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Keeping Secrets Makes My Marriage Work


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Keeping Secrets Makes My Marriage Work | A Practical Wedding

Lately, I’ve been reading all over the d*mn place the idea that, ‘secrets, any kind of secrets, destroy a marriage.’ I’ve read it in articles about marital finances (we should disclose everything we spend on everything to our partners), I’ve read it on articles about emotional infidelity (we should tell our partners our every thought we have, and not tell other people those thoughts), I’ve read it in woman’s magazines and major papers. Hell, I read it in the APW book club pick.

And I call bullshit.

I think that secrets (small, appropriate secrets) are the secret sauce of what makes my marriage work. I am, in fact, pro-marital secrets, if kept in mutually acceptable ways.  (Side note: I just asked David about this, and he said, “Loyalty is way more important to a marriage than total honesty.”)

Let me lay out a small list of secrets I keep from my husband (who knows full well I keep these things to myself):

  • My Journals. I’ve been an avid journal keeper since I was 12 (which makes it increasingly heavy difficult to move). And for as long as I’ve dated people, I’ve had a stated policy, “If you read my journals, I will gouge out your eyeballs, and then we will break up.” That still holds true in marriage, though we can replace “break up” with “screaming fight followed by therapy.” I need my personal space to work through my thoughts and vent and figure things out. My journals are an extension of my brain, which my husband ALSO does not have unlimited access too.
  • My spending money. Though I’ve talked at length about how David and I totally merged our finances when we got hitched, let’s be clear: I like having control of my money. Maybe it was the fact that I’d been an independent adult for a decade when we got married, maybe it’s the fact that I run my own business and that makes me extra attached to the money I bring in, or maybe it’s just my personality. But the bottom line is: I like spending my money without asking anyone’s d*mn permission. So when I read about how I should never have financial secrets, of any size, from my partner, I laugh. Sometimes I splurge on expensive(ish) dresses or jewelry with my pocket money and don’t tell my husband. Sometimes I even splurge with non-pocket money (and don’t tell him till later). And you know what? It works out just fine.
  • Who I think is hot. Not his business, most of the time. (And yes, I obviously think people are hot other than my partner.)
  • What I talk about with my friends. Not his business. Emotional infidelity, I might have you, if talking sh*t to my friends now and then is a symptom.
  • Stuff I’m thinking about. Sometimes I’ll be worrying over a problem, and I really don’t want to talk to David about it. He is my number one cheerleader when it comes to me keeping personal stuff to myself, when I feel like it.

And he keeps his own secrets too, and I’m fine with that.

There was a time, back in college, where I believed in the No Secrets model of relationships. Or, more to the point, I had a boyfriend who, at least ostensibly, believed in No Secrets. I remember sitting next to him one day, thinking about something worrying that I didn’t feel like discussing, when he turned to me and said, “Oh no, what’s wrong?” And when I looked at him like he’d lost his mind, he said, “Your breathing changed. I could tell you were worried about something.” And that my friends? Is a partner who’s inappropriately up in my business.

So these days, I’m more than a little dubious of the claims that our marriages will be destroyed by any secrets. Our marriages can of course be destroyed by huge, inappropriate secrets. They can be destroyed by cheating, or by gambling our life savings away, or serious emotional infidelity.

But my marriage is actually supported by small secrets. It’s supported by the sense of self I maintain buying myself some d*mn earrings, or not feeling guilty about checking out hot people, or guilt free gossip with my girlfriends, or long winded venting in my journals. It’s supported by the fact that I feel like a whole, independent person: one who doesn’t have to tell her partner every penny that she’s spent, or every emotional intimacy shared, or every person fantasized about, or every creative project worked on. Small secrets are key to making my marriage work.

So the next time you read about how secrets destroy a marriage, have a ponder. Perhaps lack of individuation will destroy us faster. So go on, keep a secret. Maybe even tell your partner you’re keeping one. Chances are they’ll say, “What? Good. Because I have lots.” And you’ll nod with delight, because the inability to ever fully know your partner is what keeps things ticking… there is always more to explore.

Picture: us, from back when I was keeping my face secret from the internet (ah, corporate life)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.com/ Siobhan

    This is great – I think the only time stuff you talk baout with your friends is a problem, is if there is one friend who you find reallycute who you tell stuff to you don’t tell to the person you’re supposedly committed too. And you tell that person stuff about the person you are committed too and about problems you have and so on. At length. That is emotional infidelity. I’ve seen that. That is more something to worry about.

    M (my fiance) does not even read my blog. He knows if I want to talk about something with him I will and if I want to talk about it with someone else I will. I like that. But it is so refreshing to see other people feel the same. THANK YOU.

    • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

      My fiance doesn’t read my blog either! At first, I was a bit miffed (every other guy has read my blog), but now I find it a refreshing space that is mine. Glad to know I’m not the only one :-)

      I also keep journals. I haven’t said anything about them, but he knows. Actually, I just asked, and he said “they’re your journals. why would I read them?” He’s a keeper ;-)

      • http://www.thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

        I MAKE my husband read my blog. I do this because I need to know whether he feels too much information about him/ us is on the internet.

        I need that second pair of eyes because I’m a chronic over-sharer.

        • Sarah

          Rhiannon– I beta everything relationship-related that I blog about on my fiance. Fortunately, he’s a sharing sort, so when I’m like “Hey, can I blog about this conversation we had?” he’s always like “Yup!

          When I ask him why he’s so chill about it, he always says the experiences we have together are my experiences, too, and anything that happens to me that I’m comfortable sharing, I should be allowed to share. He’s a bold dude.

          • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com meghan

            My husband occasionally reads the blog. Our families read it religiously so obviously there are issues that are not discussed. Ever. And won’t be.

        • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

          Yes, occasionally I ask Mr. Beagle to look at what I’ve written before I post because I’m unsure whether I’m revealing too much. I have a tendency to over share too.

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

    I think this is so true. We just had our first marriage prep class and were talking about that it means with the whole “two becoming one” thing. Because you are ONE team but you are still TWO people. And those people need a bit of space if they are going to do any kind of growing!

    Also, doesn’t not disclosing everything mean that your partner always have a bit more to discover? Keep a bit of the mystery. Has to be a good thing.

    But ….I guess the secrets should just be little corners of things that you keep to yourself. When they become big rooms with locked doors, then that’s a bit of a worry.

  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com Pluis

    I think you’re right – oversharing doesn’t benefit my relationships either.

    At the risk of arguing semantics, though, I’d still say I don’t “keep secrets”. In the ‘who is hot-part’, for instance, I may not tell him about people when I encounter them, but I wouldn’t “keep” it a secret either – if he asked, I’d tell him without any reservations.

    The same goes for spending money. I don’t expect him to tell me everything he spends money on (and wouldn’t if we started sharing more finances), but if I have a reason to ask about it (say: having the card for the joint account declined as a store because of a lack of funds), I wouldn’t expect him to be secretive or defensive about his spendings either.

    Keeping a secret has a different emotional charge for me than consciously choosing not to share something spontaneously. I’m all for not sharing every hiccup and second of worry, pondering or emotion, but I can’t stand being actively secretive and I would definitely be deeply unhappy in a relationship where I would have to fight to defend my privacy (which implies I would be in a relationship in which I needed privacy that had to be fought for).

    I need to think more about this. Thanks for bringing this up!

    • Anon

      I agree with this. We have privacy in our marriage, not secrets. Call it semantics, but to me the nuance matters.

      • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

        Yes…I was thinking about this after I wrote my comment..and there is a difference between not sharing everything and keeping secrets. It’s the emotion/intention behind it.

      • Marina

        Exactly. “not disclosing” is passive; “keeping a secret” is active. I don’t tell my husband every thought that crosses my mind, because booring, but when I actively choose to not tell him something it always feels uncomfortable.

        • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

          I agree that the intention is important here. If I don’t tell my partner everything that happens in my life because I’m a grown adult who needs privacy, I think of that as a passive withholding. But if I was purposely hiding things, that sets off warning bells in my head because I think of that as an active transgression.

    • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

      Yeah, I think this is where I come down on this as well. Perhaps Meg disagrees, but I do feel like most of this, to me, doesn’t constitute an actual secret. I have no problem with my partner spending money without telling me (privacy). I do have a problem if my partner actively kept it a secret. If I ask how much that new watch/whatever cost, I get to know. Similarly, if I vented about my partner to a close friend, that would be privacy, but I’d be uncomfortable if I said things that I didn’t feel I could say to my partner.

      I do keep other people’s secrets from my partner, but they’re not mine to tell.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      we’re open about who we think is attractive, too. not uncomfortably so. but it’s no big deal. “she’s a cute girl.” “yeah, she is. pretty hair.” kind of way.

      • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

        We’re open about which strangers/movie stars/people we will never meet that we find attractive. (i.e. We watched the newest X-Men movie a few weeks ago and I whispered to J. a couple of times that I couldn’t believe how hot Michael Fassbender is.) Where we’ve personally chosen to draw the line is saying something to each other if one of is really drawn to a mutual friend/acquaintance (in a “I find that person sexually attractive” way, not a “Oh, don’t you think so-and-so looked so cute today?!” way). We’re not naive about the potential of being attracted to other people through the course of our lifetimes, but it’s one of those things where we expect each other to get over quietly if it happens. I know for me, if J. was pretty harmlessly attracted to a friend and told me so, I would probably not be able to move past it even once he has (and it’d change my relationship with said friend).

        • meg

          AGREED. Nailed it, Sharon.

          • kyley

            I think this is may be unique to my relationship, but I actually like to know when my partner has a crush. For example, for months I suspected said (harmless) crush on a mutual friend and I was (uncharacteristically) wildly jealous, but once we talked about it and he confirmed that yes, he did have a little crush going, I was totally fine with the situation, because who doesn’t get crushes from time to time? In my opinion, they are fun and harmless. Once I felt in the loop, all that jealousy flew out the window.

