Let’s start by admitting that this question rarely comes up at neutral times. The context for this question is usually when one spouse wants more information than the other is willing to give. So in most settings as soon as you answer, you are “taking sides.”
I think it would be helpful to differentiate a few words as we seek to answer this question. Admittedly, the definitions are provided with marital application and will lead the discussion. But at least it will help us avoid using the same word to describe different things.
- Secret – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse about yourself in order to cover up an action that would cause another person to be upset or one’s self to be in trouble.
- Confidential Information – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse in order to effectively care for another person.
- Privacy – the ability to dispose information about yourself voluntarily and not have that information extracted by involuntary methods.
- Transparency – intentional choices made by a married couple to allow key information regarding marital health and fidelity to easily and constantly be available to both parties without requiring a direct request for information.
Hopefully you can see that our simple question seeking a yes-no answer, just became a bit more complex. But without these additional categories a simple answer would never be able to navigate the complexities of life. I will now seek to briefly answer each of the four questions that emerge.
Should a married couple have any secrets? NO – A spouse should never engage in an activity that they would be unwilling to disclose to their spouse. A secret (as defined here) is withholding information regarding a sin or legitimately hurtful activity. The reason for not keeping secrets has more to do with personal holiness (honoring God) than relational unity.
Should a married couple have any confidential information? YES – If a couple is going to have meaningful friendships outside the marriage (which is a good thing), a friend may share information that is requested to be kept private. In the name of a “one flesh relationship” confidential information should be information about another person and not yourself.
Should a married couple foster privacy? YES – Honor is a key component of relational health. When a relationship lacks privacy it devolves either into codependency or control. The transfer of information not covered under transparency should be voluntary. When this is violated a spouse is taking on a parental role which distorts the equality of marital partners. A couple should have a healthy enough system of transparency that major relational violations are detected through transparent information.
Should a married couple foster transparency? YES – Transparency is a primary form of expressing the “one flesh relationship” between husband and wife. Finances, general schedule, cell phone records, opposite sex communications, social networking passwords and similar things should be open in the marriage. When life is too busy, unorganized or a couple is defensive about such matters, then the marriage lacks a healthy level of transparency.