We have to keep birthday secrets and holiday secrets.

If you’re getting engaged, you may want to keep that secret. You can choose to keep a vacation destination a secret—although that makes it hard to pack. You may have other good reasons to keep secrets.

But I’m talking about secrets of the heart.

When do you share them, when do you hide them?

What’s the repercussion of letting them out, of keeping them in?

I tell my siblings about every single thing under the sun. I’m not sure why they like me after some of the doozies that come out, but I let’m rip.

I do not, keep your hat on, tell my husband everything.

There’s a great line in a Raymond Chandler book where he says, “…the kind of wind that has housewives eyeing their husbands necks and checking the sharpness of their knives…”

I mean, seriously, living with someone 24/7, (both working from home) who doesn’t get the urge, occasionally, to kill the other, yell: “I need space,” or otherwise throw a fit because of too much closeness?

Oh, you’re saying that’s just me?

Clears throat and continues…

When I was not at all in kid-liking-mode and spent time at Seester’s house while the tykes were, well, little tykes, I asked why wasn’t she correcting xx and yy bad behavior. She wisely answered, they’re little kids,  you have to pick your battles, you can’t correct everything they do.

So I feel it is with spouses.

If I told Alex everything he does that makes me crazy (sigh, when he is home the kitchen is never free of water—everywhere), one of us would have to go. Conversely, if he let everything I do bother him, yikes. I mean, I have projects going on non-stop and everywhere.

Hence, secret-keeping.

Are these big secrets or little secrets?

Do I know the effect keeping either size secret has long-term on a marriage? Nope, still new at this 2.5 years in.

And don’t get me wrong, keeping secrets is not the same thing as holding your tongue. We’re obligated, as spouses, to speak what’s on our minds—to tell the truth about what’s important to us, even when it causes momentary discomfort.

But, for instance, I think spouses should have separate email accounts—we should be able to write to our friends without our spouses reading it. Doesn’t mean I don’t tell Alex about things I said/are said to me. But we shade our words differently when someone else is reading. I rage on in a journal completely differently from how I blog about the same topic.

I certainly want his friends to be able to email him things they may not want me to know. They could rant about work, their spouse, kids, cars, whatever—without any concern that I will read it and judge or tell on them.

It’s the same way I think that just because a couple is close doesn’t mean that if I tell my girlfriend a secret, it’s okay for her to tell her husband. That can be seen as a betrayal of trust. It’s hard to keep secrets sometimes, but worth trying hard to keep them to stay true to the person who told them to you.

Different conversations

We talk differently to our own gender than we do to the opposite sex—even if the closest of friends. Aren’t there multiple case studies where a classroom full of girls is bold and wise beyond their teenage years…until you introduce a boy or two or three? Then all bets are off and our nature of behaving differently around the opposite sex comes out. The why of that is more psychology than I have studied, but there it is. Men and women are different, we don’t understand each other as well as our same gender does. Telling every secret gives you more opportunities for mis-understanding because some things cannot be fully articulated.

Siblings get me. They’ve had years to do so. We are in tune. We rarely misunderstand the intonation of a sarcastic, but witty statement and get affronted. Instead we poke fun and laugh and say both, “you are wrong,” and “you are right,” at the appropriate times when asking guidance and advice.

There’s a great book about long-term relationships, “Ever Lasting Love,” where two young men seeking what makes a marriage last, interview couples married at least forty years. Many of them take the attitude that divorce was never an option, murder considered, but love always prevailed.

I’ll bet if I interviewed those couples about secret-keeping, they’d tell me they had collected quite a few.

Do you?


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