            That being said, I don’t think he was required to tell me about this or any crush. I actually think it is a secret he was very much entiteled to keep. The fact that he was willing to share such a secret, actually, is what allowed me to let go of the jealousy, I think.

        • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

          MICHAEL FASSBENDER.

          is all I’m saying.

        • Marchelle

          Oh dear me, YES.

  • http://alongtermlove.blogspot.com lou

    For me personally I find the idea of talking in a negative way about my husband to my friends to be one I am not comfortable with. I understand that feelings of frustration need to be aired but for me I would rather raise those with him than share private details with friends. If I think about it the other way around and imagine my husband telling his friends about an argument/relationship issue I feel really uncomfortable about that. However, everyone is different, I guess I’m just very private about things like that.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      i don’t know. there are days when EVERY LITTLE THING this man does annoys me. it would break us if i went to him about every little irritating habit that he can’t (and shouldn’t) change. i feel okay venting to friends about that stuff.

      but there’s definitely a limit. and i only talk to those friends who know him well enough to know that those things aren’t all that’s to him- friends that have seen the good and know that it way outweighs the bad.

      • http://intrepidbrytani.wordpress.com Brytani

        My mom has only given me a few bits of marital advice that I agree with but this was one of them: the more you allow yourself to verbalize what you feel about your partner/his/her behavior, the more you fixate on those things internally. It was wisdom that I immediately adopted because I’d seen it so many times. I usually observe that people who openly talk shit, even among close friends, lose their affection for their SOs in a matter of months. Meanwhile, people who share nice things typically work through their issues and have one of those glowy bubbles around them that makes you go, “awww.”

        I know there’s probably a huge difference in what I’m describing as “talking shit” and what you ladies may or may not do but at least for me, any kind of trash-talking is off the table. Playful banter like, “yeah, my husband leaves flecks of food on the dishes when he washes them too,” is okay but I always ask myself beforehand how much emotion I have invested in what I share. If it’s something that actually upsets me, I don’t usually talk about it. I have one person that I consult when I don’t know what to do in our relationship but even there, I’m careful about how I phrase things.

        But then again, maybe I just don’t have awesome, supportive, snarky women in my circle to make me feel like it’s okay.

        • http://theatreprojects.blogspot.com Jessamarie

          You are so lucky to have had such great advice. it took me a long time and a couple big fights to realize one of the biggest problems with our relationship was not all of the things I was talking about with my friends, it was that I was inviting all of my friends (and my mom, HUGE mistake) into our relationship, and into discussion that should have been just between him and me.

          • http://contradictorylife.wordpress.com Barbra

            I struggle a lot with this. I tend to be the type of person who works through things by talking about them, and sometimes I need to work something out for myself before I talk to my partner about it. Otherwise, I’m not really sure what I’m feeling or thinking. I do talk to my friends about problems we’ve been having, but I’m careful to focus on my feelings and reactions and not disclose any of his private business that may come up.

            I think if I didn’t talk to my friends about this stuff, we would need to have huge, relationship discussions all the time, more than would be productive (since I would probably be crying through most of them).

        • Marchelle

          I agree about not trash-talking – part of respecting my husband involves *not* randomly denigrating him to all and sundry. But keeping everything to myself (including some relationship frustrations) also sounds like bottling things up, which, for me at least, is very unhealthy. So, different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

        • kyley

          I think this is such great advice!

          For me there is a big difference between talking through problems and talking about them. I really need to have discussions, with my partner and/or without, in order to work through bigger issues (about all aspects of my life, actually. What can I say, I’m a talker.) but I always work on framing those discussions as problem-solving conversations, not trash talking. Because the former is really helpful for me, and the later just breeds negativity.

      • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com meghan

        Yes to the days of every little thing annoying me. But most of them are personal and petty and not to be shared. Except today. I am openly complaining about him on my blog. For all of the world to see.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      ’tis a fine line, methinks. One of our earliest fights was about how much of our relationship I disclosed to my best friend(s). I didn’t find it to be negative. Sometimes I just need a sounding board, especially during a fight or a difficult period; someone to tell me that yes, I am being unreasonable or to help me step back from the situation a bit. My relationships with my friends are different from my relationship with himself, and I don’t see that as keeping secrets because it’s not as if I don’t talk to my husband, it’s just a different conversation sometimes.

      That being said, I do feel really uncomfortable when a group of people get together and start bitching about their partners. That’s not the same to me at all, and . . . well . . . it just seems a little offside.

      • http://alongtermlove.blogspot.com lou

        I agree, such a fine line. I mean having a little moan about dirty underpants left on the floor is different (in my book) than discussing serious relationship issues/sex life stuff with friends.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love to chit chat, but my private relationship stuff is private. Sacred almost. And for me talking about that outside of my relationship is disrespectful. But it goes the other way for me too. There’s no way I would be happy with his friends hearing about our issues/arguments/sex life.

        • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

          and here’s where i’m in a smidge of disagreement. because, yeah, i was talking about nitpicky silly stuff above. but i think, too, that both spouses should have an outlet for anything and everything that’s going on in your relationship. it’s not disrespectful, because the purpose isn’t to tear down- but to… check on, i guess. to encourage and advise and to make sure all is kosher.

          josh and i have a handful of people each that we can turn to about ANYTHING. even, yeah, the sex stuff. the major stuff. whatever. and so far, just because nothing ridiculously major has happened, it’s a, “hey… i talked to so-and-so about that thing” heads up. but even if that wasn’t there, i would feel okay with this arrangement. and here’s the kicker. because i feel this arrangement is just about NECESSARY for a healthy relationship. someone outside of the couple, looking in, to make sure that the health of both individuals is still maintained.

          this may be rooted in my opinion that a marriage is sort of a community endeavor at points (why i had a big ceremony with everyone there to commit to helping us with it) or it may be because i have many friends who have been in unhealthy and abusive relationships. but there it is.

          • meg

            I agree with Liz on EVERYTHING here. I want, no, I REQUIRE for David to have a trusted friend to turn to on big, serious relationship problems. That stuff needs air (safe, protected air, but air). If we’re having a serious problem, I can’t be his be all end all. He needs a trusted person to turn to and ask advice from. A Rabbi would be good, a therapist would be good, but an old trusted friend with a beer might be even better.

            Our relationship is sacred. We made is sacred in front of a community of people who vowed to uphold it, and uphold us. I’ll be d*mned if I don’t expect them to keep that vow.

            I don’t think relationships thrive over the long term in a vacuum. So yes, I expect David to turn to others with our big problems sometimes, sex and arguments most definitely included. Part of what marriage is, is trusting your community to carry you through that.

          • http://alongtermlove.blogspot.com lou

            and i can totally see how that works for some people… just doesn’t gel for me and my relationship. i’m not opposed to the idea of a therapist or anything like that for major relationship issues. i just don’t feel comfortable with my friends knowing all my personal stuff with my husband. because i know i tell my husband about a lot of things, and i’m sure they do too. so i wouldn’t just be discussing it with them, inevitably some friends will discuss with their partners and on it goes. i’m just really private – doesn’t make mine an unhealthy relationship.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    Older generations knew what they were talking about in terms of this. I think it’s right on.

    • meg

      Funny… every article I read says, “for generations, Married couples used to keep secrets, and didn’t expect to know every little thing about XXX… but now we know it’s bad.” (I actually cut that bit from the post.) And I’m always like, “Do you think maybe all those generations were on to something??”

      • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

        I am pretty sure my grandparents who have been happily married for 50 & 60 years are part of that generation. In fact, I know my Grama and Grampa kept secrets and I also know they still hold hands. The love they share inspires me.

        Being too honest is a self-esteem and relationship destroyer. And while I get what everyone is throwing down about sharing too much with your friends, your true friends are the ones who understand without question that you’re just venting. Not only that, but they validate your feelings and remind you why you love your SO. Plus, shit talkers who endlessly talk smack about their spouses are clearly in the wrong relationship.

        That said, I agree wholeheartedly with Meg.

        • meg

          I remember my grandmother occasionally saying things like, “But your grandfather doesn’t need to know about that!” and I’d think, “Go Grandmother!”

        • Jo

          “your true friends are the ones who understand without question that you’re just venting.”

          Exactly. I feel like the issue has less to do with the couple in question as it does with the nature of your friendships. I can’t imagine suddenly not being able to discuss an important part of my life with my best friend.

  • eRiN

    A. MEN.

  • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey

    Love this!!!! Great post, Meg. I like how you talk about secrets being the key to maintaining your sense of self. I completely agree that individuality in marriage is so important, not only for your own health and happiness, but for your marriage! I think getting lost in each other and the roles of husband and wife are a sure fire way to quell your love and respect for each other. Who wants to know their partner’s every thought? Who wants their marriage to be that predictable? Not me. Interestingly, adjusting to the role of wife while maintaining my sense of self has been my biggest struggle in my first year of marriage. This is something we (as a society) need to talk about MORE!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    I feel like “secret” is almost the wrong word to use. To me, secrets imply something that you think other people should/would like to know but you’re actively hiding. But all these points are totally reasonable. There’s no reason for your partner to know absolutely everything about you. Every relationship needs some level of privacy. (When my fiance is working late, I like to dance to bad pop in front of the bedroom mirror and watch lame tv shows. I don’t tell him about it when he comes home.) I tell my fiance more things than I tell anyone else, but it’s also nice to know that some things are just mine.

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

      I do this too. He doesn’t need to know all the lame TV that I watch, or see my best (worst) bedroom dance moves…

    • Savychacha

      I do this too…but since the only programs I watch are in our instant Netflix cue, when he gets home and looks at the “recently watched” all my shame is right there on the screen. Todlers & Tiaras, Hoarders and sometimes even Say Yes to the Dress. He expects it by now.

      • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot.com Maggie

        “all my shame is right there on the screen.”

