Strangers in Many Ways, "Communication in Marriage". Part 8
By Norman & Ann Bales Of All About Families
The motion picture industry's academy award song for 1971 was titled, "For All We Know" - made popular by the Carpenters. The lyrics speak of a couple standing on the threshold of their relationship.
Look at the two of us
Strangers in many ways
And so it is with every couple who enters into marriage. The desire to know and to be known is fundamental to any satisfactory relationship, but how much do you tell? Is there anything that remains uncovered? Before attempting an answer, let's focus on some Biblical principles.
Scriptures to Be Considered
Psalm 90:8 "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence."
Proverbs 10:9 "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out."
Proverbs 11:3 "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."
Proverbs 27:5, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love."
Proverbs 28:13 "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."
2 Corinthians 4:2 " Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
2 Corinthians 7:2 " Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one."
2 Corinthians 8:21 "For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."
Hebrews 13:18 "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way."
Our Fascination with Secrets
Two children are playing in the back yard. One says to the other, "I know something you don't." When you heard that as a child, how did it make you feel?
You share lunch with a trusted friend. During the lunch your friend says, "I want to tell you something I've never told anyone else." How does that make you feel?
We won't be able to be successful in the enterprise of marriage communication until we are at ease with each other in the handling of secrets. "In the process of marital bonding, a man and a woman becoming one, the management of secrets plays an important role. - Truman Esau. Making Marriage Work. p. 98. We are defining a secret as " . . . anything that is emotionally significant to both husband and wife, but which is hidden by one from the other."
Things We Are Afraid to Tell
Choosing to keep a secret may sometimes either enhance or hinder marital harmony.
- Keeping a secret hinders a relationship when the intent is to deceive our partner. Deception is often based on the premise that "what she/he doesn't know doesn't hurt him/her? What's wrong with that? It violates the spirit of Romans 12:17. "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. " R. C. Sproul tells the story of a golf experience. His wife asked him if he had a good time on the golf course. He did. Then she asked, "How much money did you spend?" He gave an exact accounting of green fees, caddy fees, new golf ball and the price of a lesson from a pro. She said, "We can't afford the lessons from the pro." A few weeks later, he was on the golf course again and started thinking how much it would improve his golf game if he had just two or three more lessons." He made arrangements for three more lessons, but he didn't tell his wife. He told the pro not to send any bills to his house, but the pro forgot to tell the secretary and his wife got the bill. Should she feel like a deceived spouse?
- Keeping a secret may help a relationship if the revelation causes unnecessary pain for one's spouse. Some people subscribe to the "regurgitation theory of honesty, which means I must reveal every mean spirited, nasty thought that I have in an effort to "be honest." Sometimes critical and hurtful thoughts pass through one's mind in a moment of anger. Those thoughts don't represent our true feelings or the level of our commitment. The verbalization of every fleeting, irrational angry thought really doesn't enhance the marriage relationship.
Why we keep secrets.
- In adolescence we worked on separating ourselves from our families to establish our own identities as persons. One way we did that was to keep secrets from them. - eg. "What happened at school today? " We answered "Oh nothing." Never mind that there was an explosion in the chemistry lab and you were called into the principal's office and questioned about it. We leave behind the world of adolescence and its secrets, then we enter a relationship where we are expected to reveal secrets, so it becomes a painful growing process.
- We are too busy. Secret sharing requires time and to be done effectively, some "set up" time, so that we can establish a mood of trust, but we're too busy going here and there to be involved with mood creating. Of course there is also the possibility that we are using "busyness" as an excuse to keep from having to share threatening secrets.
- Guilt. We bear a load of guilt from our past history. We don't want to bring up the unpleasant memories. We fear that our partner may reject us if we tell what we really did.
- Insecurity. We fear we won't be loved if the truth is really known.