versus the life I live now, after.

For every step forward, I take a half-step back. We can never go back to exactly where we once were, so it’s not a full step; I cannot return to my starting point. But neither am I as far forward as I fervently wish to be — I am not, sadly, over it, simply taking baby steps in a long and painful process.

Nearly five years ago, I found out that my husband was having an affair. The fact that we had been together since we were 20 and were now 47, that we shared three children aged seven to 18, that we had been a part of each other’s lives longer than we had lived our lives without each other — these long-term factors, indicating our deep entanglement, added to my disorientation.

I have heard stories in which the extent of the betrayal is far worse than my own, spouses who led double lives for decades — lives that included lovers, drugs, heaps of lost finances.

I compared my own situation. My husband’s affair was not a one-night stand. It had gone on for months, not years. There had been, according to him, only one other woman.

On the one hand, his infraction was monumental enough to topple our 27-year relationship. Once I knew, I could not salvage that which had not actually been there. The relationship I thought we had did not exist, so what was there to save? I had been happy in our marriage; he had felt constrained. From whose version of reality were we supposed to rebuild? The marriage was over.

On the other hand, his infraction was not so monumental that it forced me to reach deep into the reserves to question years’ worth of memories — a handful of years, yes, but not decades. His betrayal had existed within a set period of time that was barely manageable to accept, but it hadn’t happened over a lifetime.

Having to face what betrayal feels like when a secret is kept over the course of a lifetime would come for me two years later, from the…



Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.