        Hahaha, this happens to me, too… I sometimes put on terrible, terrible movies (that never made it to theatres and were probably intended for teenagers), while I work out or clean. And then I remember that they show up on our netflix account… “When did we watch ‘You’re So Cupid’ or ‘Cruel Intentions 3’? Oh, wait, *we* didn’t…” ;)

        • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

          Hahahaha, You’re So Cupid, hahahaha . . .

  • Paranoid Libra

    that was good food for thought to start my day.

  • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie

    Exactly. I’m not sure that we keep “secrets” so much as there are things I choose not to tell my husband because I do not feel like getting into a fight. If asked directly, I will tell the truth, but if not asked directly, I will simply keep my mouth shut.

    • Em

      er, what?? That actually strikes me as the wrong kind of secrets, if talking about them causes fights. As in, you’re doing something he isn’t ok with; which means either you should consider not doing it or he should refrain from being sensitive about it; either way it sounds like it needs talking through.

      I will now return to minding my own business and apologise if I misinterpreted.

      • http://hartandsolphoto.com Maddie

        I see this as more of this:

        Michael hates when I don’t put the right leash on our dog because sometimes she breaks it and terrorizes our front yard. And sometimes I’m lazy and I just don’t give a shit what he hates and I use the lazy leash. He doesn’t need to know that I occasionally do things that are guaranteed to piss him off.

        • Rasheeda

          Yes, yes, yes! I do this all the time Ellie. My husband even knows I do it…he shrugs his shoulders at it. I told him once that if I did everything to his liking to avoid a disagreement, he probably wouldnt like me very much.

          • MamaMelli

            My dad likes to wonder , in a tongue-in-cheek manner, why he didn’t marry a more passive woman than my mom. My mom always responds that he would’ve gotten bored if he’d gotten his way for 33 years of marriage. And I’m pretty sure she’s right.

    • meg

      No, I agree with Ellie. I’m allowed to do stuff that might annoy my partner enough that it would launch us into a small fight. Sorry, I’m an independent person. And agreed, I would discuss if asked directly, but otherwise? My business. (Side note: I’ve seen this behavior from family members that have been happily married for decades and decades. They do stuff that they know annoys their partner… and guess what? They don’t talk to their partner about it. Mind you, this stuff isn’t: gamble away their life savings, it’s much smaller.)

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    I think the key is to listen to your gut on why you want to keep this particular detail only to yourself. I think keeping secrets out of fear, jealousy, ehtical code-breaking are not good reasons – while space, everday pettiness, private satisfaction and a feeling of single personhood are. For me, my insides work as a good barometer – I get the “withholding tummyache.”

    • Marina

      Hee, I get a sore throat. :) Cheers for bodies who know what’s up!

  • Cass

    “Loyalty is way more important to a marriage than total honesty.” David is very wise indeed.
    Although to some people, loyalty in marriage includes complete honesty. I think we all have to feel out what is important to us, and whether we trust our partners outside of being told every detail of their life.

  • http://www.stephadamo.com Stephanie F

    I don’t like the idea of secrets, and neither does my husband. I kept a journal for years and he was the first one to ever read it. He was sorry for breaking my trust and i was upset, but he did actually find evidence of something that needed to come out into the open, and so in the end i’m glad he did it. We both like to know where our money is being spent so that we can build our wealth together as a team. And i only say things about him to my friends that i wouldn’t want him to hear if i know i’m being irrational. I’m a newlywed though, so i may be slightly naive about this stuff. :)

  • Amber

    I agree with everyone else who’s saying these aren’t really “secrets” as much as just not sharing everything or having a little privacy.

    To me, not having secrets doesn’t mean I have to tell my husband everything I eat at lunch, or everything I’m thinking about all the time. I really don’t have the time to keep him up to date on that kind of thing anyway. =p

  • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

    “If you read my journals, I will gouge out your eyeballs, and then we will break up.” That still holds true in marriage, though we can replace “break up” with “screaming fight followed by therapy.” I need my personal space to work through my thoughts and vent and figure things out. My journals are an extension of my brain, which my husband ALSO doesn’t have unlimited access to.”

    YES YES YES. I did break up with someone for reading my journals in the past. I do make this known that it is private property and not to be read, unfortunately, though, in my relationship experience, this is an area that those I am with tend to think it is okay, and they should be able to read my private thoughts. So yeah, no stranger to the big screaming matches over this. But it is my space to work out my thoughts, work out my feelings. I like to think my journals are akin to my mind.

    Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/#ixzz1Q0sCgGZ6

    • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

      Also yes on this. I mostly journal through LiveJournal (yes, still! haha!) so it’s password-protected and he doesn’t even know my username. But I also keep little notes in a small journal in my purse, and I would be pretty upset if ANYONE read it. Not because it has relationship-damning things inside, but because it’s MINE, and if I wanted to share it, I WOULD. And I DON’T. I just feel really possessive over my private thoughts and plans for my self. People while wedding planning often say that if you’re planning to do something that other people will comment on in a negative way, don’t tell them. You don’t need their opinions mucking up the way you feel. That’s how I feel about my inner thoughts. I don’t need your opinions coloring and clouding and making me feel silly for thinking them. It’s the one place that’s no-judgement, and I really want to keep it that way.

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    YES. while I tend to agree with other comments that I would use the word “privacy” instead of “secrets,” the main issue of having space – in my brain, in my journals, in my conversations with friends – that I don’t share, that belongs to ME, is so vital to me. I have also been keeping journals since I was 12, though my dedication to them has waxed and waned over the years, and if anyone so much as peeked inside them, I kind of fear the consequences they would suffer.

    and just generally, any way you can keep a little mystery alive, in a non-toxic way obviously, is a great thing for a marriage. and I do think the “zero secrets” policy some of these books and bits of advice are talking about, include some of the things Meg mentioned. so whether we call it secrets or privacy, we can still call bullshit on the full-disclosure policy recommended.

  • http://www.projectsubrosa.com Cate Subrosa

    I think it’s important to maintain some mystery too, which is nigh on impossible if you maintain an absolutely-no-secrets policy.

    • meg

      Yes to mystery.

      • Marchelle

        I was finding the whole unhappiness at the use of the word ‘secret’ interesting, given that it’s just a synonym for mystery. So this is apt. :) And hello? Marriage needs mystery. At least mine definitely thrives on it. I don’t know everything about my boy and by no means does he know everything about me. We have a lifetime to figure things out, and I love being continually surprised.

        • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

          i feel like this is the definition of romance.

          spending a lifetime figuring one another out- pursuing a better understanding of each other, peeling off another layer, discovering something you didn’t know about someone and falling in love with that part of them.

  • http://www.thefamiliarwilderness.com Erin

    I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized as a newlywed that keeping some things to myself wasn’t going to break us. That chocolate bar I bought when I went grocery shopping that I didn’t bother to tell him about? No big deal. Phew. So I spent a while collecting my autonomy, sifting through what was really important to share, what could be revealed if necessary, and thoughts and worries and ideas I could have just for myself forever. I think our marriage is definitely better for it, and protected by the notion of privacy.

    Bodily functions, though? Tiny apartment = no privacy. Farts are totally in the public domain, and it’s year-round open season for teasing.

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    This post really got me thinking about my own relationship and what we share… we’re actually really open, but do have boundaries. I have journals which I don’t think my husband would ever read – we’ve never actually talked about this because it seems like such an obvious unspoken rule – ‘Thou shalt not read thy SO’s journal’ but even then I’ll often tell him what’s bothering me. Actually this post was really helpful to me because sometimes I’m that annoying person who wants to know what’s wrong if my husband looks bothered or worried. While I’m of the opinion that it’s also good to have friends of one’s own and those conversations should be private, I definitely don’t believe in airing the dirty laundry with them like some of the other gals said. The only person I share everything (frustrations, etc) is my mom who will offer motherly wisdom such as not to be so hard on him and to learn more patience and not be so critical and to watch movies like “If A Man Answers.” As for money – we have a shared account, and we’re both trying to overcome debt, so we do talk about purchases if they’re outside of our budget because it’s important to dig ourselves out of the hole. When we’re out of the hole – we may not ask if something is okay as often, but right now – it’s incredibly important to communicate regarding what we should and should not spend money on.

    • Jo

      I don’t think it makes you annoying if you ask what’s wrong with your SO! That was the ONLY part of Meg’s post that I disagreed with. Wrong would be *insisting* on finding out — simply inquiring what’s wrong with someone because you happen to know them well enough to be able to read the sigh/what-have-you as the “tell” of a negative emotion doesn’t make you an intrusive person — it makes you an intuitive, caring person. If, after you ask what’s wrong, they respond in a way that indicates that they don’t want to talk about it, then you should drop it. I don’t see anything wrong with opening a door to communication and leaving it up to your partner as to whether they want to walk through…

      That said, Meg, this was one of the most strikingly succinct and perfect summaries I’ve read in a long time: “My journals are an extension of my brain, which my husband ALSO does not have unlimited access too.” Brilliantly logical and perfectly put.

  • emily rose

    I’m glad you mentioned the money “secrets.” We make financial decisions separately fairly often (he orders himself tools and tech stuff online, I buy myself art supplies or accessories), which feels perfectly fine – given that we already know that we are able to trust each other with money based on sharing basic values & philosophy in that area. Just the other day, I spent an evening alone shopping for clothes & jewelry (uh, at Target, so I wasn’t exactly racking up the billz) and I found myself wondering if I was “supposed” to report back on what I’d bought and spent. I didn’t, he complimented my new headband, and that was that. A little bit of financial freedom is an important aspect of independence, at least for us.

