My wife and I share about our days with each other, sometimes to the most minute of details. (This has been less interesting since we’ve been spending 24 hours together in Corona-land). Nothing is hidden, nothing obscured or even left unsaid. Sometimes it’s exhausting with a house full of kids and making room to include their desire to talk, too. We may call for TV time just so we can sneak away for uninterrupted conversation.
The only other time this open communication becomes a hindrance is during Christmas shopping season. We’ll go our separate ways to shop for each other. But inevitably, something interesting happens that’s worth telling the other about. So early on in our marriage, one of us came up with the idea of referencing the store as the “Pink Sweater” store, knowing that neither of us would get the other a pink sweater. (I think one time I sorta did, just in spite of it all). A story might sound like this: “So, I was at the Pink Sweater store. And I had to call on the manager because the sweater I found was too…. uh, fuzzy. And the one I heard about was half-off. So they had to go to the back and grab four different pink sweaters and let me choose between those.” But really this was all about a toaster.
Also, I hope I never actually bought her a toaster for Christmas.
Our open conversation style has always been a natural aspect of our relationship. We started out as friends, then best friends, so conversation was completely natural. I’ve never thought about trying to hide things. Why would I? To have a companion and confidant through life is the highest of blessings I could think of. Someone that knows me better than I know myself. (Really though. She told me what my enneagram number was cause I was never decisive enough to take a quality survey.) I crave for her to know everything about me. I need her to know it all. It makes everything in life better and easier, especially the decision-making.
Recently, another high-profile mega-church pastor was released from his position for “undisclosed reasons.” Of course, those reasons will always find the light, which I found in an article interviewing the part-time girlfriend he kept hidden. Their occasional rendezvous was all over when his wife “saw the text messages.” The entire ruse was based on secrecy. He was able to do what he did because there were texts, calls, meetings, events, and plans that he kept from his wife. There were presumably days where he came home at night, and at the typical opportunity to talk about their respective days, he had to purposely leave out giant, gaping holes of information. He had to intentionally cover over things that, if found out, would blow his cover.
Sitting on the outside of this glass house, I shake my head and tell myself I can not imagine doing this to my wife. How is the “thrill” of meeting someone else worth the stress of hiding it from my wife? How is it worth the obvious pain it would cause her? But still, this is a common storyline that has happened countless times. Whether the root cause is the stress in the marriage, or distance, or disagreements – something eventually caused the open line of communication to fail.
I was dumbfounded when one of our kids got a C grade on an open-book test. They had not only the week of learning and homework, but all their notes, a study guide, powerpoint slides, and it was open-book! How is that not a 100%? The same works for relationships. When you’re an open book, you have all the information and answers there for you. If you’re an open book, at least your spouse doesn’t have the excuse that she didn’t know.
You may at some point need to say something like “I feel annoyed when you tell me multiple times to do the same thing.” How saying something like that comes across to her will vary drastically based on current moods, past problems, and tone, but at least she knows and can use that information next time. Or what if you need to say, “I’m going to have a lunch meeting with a woman from the bank.” It could be a completely innocent, business-only gathering, but a in a relationship that’s strained and lacking communication, hiding that “innocent” piece of information could be the beginning of a path you vowed you wouldn’t walk down.
In the book “His Needs Her Needs”, one of the emotional needs that a person has is “Honesty and Openness.” I thought it wise he includes both words. You can be honest and not open. You can be open and not honest. The two work in tandem for a healthy relationship. Whether she chooses to utilize it or not, my wife knows the password or how to access all of my electronic devices. To tell her factual statements, but not allow access to my phone, would be honest but not open. To let her see my phone, but have everything hidden, deleted, or password protected, would be open but not honest.
If you were to hear your phone go off in the other room, and you don’t have the capacity to be able to say “Honey, could you check that for me?” because you’re afraid of what it might be, then you truly have a root issue that needs addressed immediately. How comforting would it be to her to hear “I want you to know that you can check or ask to check my phone or laptop at any time. I don’t have anything to hide, and I want to keep it that way.” Maybe at first it even sounds suspicious because it’s unorthodox, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. And if you’re really serious, especially if you’ve had trouble with inappropriate internet activity, set up a content management software and let her set the password.
Trust is not something that can be lost and gained back easily. The best, easiest, and guilt-free method is to be completely trustworthy from the beginning. You’ll be protecting your marriage and preventing yourself from making stupid choices. The weight of lies is too heavy a burden to carry. The opposite is dramatically different: to be open AND honest is like floating on a cloud.