Some secrets will be shared. Some won’t. What they are, how much will be shared and when, all depend on the nature of the secret, nature of the spouse and the relationship with the partner. There cannot be a standard answer to this one. Vidya Bhat explains.
The story of Anita and Dilip
Anita and Dilip have been married for a year now. Both work in the Healthcare industry. She is an HR where the need for good interpersonal relationships within the organization is a necessity. Anita is quite the cheerful, social bee of the organization. He is a Research team member, which is a rather closed group when it comes to external communication.
By nature, Dilip is a reticent guy (one who does not reveal his thoughts and feelings readily), while Anita is quite the extrovert who loves to get into conversations even with the watchman of the building.
Since they work around the same area, it became a practice for Dilip to drive Anita to work, drop her and pick her up on the way back. This has been the routine since their marriage. Post marriage, she has adjusted well to the “newly married” environment and has taken the interest, careand time to cook, clean and keep house in addition to managing herself at work.
However, recently she has started feeling that she is not having time for herself and has communicated herneed for privacy and space to Dilip so that she can take time off for herself – to be with her set of friends, to pamper herself or just to be alone by herself without Dilip. Dilip is annoyed and thinks that Anita is being secretive and is hiding something from him.
How would you sum up this situation and advise Anita and Dilip as a friend of theirs if they come to you for help?
Privacy in a relationship is very important for the good health of their union. Privacy is described as a state where one is not observed or disturbed by other people. In a relationship, this translates into a bond of love, but not bondage of love. Boundaries need to be set and maintained which is in tune with your individual needs, value and belief systems. If we do not get our privacy, there is the feeling of being angry and frustrated and this can manifest itself in withdrawal from the significant other in a relationship.
Secrecy on the other hand is defined as the state of keeping a secret, of intentionally keeping some information hidden from the partner in a relationship or from near and dear ones like family or friends for fear of the impact of the revelation. The fear of the consequences for themselves and by others when their well-guarded secret is revealed is what keeps secrets deeply buried in the recesses of your heart.People who hold a secret think that they may be rejected, made outcast in the community, laughed at, condemned, judged without reason (which does happen often), alienated at work, etc. The feeling of guilt from keeping this secret is high and has a detrimental effect on the mind of the person in terms of his behaviour and relationships.
Behaviours/Situations that constitute secrecy
The most common examples of secrecy and privacy is a gay man keeping the secret from his parents and wife, a woman keeping secret of her abortion before marriage from her new husband, a man keeping the secret of his previous affairs or extra marital affair from his wife and vice versa, a man finding his sister in law attractive and keeping it to himself(privacy), but the wife may feel that he has been secretive about it. A married man watching porn, seeing other women, surfing for prostitutes, going to massage parlors, are all secrets that many keep. They may consider this private and may share this only on a need to know basis or when they are cornered or are up against the wall unless they have a perfect understanding of the spouse’s openness to accept such situations.
The problem with privacy
With so many dating apps in India, many married men upload the app on their mobile. While the thought may be to just browse through the profiles of women without any intention of a hook up or a casual relationship, this information is kept from the wife as they think that she may get angry and upset. Married women who are bored in marriages also resort to dating. The feeling of being complimented by a man makes the woman feel special and attractive and she goes home feeling better about herself and with a secret in her heart. Both think that they are indulging in harmless activities and believe it to be private as they are not endangering the relationship.
The problem with secrecy
In a relationship, secrecy plays a major role, as the foundation of all relationships is trust and faith between two people. The impact depends to a large degree on how much, how long and to what information is thought to be shareable so as to not rock the boat and how seriously the information that is hidden or kept secret can impactthe relationship.
Many married men who tour frequently enjoy a roll in the bed with strangers that they meet, keeping this a secret from the wives. This trend is also growing among women.
The answer but not the solution
Some secrets will be shared. Some won’t. What they are, how much will be shared and when, all depends on the nature of the secret, nature of the spouse and the relationship with the partner.There cannot be a standard answer to this one.
The simple question to ask yourself is this – When I tell the person the whole truth, the information which I have been hiding, will the person be upset, angry and hurt? If the answer is yes, then you are keeping a secret.
There should be no secrets between the couple ideally. However, privacy is another matter altogether. One needs to have some boundaries set, which is to be mutually agreedupon. Be true to yourself in all circumstances and that itself is the way to make yourself acceptable. Honesty with oneself is the most important.
When secrets can threaten the very foundation of the relationship and can have serious consequences like a break up, then it is something you need to think really hard on and decide on the answer based on the morality of the act as per your beliefs and values. Some secrets therefore lie buried till the grave in the individual’s interest and the relationships.
My advice to Anita and Dilip would be -Have your own identity and your set of friends apart from common circle of friends. Not everything needs to be done together. Let there be four important circles of space and privacy – Mine, Yours, Ours and Theirs. Individual privacy is first – Mine and yours. Define it and share it with each other through consensus. Next comes what you can do together and for each other, without the influence of others including parents from both sides and lastly theirs, where you will do things based on the influence of others, be it with some aspects of community commitments or what the elders command. Find the right balance between all.
For example, keeping social media passwords private is important. One need not reveal it to the spouse. A spouse cannot be demanding of the passwords playing the victim – If you love me, then why are you hiding it from me? What is important is to communicate your need for privacy and mutually set some boundaries which are sacrosanct for the relationship to be smoother. The topics that can be discussed and boundaries set for include porn watching, visiting strip clubs, open relationships, situations where parental interference is seen often, etc.
Confessions when one does overstep the boundary line can make the bonds stronger.Hiding can cause lifelong guilt and kill an otherwise beautiful relationship. Couples can decide on a 24-hour timeframe to confess some digression so that the guilty party can come clean and is forgivenand such an incident never occurs again.Mutual respect for each other’s opinion and perceptions, however diverse they may be, with an “agree to disagree” principle without any rancor should be observed. Mutual agreement to also not take up the subject again during any argument or conflict in the future is also important.
To end, memorable words of Khalil Gibran on the boundaries of privacy in a relationship
“Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."