  • Sarah

    While I think a certain amount of privacy is healthy–in any relationship–I’m going to call bull myself.
    I am STUPID honest with my fiance. To the point where I’ve told people that if they don’t want me to tell him something, they need to let me know. Because I tell him everything. And for me, for us, that works. Now I’m a fairly honest person to begin with, and he’s basically my first phone call and my best friend. So, yeah, I tell him pretty much everything.
    I’m not saying that if you don’t tell you partner everything your relationship is doomed. But often, what starts out as “privacy” turns into “secrecy” which is very very different.
    Not telling him what I use my money (as opposed to ours) for? Totally fine. Taking 200 dollars of our money and spending in on shoes or a cute dress without talking about it to him first? Not cool. By the same token: Sometimes, you just need to vent to someone about your partner. Normal, and in point of fact healthy. When it gets to the point where your partner isn’t your first phone call? When you have something heavy to work through and you never talk to him about it? Or you always talk to someone else about it first? I’d say not healthy.
    I realize that not everyone is going to agree, which is fine. I’m of the mindset that different things work for different relationships. If you and your partner work best by working through stuff on your own first and then talking? Awesome. But for me? I can not possibly imagine not hashing things out with my love. Or lying in the dark and whispering about things that are bugging me, or sharing stuff. I think it’s one of those things that make you closer to your partner then to anyone else. One of those things that makes you cleave to your partner. Which is one of the most beautiful things, I think.

    • Sarah

      Also, I thought the breathing thing was hilarious, because one of my best friends is the same way. The only external indicator of her being upset is her breathing. And I’m one of two people who can tell.
      We think it’s funny and a sign of how close we are.

    • meg

      Nope. I’ve spent good money on a dress, and not told him till later, and we’re just fine. And on some kinds of problems? My partner is never my first call. And you know what? He doesn’t even *want* to be my first call on everything. And I’d say that’s super healthy. We’re not a unit of two become one, we’re a couple, made of two individuals, supported by a community of people around us.

      And that doesn’t mean that we don’t lie in the dark hashing things out, or we’re not closer to each other than to others. It means we’ve built a life together over seven years, and we trust that foundation enough to find support else where, or break a rule now and then.

      • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

        But it’s true, different things work in different relationships…

      • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

        Again, I agree with Meg.

        My mom and sister are two of my best friends and closest confidantes, and being the kind of person who openly shares a lot, my partner likes that I can vent to others, and in a lot of cases my sister is the first call I make.

        Does that reflect poorly on our relationship? I don’t think so. Nevermind that some of my fear and worries are likely to just get him all wound up and worried unnecessarily. Sometimes I just need to work things through outside of my partner.

        Like Meg, I see my coming marriage, family, and friends, as a community of people that love and support one another. Yes, at the end of the day, my partner is the one I get into bed with and snuggle and confide in, but that doesn’t mean that he is the only person in my life I confide in. I fear if he was, I would lose myself in him.

        • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

          Yes. Support SYSTEM, not one support PERSON.

          • Caroline

            Yes. I sometimes tell my partner ” honey, you need to call a friend/ your dad/my stepdad to talk about this”. Most often because it’s an issue that we’re both hugely caught up in, and if we don’t discuss it wit someone outside, we’d go crazy. We’re both too upset to figure it out without some outside people calmin us down.

            It’s important to have support people outside the relationship,
            as well as your partner

          • Sarah

            First of all different things work for different people. I’m certainly not about to pass judgement on anyone’s relationship.
            I’m a fairly open ‘vent’ type person myself. And while there are some things I still call my mom or my friends about, I’ve noticed that more and more he’s becoming my first call. Because, 9 times out of 10, what I’m upset about affects our lives. And because he’s typically got great perspective.
            I’m not–by any means–saying you shouldn’t have a support system. You should. It is not healthy to spend all of your time with your partner, and there are certainly going to be times when you need to talk to someone who understands you in a different context then your love.
            But I think that when it’s something important–a move, a job change, money issues—your partner should absolutely be your first call. I’ve seen a lot of relationships go belly up because what started out as normal talking to other people in your life about stuff turned into keeping things–important things–from your partner.

            As far as the money thing goes, (and the following only applies to ‘our’ money) we both understand what’s reasonable to spend on something, and if one of us is spending more then that, we talk about it. And if it’s a purchase for both of us–tv’s, couches etc– we absolutely talk about it. Frankly, I think it’s rude not to. Because it’s just that–our money. I would never unilaterally make a decision about our lives, and I’m not going to unilaterally make a decision about how to spend our money.
            I’m an open person, who needs to be able to say essentially whatever she’s thinking to her love. And I need to know that he’s being completely honest with me. My love isn’t as vocal as I am, but he’s always honest and open when it’s important. And I need that. And he needs that.
            Loyalty is important. Honesty and openness is just as important. Privacy-an understanding that I’m my own person with a right to my own thoughts and my own life is important. But openness–sharing the even mundane details and random thoughts of your life with your partner–is equally as important.
            Finally I’d like to reiterate–different things work for different relationships. If you need time to process things on your own, or call your friends about a bad day before you vent to your partner, I’m not saying your relationship is in trouble. That’s how you work, and that’s fine. But for me, it wouldn’t work.

        • Anna

          I’ve been financially independent since I was 18 and supported myself, and my sometimes ridiculous shopping habits, since then.

          Just because I am merging my finances with my soon to be husband doesn’t mean I am going to start reporting to someone about my spending. Nu-un. Never gonna happen.

          And I feel having a strong support group aside from your partner is extremely healthy. In the past, when I have come to rely on partners too much, that’s when our relationships deteriorated.

          I intend on being who I always have been… just married.

          • Beth

            I think not talking about purchases only works when you have extra cash though. My husband and I are working to pay off some debts and have to have a very tight budget, so outside of our personal spending money we have to talk about purchases to stay within our budget (even $20! We are very serious about paying those suckers off). At times we have had more spending money and then we feel less need to talk about superfluous purchases with each other. So although the idea of making your own finacial decisions is nice, we can’t do that right now. Obviously whatever each couple agrees upon in that area is what they should stick too.

          • meg

            “I intend on being who I always have been… just married.” Yessss…

            And Beth, SO TRUE. I mentioned the comment about it not being ok to buy a $200 dress, and David said, “Totally depends on how much money your making.” There have been times in the past where that move would have destroyed us. At the moment, it would just be annoying. So, as a result, it might happen now, when it wouldn’t have happened in the past.

      • http://contradictorylife.wordpress.com Barbra

        One of the most valuable relationship lessons I’ve learned came from my best friend. Her dad had been in an accident and she had been crying on the phone to her boyfriend (now-husband) while on the way home. The type of support he offered was not what she needed, so she hung up and called me. And they have a super-strong relationship.
        I’ve never wanted my partner to be my best friend. I have friends, thank you very much. And they offer me things he never will, so yeah. Sometimes they are my first call. And we’re all ok with that.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      I would say that different things work for different couples. There shouldn’t be any sweeping generalizations that X works for every relationship. So if sharing everything works, do it. If having privacy works, do that. Each couple needs to negotiate for themselves what can stay in the dark and what needs light.

  • Kate

    Hmm. My fiance is extraordinarily good at picking up on my bad moods, even when I’m working to hide it, and usually needs to know what’s going on for his own peace of mind. In practice, this means that sometimes I’ve unloaded hormonal or ridiculous snits that I could have spared him, and other times Big Things have come up–money, religion–that we really needed to talk about. I don’t experience it as invasive or inappropriately “up in my business.” I can see how for some it could be a form of control, but for him, it’s the fact that he won’t be happy if he knows I’m unhappy (and he’s scarily accurate about sussing it out) and it’s also the case that he tends to assume the worst, that it’s because of him and that it’s Something Big. His last long term partner cheated on him and I think that has a lot to do with it. Even though having a discussion isn’t always what I want to do in the moment, I do experience it as a form of caring and as one of the healthy, necessary ways in which he balances me out.

    • Liz

      Agreed. I don’t see how a partner being able to sense your moods and when you might be upset could (always) be a negative thing. In my relationship, it makes me feel very close to my partner when he can tell when I’m upset. Sure there are times when you don’t want to talk about what’s worrying you; at those times a simple “I’m just preoccupied and I don’t really want to talk about it now, but thanks for noticing” can suffice.

      But I absolutely accept Meg’s assessment of her own relationship style and what works best for her! It’s just different for me.

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Yeah, my fiance’s really good at picking up on my moods too. And personally, I love it. In the past, I’d always been the kind of person who bottled up all her worries and stayed quiet because she didn’t want to inconvenience anybody. So having someone who encourages me to open up and say what I’m thinking has been really, really good for me.

      I also try to be on top of the hormonal disclaimers (“FYI, I’m upset about this little thing mostly because I’m PMSing, and I’m aware that it’s kind of irrational, so we can just chill and wait for it to pass.”) so that he doesn’t have to worry that I’m secretly angry at him or that something much bigger is going on underneath the surface. That helps a LOT.

      But yeah, my main point here is, our communication styles *fit each other* very well, and that’s the important part.

  • Rachel

    I agree with many of the others that I see a difference between respecting privacy, and keeping secrets. To me a ‘secret’ is something you’re actively hiding, information you’re deliberately trying to prevent someone else from accessing – which I can see as problematic in a relationship because if you’re actively trying to hide it, there’s probably a reason for that which merits discussion. Privacy to me is different – what I spend my own money on, for example, is my business, and I don’t feel any need to tell my partner about it as long as I’m not pulling from our joint finances or impacting our ability to say – pay the bills. But, as others have mentioned, this could simply be an issue of semantics – ‘secret’ means different things to different people.

    As for the issue of venting to friends about your partner – I’m in the ‘don’t do it’ camp on this one. Complaints along the lines of ‘he always leaves his dirty socks on the floor, it drives me up the wall!’ are fine in friendly company, but anything more significant, anything that is truly an issue in your relationship, should be private. At least that’s how it is in our relationship – if I was sharing negative information with my social circle about my partner, he’d be hurt, and I would be hurt if the roles were reversed. As a result, we don’t do it. If your dynamic is different though, and both partners see value in venting to friends about issues in your relationship, and both are comfortable with it, then all the power to you. But I really do believe both partners have to be on the same page about this, if the things you’re saying to your friends behind your partner’s back would truly hurt him or upset him if he/she found out, then I think it’s gone beyond privacy and into the realm of potentially harmful secrets.

