I’m not a marriage expert, but I do have a passion for having the best you possibly can in a relationship. I think all so often we settle for mediocre in our marriages and it’s sad, especially when many of us (not all, I understand) are able to make a few small steps that would transform our lives significantly. I’ve learned the hard way how quickly life can change, and I’m determined to live and love to the absolute best of my ability this time around.
Ryan and I recently had a conversation about privacy in marriage and what exactly this concept means to each one of us. It started as we discussed something he had written years ago. I casually commented that I had come across this document on the computer during our first year of marriage, and I read it, although it hadn’t made much of an impression at the time so I never felt the need to divulge the information. It was my understanding (right or wrong) that as a married woman I had a right to look at whatever was in my house. That’s how I operated in my previous relationship, and I felt the same freedom in this relationship; although my current relationship brought more baggage than the previous one had. Or did it? The previous marriage involved former boyfriends and girlfriends. This marriage involved former spouses and children. It’s a fine line that we’re still navigating from time to time, but for us, the distinction doesn’t feel different when talking about former flings or former spouses, regardless of how the world expects us to feel or act; neither subject is all that interesting for the one on the listening end of the discussion. We continued to explore aspects of what the idea of privacy involves in a marriage, and the conversation deepened to include passwords, former pictures, love letters, documents, diaries, thoughts, computers, devices, Facebook pages, emails, cell phones, secret bank accounts, and dreams. The questions we repeatedly returned to were these: Where is the line? What constitutes healthy boundaries and what constitutes crossing those boundaries? Where does trying to maintain oneness in marriage become some twisted spousal attempt to control the marriage? Or control a person?
I am admittedly a pretty nosy person who relishes the feeling of having control over situations. I think most women like to feel as if they maintain some control over their lives, particularly in regards to our emotional well-beings which includes our husbands and families. I have a need to know about a lot of things. If I question something or an issue pops up about any topic of interest, I am immediately online researching and then sharing my wealth of knowledge with the family at the dinner table. The firstborns love it. The rest, I’m pretty sure, are bored to tears. My mother has informed me that as a little girl I once asked the question, “Do worms poop?” That about sums it up. I’m still interested in the answer to that question. Do they? I think this personality trait has its strengths (I do know quite a bit about a whole lot of things) and obviously weaknesses, (mainly trust issues).
Early in our marriage Ryan and I had trust issues. We hardly knew each other, but we felt strongly that immediate marriage was the best choice of action for our situation. Some may say we should have gotten to know each other better, wait a little longer, or take our time, but we didn’t feel this way, and there were a lot of factors that came into play. To this day we don’t regret getting married only four months after meeting. We were one hundred percent committed to the marriage, and we have seen and experienced wonderful blessings attributed to our decision. I struggle with the whole, “God called us to do it” phraseology, but we did have an absolute peace in regards to the situation and everything fell into place effortlessly. I do believe in God’s calling, but I also firmly believe in Christians using that phrase way too often to exploit their own agendas in life and in relationships. I don’t even want to come close to suggesting that we didn’t also have our own agendas at play, especially when there were so many emotions and hormones running rampant between two recently widowed thirty something year olds. We were both still grieving. We also had colorful pasts that involved other trust issues that of course we shared with each other because in those days there were absolutely no boundaries in our conversations (not something I’d recommend). I don’t trust easily to begin with, throw in former spouses, add some additional issues, a little grief, and three new children, and you have a heart that was really struggling in the first year. I was nosy. I wanted to know who this man was that I had married and devoured anything that I could find about him. I quickly discovered that one of my biggest hurdles was that I was now living and loving someone who didn’t always resemble the perfect, missionary blogger I had fallen in love with -- shockingly, he was human.
