Does your spouse know everything there is to know about you? Do you know everything there is to know about your spouse? Are you an open book when it comes to each and every detail of your thoughts, insecurities, fantasies, embarrassing moments, etc.? Is your spouse? If you think you know every minor detail about your sweetie’s inner self, I’d love to know how the weather is over there in “your” world. And, even if you think you’re completely honest with your sweetie, I challenge you to think long and hard on it. Maybe you’re so good at keeping your secrets, you’ve fooled even yourself. We each have secrets…those thoughts we’re ashamed to admit we have (like sexual desires we’re afraid to share with our spouse for fear he/she will reject us), those little uh-ohs we’ve made over the years no one else knows about (like fender benders witnessed only by us), those little crushes we develop on someone other than our spouse (being married doesn’t mean we’re dead…we still find sparks outside our marriage every now and again), or those things we take a peek at when we think no one’s watching (like online porn or flirty glances at strangers). These secrets range from hiding that shopping indulgence we knew our spouse wouldn’t approve of to harboring romantic feelings for another person…from failing to mention previous relationships to having post-work beers with the guys while you’re thought to be working late. These are the little secrets we keep to steer clear of confrontation, to avoid shame, and to dodge repercussions. But are all secrets bad? Do we really need to know every thought or experience our other half has? On the flipside, do we want our other half to be privy to every private thought and detail about us that we’ve tried so desperately to keep hidden? Obviously, the answer is “NO!”
For years, marriage counselors have preached complete honesty (NO secrets) as the only way to have a successful marriage. But recently, professionals are rethinking this stance. It’s now thought that we need to keep some minor details secret (obviously not major details – such as affairs or financial secrets that will affect both partners) in order to maintain a little mystery, as well as to maintain what’s left of our individual identities. When we marry, we become one. But should we…is becoming one the best way?
Sure…at first, becoming one seems like the thing to do. Walking down the aisle and receiving that symbolic piece of paper seems to be the only way of becoming as close as humanly possible to that person we can’t seem to get enough of. We want to eat, sleep, and breathe this ONE person. But in time, as time has a way of doing, we may yearn for our own little piece of identity back. If our spouse is aware of every fleeting thought, every pending fear, every little move we make – every second of every day – (and we’re just as aware of his every move and thought) we begin to lose ourselves somewhat. The line separating where one ends and the other begins becomes as blurry as that cute little yellow line in the middle of the road after one too many jello shots. When that line blurs, we begin to grow bored with one another and wander over to another “traffic lane.” Knowing too much about the other can be monotonous. To a point, this is good…monotony means security for some. But without a little mystery and spontaneity, we’ll soon bore ourselves to death and, possibly, search for that spontaneity elsewhere.
Keeping secrets is a defense mechanism…self preservation…a natural behavior in human beings. But our culture dictates that we defy that instinct, divulge every detail of ourselves, and be completely honest in every aspect of our inner beings when it comes to our spouse. Not only are we taught to practice complete honesty regarding our most personal thoughts, but we’re also taught to expect the same from our spouse. Guess where these expectations get us? Denial…denial of our own feelings and actions and denial of our spouse’s feelings and actions. Denial is yet another defense mechanism we employ when we can’t come to terms with unrealistic expectations. Why do we insist on expecting superhuman traits from our spouses AND ourselves? These idealistic expectations are doomed to bite us in the ass. There’s no way either partner can accomplish this feat… being human and all. So, what happens when it comes out that one of us has kept a secret? What happens when she discovers that he’s been sneaking a peek at porn sites? What happens when she finds a love note from a girlfriend he had long before being married? What happens when he discovers she has a crush on another man? Just what does happen when we have our blinders ripped off and realize that our spouse – who we thought was so perfect and incapable of keeping secrets from us – does, in fact, have a few secrets…and is, in fact, not so perfect? Unnecessary fighting, tension, and disappointment are unleashed as the three-headed dragon that it is.
We’re convinced by society that, as a married couple, we should know everything there is to know about the other. And, if one is keeping secrets of any kind, the marriage is in trouble. So, when we uncover a secret…and some secrets will be uncovered…we feel betrayed. We feel like our marriage is a sinking ship…like we never really knew this person at all. This is what we’ve been taught to think. We’ve been taught that if our spouse keeps anything at all from us, we’ve been betrayed. We’ve learned to deduct that our spouse can’t possibly love us if he’s keeping little secrets… and divorce becomes our life boat to our perceived “sinking ship.” Maybe this is why the divorce rate is so high? If we go into a marriage expecting to become one person, expecting to know every detail about the other person, and expecting those details to merge with and mimic our own, where does this marriage have to go but down?
With a certain amount of privacy comes a feeling of being in control of our lives. Without it, we almost feel as if we’re still checking in with our parents…YES, that’s right…this is especially emasculating to men. We don’t want to feel controlled. We need, and deserve, our privacy. We need our space. And we need our individual identities if we want to remain appealing not only to our spouses, but to ourselves as well. We aren’t capable of remaining in love with our spouse if we feel we’ve lost ourselves to that person, if we feel we no longer know who we are without that person, if we don’t love ourselves any longer. We’re only capable of loving another, and being happy with another, when we know who we are and love ourselves first.
So, realize that we are imperfect beings marrying other imperfect beings. As these imperfect beings, we keep secrets to protect ourselves, as well as the ones we love. Know that your spouse will have secrets from you. Remember that you, too, have secrets of your own. Accept the presence of these secrets, know that they don’t end marriages (unless we expect them to), and embrace the humanity in all of us. Stay mysterious. Stay individual. Stay married. 🙂