  • Class of 1980

    “And you’ll nod with delight, because the inability to ever fully know your partner is what keeps things ticking… there is always more to explore.”

    Yeah.

    I’ve never been able to understand it when people worry about getting bored living with one person. I think you can live with someone for 50 years and there will always be things about them you don’t know.

    • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

      Exactly! Like this weekend, when I found out that J is good enough at pool to own his own cue. With tips and tip shaper and everything! How did I not know this after 4.5 years?!? So 30, 40, 50 years from now? I’m expecting all sorts of pool cue moments.

      • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com Heather G

        Totally! I just found out that my guy took improv classes years ago. What?? So mysterious.

  • Cupcake

    I haven’t commented in a while, partly because I recently eloped (thanks in part to encouragement from APW commenters!!) and took a break from the wedding blogs a bit. But I am totally on board with this post. I’m older than my husband D (31 to his 26) and was financially independent since…age 20? I will always have my own money. I grew up poor, with a bad homelife and a mother who made poor financial decisions. I will never be (that) poor again, and one way that assures me of this is to have a bit of money that I got in my early 20s that is just in my name. (Premarital assets in my state stay your own unless/until you merge them purposefully.) And you know what? My husband COMPLETELY understands and supports this. He is not even sure exactly how much is in there, nor has he ever asked, but he knows it makes me feel safer having it and he wants me to feel safe. And we don’t tell each other about every single small purchase we make, even though I’m a grad student and he unemployed while focusing solely on passing the bar next month. But we trust each other. Really. In a huge way. So if D spends $6 on lunch at Subway, I don’t care. And he doesn’t care if I’m having a bad day and get a venti iced tea-lemonade at Starbucks. We see eye to eye on all the big stuff, all the large ways we prioritize. And that is what is most important to us.

    Does D think some woman in his bar-prep class is hot? Dunno, but could be. And I could not care less. Do I tell him every thought I have? Nope. Those are mine. And I *choose* to share a lot of them, but the rest are mine. The way D and I see it, we *can* share *anything* with each other, we are open and supportive. But we do not *have to* share *everything*.

    • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

      Congrats on the elopement!!

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Congratulations. :) It’s nice to take a break from all of the wedding words, isn’t it?!?

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

      Congratulations!!!

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Congratulations!!!!

    • http://made-of-sun.blogspot.com/ Trisha

      Congratulations!

  • http://www.moodeous.com Kristy

    Can I just “exactly” this whole post?

  • D-fly

    Another private thing that my fiance and I have decided that we dont need to know about each other is our entire sexual history. I dont need to know his “number”, and I dont see how knowing mine would serve our relationship either. Its not that we are ashamed, it just dosent matter anymore.
    I have friends who find this prudish and want to know every juicy detail about there partners past. Personally, I dont want to think about my love with anyone else. Im glad he has had his own experiences, but I dont want those images in my head. He feels the same way. Plus, my memories are mine to cherish, they are my cherished secrets. It works for us.

    • Lindsey

      YES. A thousand times, this. I’ve done both: been super-open with my partners, telling them my number and what I’ve done and what they’ve done…and it never worked out well for me. I got to the point in my life where it just didn’t matter to me anymore. I don’t know my fiance’s number, although I know it’s less than mine. I don’t know how many people he’s dated or what he’s done to whom. We made a conscious decision NOT to talk about it, and I think that has served us just fine! (Well, he actually knows more about me because after we met and became friends on Livejournal, we both read each other’s archives…and I was a lot more forthcoming about my sexual experiences then. But it’s never been an issue for him, which is fantastic and a breath of fresh air!)

      All we really need to know now is that we knock each other’s socks off.

      • http://tubetopix.wordpress.com Beb

        I have complicated feelings about this. My fiance and I are open books now but it was a painful process (but ultimately for the better, I believe). I think this topic is ripe for an APW post on its own!

      • Marina

        “All we really need to know now is that we knock each other’s socks off.”

        And that your STI tests have come back clean. Just sayin’.

        • D-fly

          HAHAHA, True!

    • Irene

      Thank you for posting this!! It came up recently with a friend, this topic, and she asked what my partner thought of some of my exes, and my response disturbed her, that it’s not a conversation he and I have ever had, and that I don’t really intend to. I was beginning to think I was having some sort of relational faux pas for keeping these secrets. so thank you Meg for this post, and thanks d-fly for this comment.

      • Jo

        I’m with you guys as well — we agreed 7 years ago that we don’t need to know the other’s number! And no negative repercussions. Past is past. Doesn’t have anything to do with us now.

  • http://www.thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    We got married on April 23rd this year, and although we went to marriage preparation classes and discussed this point it’s come up on its own for us. We both spend a lot of time in our heads, like, y’know, daydreaming and stuff and it would be too complex to share the minutiae of our head-worlds.

    Apart from that I have a friend who is happily married and has been so for 10 years who recently kept her lemonade diet/fast/master cleanse thing secret from her husband to nobody’s detriment.

  • meg

    To all and sundry: say we say that a secret is something you actively choose not to tell your partner, and privacy is passive. Okey dokey. The thing is, I’m still on board with secrets. Why? I trust my partner. I’ve spent seven years building a life with him. So, if he has something he actively doesn’t want to tell me, I trust that A) He has a good reason, and B) It’s appropriately small. Bottom line? I trust him to make his own choices about these things. So yes, I’m ok with secrets.

    What I’m not ever ok with is LYING. That’s the line.

    • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com Pluis

      I think you’re on the money when you say the deciding factor is trust.

      With my fiance it is trust that makes it ‘natural’ to not ask about every little thing. It’s also trust that makes it ‘natural’ for me to not overshare. I suppose that’s how we create an athmosphere in which there is room for privacy which (due to it’s nature) allows room for (appropriate) secrets.

      Most of the really painful lying I’ve experienced was ‘lying by omission’, which is why I made the privacy/secrets distinction in the first place. An ex and I were nonmonogamous on the explicit condition that he would tell me beforehand about his dates and sexual plans with others. He consistently refused to tell me, though – even when asked directly – calling that his ‘right to privacy’.He would become violent if I was upset after finding out his repeated lies because “it wasn’t lying, it was just something he hadn’t told me because he thought I couldn’t handle it.” Then, he would add “and the fact that you’re upset right now, proves that I am right.”.

      Anyway. I’m sorry for derailing the comments. I guess it was some private scar tissue that made me make the distinction. I still agree with you on principle.

      • Jo

        I’m sorry you experienced that — I can totally understand why you would have scar tissue! “Repeated lies” are not secrets — they’re lies, and lies break trust. Interesting discussion!

    • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com Heather G

      YES. It doesn’t really matter what it’s called. You described being able to be an individual in a relationship–to be able to process on your own what’s good for you and what you might need to share. What we call it might vary, but the bottom line is, we have trust in our partners to take care of themselves and to be mindful of the relationship. NOT micro-manage the relationship or ignore the relationship. It’s somewhere in the middle.

      It took me a long time to learn this, but I’m so glad that I did. If I cannot trust my partner to take care of himself and to be mindful of us, then we have problems.

      • meg

        Mmmm… beautifully said. You articulated something I couldn’t.

      • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

        Ooh yes. And the trust thing carries over into all kinds of situations. Even wedding planning. :D

        I love those moments where I can step back and not worry about things that my fiance’s taking care of, because I trust him to do things well, in his own way, and at his own pace. It’s a very freeing feeling.

      • JEM

        ooh, Heather. Thank you for this!

    • Shannon

      I like your clarification of the semantics here… And damn, this is the greatest relationship discussion I’ve read in a long time. Such a tricky one, and so many mixed messages out there in society. I’m fully on board with your approach Meg. I’m okay with the sort of little secrets you’re talking about, just as long as we’re both willing to talk about it if the other person asks (even if it’s just to explain that we’d like to keep it to ourselves, and WHY that is the case). I think the only time secrets “destroy marriages” is if it’s a make or break kind of thing being purposely kept secret. That being said, I think that every relationship’s “make or break” is slightly different. For some people, it might be addiction or gambling or infidelity or something “big” like that. For other people, deal breakers might be much smaller.

      My partner has some pretty big insecurities (that he is aware of) around me having a social life separate from him. We’re slowly working out systems in our relationship for dealing with this, but it does mean that I need to tell him about some things that I would sometimes rather not. We’ve come to a compromise on the issue… For example, I’m only really expected to tell him that I’m going to be seeing so-and-so, or that I did see so-and-so, whereas the actual content of my conversation with so-and-so is mine, and I can choose whether or not to share. It was really hard for me to come to this compromise, as I am definitely a person who likes my space, independence, and privacy. But making compromises in order to help a partner deal with some deep and intense emotional stuff is kind of what my marriage is all about! He also makes those kinds of compromises for me, so it all evens out…

      • meg

        Agreed. I full expect that if one of us asks about a secret the other would either A) Talk about it, or B) Explain why they didn’t want to talk about it. That’s part of the trust thing.

    • Agape

      For me, secrets is absolutely the appropriate word. I have a bit of the overshare issue with the hubs so I have to DELIBERATELY create some psychic space for myself. Our relationship has only improved as a result of this (so much more stable to be 2 people in love rather than ONE GIANT PERSON). Boundaries FTW.

  • http://www.thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    Also, related but not the same…

    Learning to hold back and let him work out that his own actions are causing various screw-ups has been hard! Because that has to stay with me, and can’t go to anyone else because it might sound like I’m bad-mouthing him, which I’m not.

  • http://sarahandspenser.blogspot.com Sarah

    Great post! I definitely agree with the whole keeping secrets of little stuff that doesn’t really matter in the end, especially in regards to money. We currently (co-habiting but not yet married) handle money by having joint spending and saving accounts that we each contribute a set amount of money to a month. Where the rest of our paychecks go is pretty much not the other’s business, though we talk openly about when either of us has any credit card debt we can’t pay off within a month, as that’s something that will affect the other when we get married next year. That happens pretty rarely though, like this month when I had to spend a lot for a work trip and am waiting on reimbursements/getting paid for this trip to pay off the card balance.

