Privacy Versus Secrecy in the Marriage 

The question of how much to tell your spouse will arise at some point during the marriage. Some people wonder, “Do I need to tell my spouse everything?” Others assume it is healthy to not tell everything all the time. So the question is, what is the difference between privacy and secrecy? And is it okay not to tell your spouse everything? Could it be harmful to spill the beans about everything?

What’s the Difference Between Privacy and Secrecy?

Privacy is healthy. Secrecy is not. So what’s the difference? Webster’s dictionary defines private as “unsuitable for public display.” It defines a secret as “kept from knowledge or view” and “not acknowledged.”

Privacy often refers to those things that you just prefer to do alone. For example, most people prefer to go to the bathroom without an audience. This is privacy. It isn’t a secret that you are going to the bathroom, but you don’t need to talk about it or announce when you are going. It’s private time for yourself.

On the other hand, a secret is purposely kept hidden. For example, someone who talks to an ex-lover and doesn’t reveal it to their spouse is keeping a secret. It is not discussed due to the potential problems or damage it may cause.

Privacy as an Individual

Even after you are married you are entitled to some private time. There should be some time where you don’t have to tell your partner every detail of what you were doing or how you were doing it. Many people admit they enjoy having some time where they have the house to themselves to do whatever they want. Perhaps they sing at the top of their lungs, tell jokes to the dog, or eat an entire bag of chips and drink directly from the milk carton.

Think of all those things you may prefer to do without an audience. Couples and individuals have different comfort zones. Some couples don’t mind using the bathroom with the door open. Other couples wouldn’t dream of intruding on one another. It’s all about what you are comfortable with.

There are women who don’t take their make-up off until after their husband has gone to bed. That’s extreme. But perhaps you don’t want your spouse watching wax, pluck, shave or do other beauty routines. And that’s okay (and he probably doesn’t want to watch anyway).

It’s also healthy to have private conversations with others without your spouse knowing all the details. You should be able to talk to your friends and family and hold private conversations. As long as these conversations aren’t damaging to the marriage, it can be healthy to have these discussions completely separate from your spouse.

Privacy as a Couple

It’s also healthy to have some privacy as a couple. Once you are married, you shouldn’t be sharing all the intimate details of your married life with everyone. Your parents don’t need to know about your finances all the time, and your friends don’t need the details of your sex life. It is important to respect one another’s privacy as a couple.

It’s equally important not to share private details about your spouse. If your husband has horrible breath or your wife snores, you don’t need to announce it. Keep a lid on the bad habits and embarrassing information and respect your spouse’s right to privacy.

Have conversations together about what you feel should remain private. For some couples, they may not wish to share many details about money, work, or personal problems. So don’t go sharing information with friends and family until you’ve discussed your comfort level with this. For instance, if someone asks how much you paid for your house, what will you say? Or if someone asks when you plan to have children, how do you want to respond?

Avoid Keeping Secrets

Nothing good comes from keeping secrets. They almost always come out eventually. And they can cause a lot of hurt and pain.

There’s no such thing as a small secret. Sometimes people think “I just won’t tell the whole truth.” If you aren’t telling the whole truth you are lying. Lying is damaging to a marriage.

For example, a wife may think, “I’ll tell him I bought a new sweater but I won’t mention the shoes I bought as well.” If you are tempted to keep these sorts of secrets it is important to examine the reason behind them. This sort of dishonesty can signal deeper problems that will only grow if you aren’t honest about them now.

Sometimes people try to rationalize keeping a secret. They say things like “It would just hurt my spouse.” If you think the secret would be hurtful, how do you think discovering your dishonesty will feel? Although you don’t need to be outright rude when your spouse asks something like “does this make me look fat?” if you lie about things it will make it worse.

Other times people try to say they keep a secret because they know best. For example, saying something like “He just wouldn’t understand” or “He’d blow it out of proportion.” Yikes. If your spouse wouldn’t react well, it’s probably a bigger sign that you need to talk about it. It’s also a sign that what you aren’t talking about is a secret and not something you should keep private.

One Response to “Privacy Versus Secrecy in the Marriage”

  1. This is a great post! A lot of people have trouble understanding the different between privacy and secrecy. They may push too hard to eliminate their spouse’s privacy because they fear secrecy. Or they may use claims of privacy as an excuse to keep secrets. You’ve explained the whole issue very well.

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