A few years ago, six months pregnant with my first child, I was cleaning out a spare room that my husband and I planned to turn into a nursery. As I was digging through boxes, I came across a couple of my husband’s old journals from his college years. Curious about his interior life from before we met, I opened them up and started reading.
But when I expected to read about intellectual musings instead I was surprised to read about past relationships and life mishaps. I don’t know if it was the pregnancy hormones or the fact that my husband was also out of town, but reading those words crushed me. What was most painful was reading that while my husband was in fact falling for me in the early months of our friendship, he was still struggling with the grips of an old relationship – and those grips finally let go a bit later than I originally thought.
I wanted to speak immediately with my husband. But he wouldn’t be home for another two days, and I knew this was a conversation we needed to have in person. So in the meantime I cried, tried to remind myself of all the ways I knew he loved me, waited and then cried some more.
Finally, my husband returned home and I told him of what I had found and how hurt I felt. However, instead of him rushing to console me, he was angry. Angry that I had read his journals. Angry that I hadn’t respected his privacy.
I was baffled. I hadn’t really thought that what I did was all that wrong. I mean, weren’t we one? Wasn’t what’s mine is his and his mine? By not allowing me to read his journal, wasn’t he keeping secrets from me?
After a long conversation I began to realize that just because we’re married doesn’t mean we no longer have privacy. In fact, for the sake of our marriage some things are better kept private. For example, my husband doesn’t need to confess with me every time he’s felt impatient with me and I don’t have to confess every time I’m frustrated that he didn’t hang up his clothes.
In a healthy relationship a couple is always sharing more and more of each other, but the key is that it must always be shared, and never taken. Privacy is different from keeping secrets from one another, because when something is kept from another it is usually something that affects the entire relationship, like pornography, or that you’re complaining about the other behind their back.
In the case of my husband’s journal, for him his writings were a way for him to process his emotions. He likes to process interiorly before coming to a conclusion, while I’d rather talk it all out, over and over, until I have a resolution. How my husband later felt about certain situations he wrote about weren’t always displayed on the page, so what I was reading was just a snapshot in time that may or may not have conveyed the truth.
I wish I could say that after that night a light bulb went off and I was able to distinguish between the right to privacy and keeping secrets, but it hasn’t always been clear to me (the over-sharer) and so it’s something we revisit from time to time. However, both my husband and I agree that while I didn’t make the right choice in reading his journal that day, good has still come from it. It made us grow as a couple and is a prime example of how we continually learn from each other and how we’re on this journey together.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ Ryan Polei