  • KateM

    While I do think there is some semantics involved, and that by my definition what Meg was talking about was more privacy, I agree that some secrets are a good thing.
    Privacy I think helps with maintaining the mystery, and that would involve journals, thoughts, bleaching mustaches (I mean seriously, no one ever needs to see that) and how you spend your money to a point. If it is your spending money and you blow it all on a handbag that he hates anyway so be it.
    However I do think some secrets even big ones (in rare circumstances) are okay to keep. Keeping a secret that will hurt your partner needless isn’t a bad thing, it is looking out for their feelings and not hurting them. Sometimes we tell secrets to relieve ourselves of guilt, not because it is something our partner needs to hear. For every couple that line is different. If the secret, such as overspending on a regular basis, hurts the financial future of the family, absolutely your partner deserves to know.
    Also regarding friends, I think you have to be very very careful about what you vent to your friends about. They don’t love and forgive your partner the way you do. You may work through your anger and they may hold onto it. I think David’s point about loyalty comes to play here. Asking for advice in a difficult situation from someone you trust is also different then needless venting. Venting in journals, highly recommended. You blow off steam but no one ever needs to know :)

    • meg

      “Keeping a secret that will hurt your partner needless isn’t a bad thing, it is looking out for their feelings and not hurting them. Sometimes we tell secrets to relieve ourselves of guilt, not because it is something our partner needs to hear.” AGREED. And I didn’t even go into that here. David and I have a clear and pre-discussed understanding on that, as a matter of fact.

      I think venting to friends depends. We’re in a good situation in that A) I think everyone we know wants and expects us to stay a couple, B) We’ve never not wanted to stay a couple, C) Most of the people we vent to have known **both** of us for more than half our lives, and have some serious loyalty to, and understanding of, the other person. So we’re able to have a real safe harbor when we need to discuss the other person, that that’s lovely.

      • Marina

        That is fantastic. I had a friend who would vent to me after every fight with her boyfriend. I had only met the guy a couple times, so I ended up with this really lopsided view of him and of their relationship. I can see how the situation would have been completely different if I’d already had some sort of connection to the boyfriend, and the ability to take a step back and realize that maybe her perspective wasn’t 100% of what was going on…

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      Exactly. I’m okay with venting to friends/mentors who know us both and whom I know won’t take sides and will dispense good advice because they have our back as a couple. But I will *never* join in on those awful husband-bashing sessions that come up in some social situations.

  • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot.com Maggie

    I’m not sure where we fall on the spectrum of keeping secrets —> total transparency. I’ve read him select excerpts from my journals, for laughs (particularly my first impression of him/the night we met). But I wouldn’t want him reading them behind my back or *expecting* that I would read them to him. I will point out attractive women when we’re out, but not attractive men. He never points out women he finds appealing, and I have to say… I didn’t expect this level of discretion, but I appreciate it.

    Our money habits used to be very separate, but our situation won’t allow for that now. Someday, I would like to have that sense of autonomy back (e.g. how you spend your personal “fun money” is your own business). There are times when I feel the urge to tell him everything on my mind, even the embarrassing stuff (“I did something really dumb today…”), or every detail of a convo with my sister. There are other times I don’t. He doesn’t seem to mind much either way. I used to try REALLY hard not to reveal my body insecurities to him, e.g. “I’ve gained 5 lbs., I hate my thighs,” since I’d read somewhere (women’s magazine, probably) that men don’t usually notice that stuff if you don’t bring it to their attention… but after so many years together, I’ve given up. I still don’t like it when I do that, though (I mean, dwelling on it doesn’t make me feel any better, even when he tries to reassure me).

    One thing that’s off limits: disclosing our full, 100% honest opinion of the other’s family, if it’s negative. I can rag on mine, he can complain about his, and we’ll offer understanding… but not contribute to the bitching or say “yeah, I’ve always thought your brother was a ______.”

    I feel like “keeping the mystery,” usually refers to bathroom habits — which (including nail clipping and shaving) are private activities in our house and I hope to keep it that way as long as we can, LOL.

    I knew a woman who started taking anti-depressants and kept it from her partner, because he was opposed to that type of medication, which she thought was stupid. That kind of secret seems a step too far in my marriage, although I don’t think she lied to him, she simply omitted that information. I think omission can have as negative an impact as a lie, but it totally depends on the situation.

    • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

      One thing that’s off limits: disclosing our full, 100% honest opinion of the other’s family

      THIS. I would never tell my husband all of what I really think about his close family, even if he would tend to agree with me. It’s just not right.

      • http://www.LovelyAtYourSide.com Jenny

        ha! there are some things I know about my family. We never have to say them, I don’t need to hear them from my SO. I know he knows them-I just never want to hear him say it!

    • Marina

      I would worry about not disclosing medical information to someone who’s likely going to be the one called if you end up in the ER. Giving to wrong answer to “Are they currently on any medications” could have some pretty serious repercussions.

  • http://www.LovelyAtYourSide.com Jenny

    Re: reading your emotions- I had an ex who read me like a book, he could tell the second I was upset. Which I was amazed at and found really endearing, I did not, however, find it endearing when he insisted I discuss the issue with him. Yes, I’m upset, but I sat there being upset rather than bringing it up, because I wanted to deal with it on my own- sometimes it was something I wasn’t proud of, like petty unfounded jealousy or unfounded anger. This issue was silly and I didn’t want it to become a bigger issue, so I planned on letting it pass. But he told me that was passive aggressive and insisted I tell him what was up, that was obnoxious. And it got sort of mean when he took that issue that I didn’t want to bring up and told me I was being silly or causing problems- I know I am, that’s why I hid it. I don’t need to be told my emotions are silly, ever, especially after you insist on my discussing them!

    My sister is my life line and she has been for 24 years- that’s not going to suddenly change when she gets married or when I fall in love. The things she tells me do not get passed on to my SO and I know that there are things I tell her which she holds from her fiance- that’s being a good friend and sister and confident, and I know her fiance and my boyfriend would rather us be reliable, loyal people than divulge each other’s secrets to them. Because they want to be with strong independent women who value relationships- if we value our relationships with each other (and other friends) we display our reverence for relationships in general, them included.

    My sister and I have been through a lot together, and so when certain things come up, I am still her first call. Her fiance wants to know and will find out about certain family or wedding related issues, but calling him first makes no sense sometimes. He did not live through our parents divorce, he wasn’t there with our stepmom and never met my grandpas. When Olivia needs a quick family related go ahead or advice or calm down, she calls me. That’s pragmatic and aware. Like you said Meg, you are two people supported by a community- not isolated from the rest of the world.

    • Rasheeda

      I relate completely…it makes no sense to call my husband first on certain things, I would have to catch him up to a lifetime of emotions we already understand in a single word. My husband honors that I have relationships like that, Loyalty is also one of our traits we admire about the other. We can’t go tearing down our loyalties to others just to prove our loyalty to one another, it just doesn’t work that way. I also will come back around and tell my husband about these things, but only when I have the time/energy/emotional fortitude to divulge, my sister and best friends provide me with those things when he can’t. We all win in that scenario.

      • meg

        “My husband honors that I have relationships like that, Loyalty is also one of our traits we admire about the other. We can’t go tearing down our loyalties to others just to prove our loyalty to one another.”

        THIS.

    • carrie

      But how does calling your SO first make you NOT part of a community? David is typically my first call, and I don’t think that makes us isolationists. I’m an only child and don’t have a sister. Do I have close friends, yes. And the closest is the first call sometimes too.

      Maybe I’m reading into some of these comments wrong, but it feels like some of them are dancing close to the line of “if you call your SO first, you’re not part of a community.” Apologies in advance if I’m being too sensitive, but I feel very strongly that’s not always the case. People have very different situations, circumstances, things that work for them.

      • http://www.LovelyAtYourSide.com Jenny

        Oh ! I certainly don’t mean that- I mean that insisting on calling your SO first, can just be counterproductive. I agree 100% that people have different situations and circumstances- I think in a weird way that is what I was trying to get at. As much as not calling your SO first does not isolate you from your community, calling a sister/friend/mother first does not isolate you from your SO.

        I’m in the do what feels right camp- do what feels right for you and your relationship and let everyone else do what feels right for them.

        • carrie

          Thanks for the clarification! Gotcha, ladies.

      • meg

        I don’t think anyone is saying that. Try not to jump to the “because other people do it differently, they think I’m doing it wrong” conclusion!

  • Tegan

    Stuff like a journal, that makes sense. Spending money, sure. But who you think is hot? That’s sad. My guy and I go people watching together. I know what he likes enough to point out the firm bums and perky tits of cute girls, and he knows what I like enough to point out a well-defined musculature, a great walk, or whatever.

    Looking at the comments above, I feel like my fiance and I have a different relationship than most — I think I literally have nothing that I keep from him. Even the stuff that he doesn’t like, I usually announce whenever I’ve done it not in his presence so he can see just how sacrificing I’m being — “I listened to Journey/ate tuna/slept all day!”

    I dunno — I know that my fiance keeps some things from me, because he’s a super private person, but I have zero walls and inhibitions.

    http://courting-disaster.com/archive/20110422.html

    The poll is third down or something, but also deals with this exact issue.

    • meg

      I didn’t say I NEVER talk with my husband about who I think is hot. I said I don’t ALWAYS talk to my husband about who I think it hot. As someone said earlier in the comments, talking about the hotness of strangers is one thing, talking about the hotness of friends is something perhaps kept to ones self (for many of us).

      • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com jenny

        yes, it was a poor decision to call one of my ex’s friends “Arm Candy.”

    • jl

      i dont think its fair to say its sad to not talk about who you are attracted too. maybe it just doesnt work for some people. i just didnt like how that sounded though i get your gist i dont like it and neither does he, so to each his own

  • http://thewanderingway.com Roseanna

    I kind of hate being asked what I’m thinking about by anyone. It’s a bit like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. By the time the question has ended, my brain has moved on to another topic.