I’ve seen many marriages destroyed over secrets, and I need transparency and trust to experience intimacy and oneness. Oneness is what I’m after and what I believe most women are after. I do know many women who are content with the ignorance is bliss model, who don’t want to know their husband’s innermost thoughts, don’t want to know about ex-girlfriends he still thinks about or talks to, don’t want to know how much money he lost at the casino last week, or what his search history looks like on the computer. That doesn’t work for me. We have the opposite problem where we have gone too far in sharing; we’ve surpassed the boundaries of secrets and entered into the realm of privacy and here’s my answer to those questions I asked earlier:
There is a distinction between the two – Privacy and Secrets
You can have privacy as long as it doesn’t involve secrets. Having a dream is a private thought unless (and here’s where the heart issue comes into play) the private dream is stemming from a secret life. For example, the woman who is chatting online with an ex-boyfriend, thinking about him all the time, to the point where it leads into her dream life and now she’s having sex dreams about a man who is not her husband. I absolutely believe that what we feed our brains during the day will often manifest in our dream lives. Her private dream stems from her secret life. There is not a one size fits all answer for thoughts and dreams, but I do believe that God will reveal whether or not it should be kept private because it would only hurt a spouse or whether it should be brought to light because it’s rooted in secrecy and sin. Evil breeds in secrecy and true intimacy cannot thrive with secrets. We choose to serve each other in our marriage by not allowing secrecy because neither one of us functions well as a spouse when secrecy is present -- respect and love die very quickly.
As we continued to talk, I explained how my early nosiness stemmed from a lack of trust. I didn’t initially trust Ryan with my heart. He came into our marriage with “his stuff.” I came into the marriage with “my stuff.” We had very little (how could we only four months in?) that was “our stuff.” Early on I burned heaps of memories that could be potentially painful if he ever came across it. I’m not one who needs to hold on to something to relive the glory days or whatever people do with former love letters or pictures. There were no outs for me in my new marriage, and I didn’t want his perception to be based on an extremely confused, straight out of high school, eighteen year old version of me looking for love in all the wrong places. The difference here, I believe, is that he knew I was going to burn these items. He knew why I was burning them, but he didn’t want details of what was in them. There were no secrets in destroying the diaries, the pictures, and the letters; however, there was privacy in what these items contained (and yes, they should have been burned before my first marriage).
Fast forward three years, we still don’t do everything exactly right and probably never will, but I’m getting better at trusting his heart for me, and I don’t need to go digging anymore to confirm whatever I was after. It’s a vicious cycle -- a woman feels insecure because of xy and z, a man gets defensive because the woman is snooping around, a man feels like he’s not being respected, a woman feels like she’s not number one, therefore a lack of love occurs in her mind, coming back to the fact that a man needs respect more than anything, and a woman needs love more than anything, and secrets do not allow for this absolutely critical aspect of marriage to occur which will ultimately bring forth oneness.
Secrecy hurts, hides, and destroys. Privacy respects, loves, and protects.
Figure out what you want from your marriage. Figure out what your spouse wants from marriage. Communication is painful, but communication is growth, and marriages without it will die -- either physically or emotionally. God’s standard of marriage is comparable to Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the church, which involves our broken down, fragile, in need of grace marriages that must come before the throne of God on a daily basis. That’s a lofty goal, but I do believe an attainable one as we learn to serve each others needs above our own. We have the ability to be completely transparent with Christ because he laid down his life for us. We can bring anything to him and expect that as we repent we will be restored to a loving oneness with him. That’s what I want my marriage to resemble. Christ wants the cobwebs thrown out because true oneness and merciful restoration cannot occur with secrets. I believe it’s the exact same with marriage.
I’m not okay with a superficial marriage. Maybe some people are. It doesn’t work for me. My husband is my best friend, and I want to know him in a deeper way than anyone else in the universe knows him. I want him to know me deeper than anyone has ever known me and still choose me – still love me, just like Christ does. All my murky, nasty, ugliness brought to light, and he still chooses me – he still loves me. That’s oneness. What do you think?
Just keep livin!!
Here’s an additional link on Oprah’s website on privacy in marriage. It has very insightful information for all of you nosy personalities out there like me who need to know more. Enjoy! http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Privacy-Zones-in-Marriage-Part-2
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