  • http://www.linseykitchens.com Linsey

    “It’s supported by the sense of self I maintain buying myself some d*mn earrings, or not feeling guilty about checking out hot people, or guilt free gossip with my girlfriends, or long winded venting in my journals. It’s supported by the fact that I feel like a whole, independent person: one who doesn’t have to tell her partner every penny that she’s spent, or every emotional intimacy shared, or every person fantasized about, or every creative project worked on.”

    Amen, Meg. And a gazillion “exactlys” to all your responses above. In my relationship, maintaining this sense of independence–as in, yes, I am still my own human being and entity despite the fact that we will be married in 50 some odd days–is what helps me get out of bed in the morning. I cannot imagine my whole universe being swallowed–secrets and all–by any other human being, even one who I adore and have amazing sex with!

  • MamaMelli

    I think there needs to be room for privacy and emotional intimacy in all relationships. Everybody is going to do it differently, because we all have our own “pandas.” I read an article once written by a man thinking back on his relationships. He once dated a girl who ALWAYS filled his plate for seconds, even if he told her he was no longer hungry. He always tried to call the women he was dating by pet names, like Panda. He later went on a double-date with the food-refilling ex-girlfriend and their new respective beau and belle. While he and his new girlfriend gleefully called each other petnames, the ex and her new boyfriend happily refilled and chowed down on the new BF’s plate of food. The author of the article determined that everybody has their own version of the best relationship, and we’re all just waiting to find our own Panda, or the person who shares that version of the best relationship.

    I think that’s an important thing to remember in this discussion. Some people talk about everything in their lives with their partners because they’re chatty. Some people don’t talk about much with their partners because they enjoy symbyotic silence. Some people tell their partners everything because they feel everything is important enough to discuss. Other people fall somewhere between that on the triangle of a spectrum.

    I happen to revere my husband as somebody who is very wise and unbiased towards my life (which is impressive, given the whole husband thing). A lot of the time, I talk my face off about my day because I… well… I like to talk. Sometimes, I tell him things that are important because I need him to weigh in and help me consider reality versus my viewpoint. And, sometimes, I hold things in. He knows when something is really chewing at me, and he trusts that I’ll tell him if it’s something he needs to know. But my life is still MY life; I just happen to share part of that life with him.

    And, on a completely separate note, I think we all need to recognize that putting a price tag on what is and is not okay to divulge to your partner is beyond reason. Everybody makes a different amount of money. Everybody treats their money differently. Please, can we not try and say “your partner needs to know if you’ve spent $XX?” That will not accomplish anything in this discussion.

    • Agape

      Exactly x a gillion.

      Over 16 years, our finances have been at the point where the loss of $100 meant an annoyance or not being able to make rent….adjustments in independent spending were made accordingly. The hubs and I know what our “disclosure” figure is, as in if we spend above X we need to let the other person know, but I can’t even begin to imagine trying to identify what the figure needs to be for other people. Took long enough for us to figure our number out for ourselves!

      I will say though, that whenever we have had enough money to do so, we have an allowance system with no questions asked. WAY fewer fights that way.

  • april

    And BAM: that’s why I love APW.

    The other day, I mentioned something totally off-handedly to my husband about one of our mutual friends… a “secret” irk I’d harbored and felt I needed to get off my chest. And instead of calling a gal pal, writing it in my secret journal, or just letting it go: I told him. And his reaction? He signed deeply, and then said, “What am I supposed to do with that, babe? I really could’ve gone my WHOLE life without knowing that.”

    Me: *gulp* Awkward, embarrassed silence. Then, nervously, “Uh… OK. My bad. Sooo…. grilled salmon for dinner?”

    Yeah. Some secrets are OK. Love the post, Meg. LOVE IT. And a good reminder for me to keep some of my thoughts to myself.

    • meg

      Oh, husbands. They nail it sometimes, don’t they?

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      Love this. Just because there are things we *can* tell our partners, doesn’t mean that we always *should* – especially when it might change their relationship with someone else.

      • meg

        David tells me that ALL THE TIME. He does not need to know all my sh*t, thanks. (Hence this post).

    • Marchelle

      Ha! This is brilliant. I’m an oversharer, and the awkward responses from my husband about certain things shared early on quickly helped me figure out which bits of information should NOT be left with him. :)

  • Lindsey

    Like someone else said upthread, I want to “Exactly!” this whole post. I am fully behind the ideas of secrets, mystery, private time, and not knowing every detail of each other’s thoughts. I think it only strengthens my relationship with my fiance, and reinforces that we are both individuals as well as partners in life.

    For the first 10 years of my dating life (starting in high school), I was very open about everything. I wanted to share all my thoughts and experiences with my partner, and I wanted to know everything–including “hot button” topics like their sexual past and who they crushed on. And I was in the school of “if something is bothering you, hash it out and get everything all out in the open.” But as I got older (late 20s), I realized that really wasn’t working for me. Even if issues were resolved, there were things said that could never be unsaid, and those created tiny cracks in our relationship foundation that slowly set us on the path to erosion (several times, with different people; I used to be a serial monogamist). So I decided to go the opposite route and start my next relationship with a bit of mystery and intrigue.

    And that ended up being with the person I’m going to marry! It’s going GANGBUSTERS. I love not knowing how many people he’s slept with or made out with; he goes out sometimes to do “secret things” and so do I, safe in the knowledge that we just need our private time once in a while; we have “girlpocalypse” and “boyzone” nights with our friends, separately; we peel back the layers of each other slowly, delicately, and healthily, instead of tearing into each other at the beginning like a crazed kid on Christmas. It’s perfect and healthy for us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve been together for almost four years, living together for almost three years, and we still cultivate mystery and secrets but still always feel very close and connected.

  • http://mutualmenu.blogspot.com Joselle

    This reminds me of the Liz Phair song, “Closer to You,” from her spotty but I think underrated (ok, hated) album, Somebody’s Miracle:

    “But I would never want to find out
    Everything about you
    Cause I would never want to find out
    What I thought wasn’t true

    Your mind is a place I don’t need to embrace
    What you’ve got in your heart is enough”

    I don’t think I really understood these words until I was in a relationship with my husband and I understand it better than ever since marrying him. I once thought that love meant knowing EVERYTHING. In fact, it scared me when I realized it was impossible for anyone to know my every fleeting thought because that meant I could not know theirs and then, do they love me??? I now realize this was blazing insecurity. I’m nothing if not secure in my marriage so I keep secrets and I want my husband to have his secrets. My mind is sometimes stupid, sad, silly or scared. I think of secrets as a way of protecting people from the worst (and sometimes the best) of me. Because it’s mine. And it’s not only ok to have things that are only mine. It’s wholly necessary.

    Thanks for this post, Meg. I haven’t visited APW since my wedding last October. I stopped reading all wedding stuff. But in the last few weeks, I was drawn back and I will be here daily because I almost feel like this site is even more useful now that I’m married. Thanks for the oasis of sanity and humor.

    • meg

      Well played Liz Phair. I think that’s it. If you know their heart, do you need to know everything in their mind… or can you just trust that knowing their heart is enough?*

      *Huge issues like gambling your life savings away obviously excepted… which arguably kind of mean that their heart wasn’t quite what you thought in the first place, or something got in the way (like drugs or depression or something major).

    • MamaMelli

      Yes to the blazing insanity sometimes being related to wanting to know everything about our partners! That is SUCH A GOOD POINT that I had not really considered.

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    I read this post and basically nodded in agreement the entire time. (I’m especially glad that someone else feels the same way about their journals, even the ones written at twelve-years-old!)

    I remember being flabbergasted when J. and I got engaged and all of a sudden, when my girlfriends would confide relationship issues or crushes to me, they’d start tacking on to the end of the conversation, “Oh, but don’t tell J. that I like so-and-so.” My reaction was, “Wait, people do that?!!!” since we’d always been very clear that confidences entrusted to us individually were off limits to each other.

    • Not Sarah

      One of my friends tell *everything* to her boyfriend. Like all the stuff I confide in. Actually, another friend does this with her husband. She says he won’t tell anyone, but that almost makes me never want to meet her boyfriend because he knows all these things about me and my relationships without me telling him personally. And it makes me not trust her with my confidence.

      So yeah, apparently people do that. I guess I never learned this because I haven’t had many female friends until recently.

  • Christy A.

    This post is so right-on! My husband is an accountant, which means that for three months out of the year I am what we fondly refer to as “a tax widow.” The first year we were married was also the first year he ever had to go through a grueling tax season, and boy! did we learn a lot from that year! After 16 hours of non-stop brain work, A. would come home completely tapped out mentally and emotionally. Even though I understood this, I still had a need to mentally re-hash my day and go over the things I loved, the things that frustrated, and generally vent at the end of the day. A. understood this, and even though he loves me and wants to meet my needs, the reality is that he often has nothing left and cannot give me the emotional and verbal release I need while he’s working such crazy hours. We got into several fights before we started to realize that not only cauld we not always be everything to each other, it really wasn’t right to expect each other to be. Now a very dear friend intentionally partners with me from January through April, and I go over my day with her. I tell about my day, my frustrations (sometimes A. is included in these!) and get it all out, so that when A. gets home, I can give him the down-time he desperately needs, which revives his spirit so that he can give me the affection I crave. It works. He doesn’t ask what I talk to her about, not so much because it’s a secret, but because he doesn’t want or need to know, and it’s made our marriage SO MUCH better.

    I think the real problem with most of those articles Meg brought up is that they presume that all marraiges must follow a set of generally accepted rules of engagement, or fail. But we are not one-size-fits-all couples. We are unique, and our marriages reflect that. What would be a big stumbling-block lie for someone might be a healthy ommission for another. For example, I don’t tell my husband about every purchase I make, not because I’m trying to deceive him, but because it’s just too much darn work! However, in retail I saw women all the time split payments between multiple cards and say they had to “to keep the husband from asking questions.” That sort of thing would be a level of deceit that woudl undermine MY marriage, because in my marraige we don’t seek to deceive each other. But I assume these women make it work. It’s all about knowing your partner and knowing what, for them, would be crossing a line. A. doesn’t want to hear every negative thought I have about him (especailly when we fight!) but he wants to hear about any recurring problems that undermine the foundation of our marriage. He doesn’t want to know everything I talk with my girlfriends about, but he also trusts me to not undermine him or our marriage in our conversations. It’s all about having clear, agreed upon boundaries and trusting your partner to do what is in the best interest of you and your relationship.

    Soapbox over.

    • Rasheeda

      I worked in retail for years and the way women spoke about their husbands not knowing what they bought was sickening! To do that much work, hiding it on several cards, coming during their lunch break, taking clothes to the clearners before bringing them in the house (my personal favorite) seems like they are having a secret relationship, it seems exhausting to constantly be ducking and dodging your husband about what you did/spent. I vowed my husband and I would NEVER be like that.

      “they presume that all marraiges must follow a set of generally accepted rules of engagement, or fail. But we are not one-size-fits-all couples. We are unique, and our marriages reflect that” EXACTLY!!

      • Christy A.

        I The cleaners one is new to me, but my favorite is foregoing the shiny store bag with the label in favor if a reusable from target, not to be environmentally friendly, but “so my husband can’t tell where I’ve been shopping!” Seriously, that’s a lot if work!

  • Cayenne

    I think of our relationship as anti-secret but pro-choosing when and how to share those secrets. For example, my email is off limits; I’ll be honest about anything if asked and if it matters to us in any way I’ll bring it up myself, but I’ll explain it the way it should be explained to him rather than necessarily sharing the precise words used with someone else. I can and should choose the time and way to express it that will be the most productive.

    I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone. One reason we can live without secrets is that we’re both very forgiving of each other. Everyone screws up and people need some way to keep that from hurting their relationship. And in the other direction, some people communicate differently and don’t need that control over the method.

  • Class of 1980

    MEG WROTE: “I mentioned the comment about it not being ok to buy a $200 dress, and David said, “Totally depends on how much money your making.” There have been times in the past where that move would have destroyed us. At the moment, it would just be annoying. So, as a result, it might happen now, when it wouldn’t have happened in the past.”

    Yes. Context is everything.

    If buying something would destroy a precarious financial balance, then it’s clearly wrong. If it wouldn’t cause destruction, then it’s not a black-and-white issue.

  • Agape

    A relationship is not a deposition! TM Dan Savage.

    • http://www.orangeandbarrell.blogspot.com Emme

      That is amazing!!!

    • meg

      AMAZING. AMAZING.

  • Sadie

    I am getting married in a couple months, and really the only thing that I’m nervous about with being married is this idea that now everything I do impacts another person. I’m all for not needing to share every little thing, and I know my fiance feels the same way. But even though I think we’ve got a good understanding of how each other feels about sharing, I worry about feeling guilty doing things I want to do, and would totally go ahead and do if it were just me. Like Meg said in the initial post, maybe my reticence comes from many years of being an independent, grown-up person, and now I don’t necessarily want to change the way I do things just because that’s not the way he does things. In my case, it’s not so much the what we tell each other and don’t tell each other that worries me. It’s more the habits we each have that maybe don’t mesh well, and that we don’t (either of us) want to change. Mostly little things: sometimes, I really like to eat popcorn for dinner. And I know this is not the healthiest possible choice, and I don’t want anyone to give me shit about it because this makes me feel guilty, and I just want to enjoy my popcorn. Sometimes, I tell my fiance that he should come up with evening plans, because I want a night to myself to watch crap TV and eat popcorn without any judging. This isn’t really the same as the keeping secrets or not sharing what we’re thinking with each other, but to me it is in the same vein, in that I want to keep some independence, some of my own habits and quirks, without feeling judged for them. And I know he does too (computer games. Whenever I want to get judgmental, I think about my popcorn dinners, and shopping habits, and…)

    • http://craftosaurus.blogspot.com craftosaurus

      Can I ask why you’re nervous about this in the context of getting married in a few months? (Congratulations, by the way!) I ask because I’m wondering how that’ll change when you get married. It sounds like you live together now, correct? Everything you’re doing now affects him in the same way it will after you’re married, right?

      I don’t mean to sound argumentative at all — I’m genuinely asking to understand better.

      • Sadie

        Yes, you know, I guess that is true! I think that we probably have this worked out pretty well, and as you say, we live together already and things are working fine! I guess I worry just a little that in living together over the next FOREVER that it will wear on him that I want popcorn for dinner, or it will wear on me that he can play computer games for hours. But honestly, I think what is important is remembering the need to each have our own space, just as we already do, taking time individually if we want it, and keeping our own hobbies, thoughts, and what have you!

  • MEI

    Eh…I’m an oversharer. Fiance (husband in 10 days eee!…ok, done now) is an oversharer. It works for us. I’m glad how you and David roll works for you. The key, I think, is that so long as how you do your relationship ain’t hurtin’ other people, it is none of my damn business to tell you how you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing it. Kinda like weddings, actually.

    • meg

      Except I give people advice about weddings like it’s my job. Achem. Oh yeah.

  • Marina

    Hee, so, after reading this post I asked my husband (mostly jokingly) whether he kept any secrets from me. And he blushed a little, and said, “I sometimes don’t tell you when I do something really stupid when I’m driving.” My first internal reaction? “OMG DO NOT TELL ME.” I would stress the freak out if I heard about every near miss he had–I do not need to know that stuff. So… I guess I’m in favor of secrets. ;)

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    I loved this, Meg. Well said.

    Can I just say, on the OTHER hand, while I do all of these things too… I also CHERISH the ability to be totally honest with my partner about anything and still be solid. It’s amazing to be known that well. I love it. It keeps me grounded.

  • http://ladyoftheforest.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

    Yep. I mean… just yep. Especially about the journaling business… that would be a serious, serious action of crossing the line for me. My husband only knows me as honest and upfront. If anything, he probably wishes I WASN’T. He doesn’t even read my blog, which is not the same as a journal (which is, to say, it makes you wonder wtf I journal about… lol).

  • charm city vixen

    Jumping on this topic late due to traveling for work, but thank you APW for providing interesting discussions and topics for me to think about!

    For my fiancé and me, we tend to talk about everything together. That’s just what works for us and I don’t feel bad about it — I have always been chatty and I’m not going to change now!

    We each have a mentor-type person (we are both in 12-step recovery programs) and we tend to view those conversations as private and necessary to preserving sanity. That being said, FH is still first person I call.

  • Remy

    In one of my favorite book series (http://www.dianagabaldon.com/writing/the-outlander/), a character says to his new bride (whom he married for reasons of expediency, after they’d only briefly known each other) that between them is no great love, but only respect — and that respect has room for secrets, but not for lies.

    I try to live — and love — like that.

    • meg

      “respect has room for secrets, but not for lies.”

      Amazing.

  • LillyTop

    It looks like I’m going to be totally alone on this, but I don’t think I could EVER be in an intimate relationship with someone who kept secret journals. Maybe it shows a lack of confidence or security, but knowing there are secret things, right there, that might be about me and are written by my most-important other? It’s too much. They either need to be available or out of the house. If you’re going to take the time to release it to the universe, either on paper or the internet, you have to know there’s room for someone to read it.

    Any journal I have is open to my husband of 7+ years. Not that I present them to him or leave them lying around casually, but he knows where they are. I’ve read his journals from his early 20’s, and while he wasn’t stoked about it, it certainly didn’t break us. To me, it was a step toward more intimacy, toward really knowing and understanding him in ways that would have been exhausting for him to explain. It’s something I’d never dream of doing with a friend or sibling or parent, because those relationships aren’t INTIMATE in the same way.

    For us, this is what works. Just sayin’.

    • meg

      Yeah. No. For us intimacy is about trusting the other person’s heart, and letting them have their own space to work things out, head space, journal space, you name it. My journals are off limits, not because there is anything bad in them (they are very boring), but because they are mine. And I’m still an individual, not just half of one being.

      He can read them when I’m dead. That’s what marriage is anyway, the long term trust of waiting around forever. (Not that he’d want to, they’re boring…)

      So no, David reading my journals wouldn’t break us up, though it might put him to sleep. But he would never, and that’s why we work.

  • tirzahrene

    “Loyalty is way more important to a marriage than total honesty.”

    This.

    My ex kind of had it the other way around. I knew way too much without knowing what really counted: That he was in this with ME.

  • Theodora

    I’m not married, but I have to mention something…

    It’s always wigged me out in a major way when I’ve found out couples have just *one* email address between the two of them. Not a separate email for each half of the couple and then a shared one, but *only* one.

    Did I mention how that wigs me out? ;-)

    I cannot imagine never having emails be private. When I send an email to such a couple, I always put “for X [name of half of couple email is intended for]” in the subject line, in the vain hope that the other half of the couple won’t read it, because it feels like someone else is reading a letter I wrote to someone else, even if the email contains something very bland and not very personal.

  • Tessa

    Totally yes! I think small secrets (ones that aren’t seriously damaging to your relationship) should be kept to yourself, and it does bring some spice into the relationship knowing that there are things you still don’t know about your partner ;)
    I especially agree with the finances thing. I, too, am a very independent person, and that also applies to what I make and how I spend it. I’ve always hated when people say that marriage means combining your finances. Sure, when my s.o. and I get married we’ll probably have some joint savings accounts and stuff like that, but I do not EVER want to have to ask him if I can spend X dollars on this new dress/purse/computer game/etc. We will not have joint checking accounts or be accountable to the other for spending money. Now, if one of us decided to drain our savings accounts and get us into financial sh*t behind the other’s back, that’s a different story. But our individual purchases are just that, and I value my independence as an individual human being. Just because we are a committed couple doesn’t mean we lose ourselves.

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