Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

When talking to someone who is married, do you automatically assume that any info you give them will/could be relayed to their spouse?

A few weeks ago, following the breakup of one of our dearest couple friends, Jonathan and I were talking. He said something along the lines of, "well, now that they're broken up, I can tell you this...." I honestly don't even remember what it was (as in, the info was not groundbreaking or crazy), but it was a piece of information that either: 1) Jonathan didn't think he could tell me when they were together (I'm assuming for fear that I would tell the girl?), or 2) it was a piece of information that the guy in the couple told Jonathan but prefaced with "Don't tell Jackie, but....."

I was somewhat upset with either scenario.

1) If Jonathan didn't think he could tell me for fear that I'd tell the girl - that just sucks. And actually, I don't think I really deserve that designation - a chatty Cathy who wouldn't be able to keep the information to myself. It's not fair. Especially for information given to me by my husband. The man to whom I have committed my entire life. There are things about Jonathan and about our relationship that none of my girlfriends know. Because I keep it private. Because, again, we have taken vows to honor/love/respect each other for our whole lives. As much as I love some of my girlfriends, we haven't declared that love to each other in a church in front of all our family & friends.

2) If the guy specifically asked Jonathan "Don't tell Jackie...." that annoys me as well. I guess one, because it makes the same assumption (that any info I'd be given wouldn't be able to stay with me), but two, because it's asking Jonathan, in effect, to choose keeping his secret over keeping a secret-free relationship with his wife. It doesn't really seem appropriate to do that (see the aforementioned text on taking vows).

Fast forward to Sunday after church. I was talking with the girl from this relationship, and she said "Don't tell Jonathan, but...." And I know why she wouldn't want me to tell Jonathan this information (it's basically assuming the same thing I feared was being assumed about me [that Jonathan couldn't keep the secret away from his friend]). But I didn't know what to do with the information.

It would have been completely l-a-m-e for me to say "well, actually, I don't really feel comfortable with you asking me to keep a secret from my husband, so don't tell me anything you wouldn't want him to know, but he's a great secret keeper, just so you know." Lame. And I see how Jonathan would've felt equally (if not more) dumb asking his friends not to tell him things they wouldn't want his wife to know.

But I guess this is where my question lies. Should one assume that something they tell a married person is going to get back to the spouse? And if not, assuming you think the spouse doesn't need to know everything, where do you draw that line in a marriage, ie, what secrets are ok to keep from your spouse?

I think keeping secrets from your spouse, in general, is a very bad slippery slope. 1) Because once you start doing it, it will become easier & easier (and maybe even "necessitate" a lie - and in that case, is it ok to lie to your spouse if you're doing it to keep a friend's secret?) see - slippery slope. 2) Because it creates a sort of unequal balance of knowledge - as in, when she told me the secret after church, I sort of felt that in keeping her secret, Jonathan & I would be on equal ground in terms of keeping things from each other - total slippery slope. And 3), and this might be a woman insecurity thing, but it makes you wonder what else your spouse is keeping secret - unfortunate slippery slope of being a woman with an over-analytical brain.

So to answer my own question, I guess I always assume information I give to someone who's married is fair game to be reported back to their spouse. It seems that if your marriage/spouse can't be number one in terms of your alliance, you probably weren't quite read to be married. Like, no one gets married but knows they will always take a backburner to the person's best friend; it just doesn't work like that. And also, at least from a woman's perspective, secrets lead to questions & possibly unfair assumptions - I would think a husband would want to continue nurturing the relationship with his wife and not choose his friend's secret over that.

But I don't know. I think in a world where not every single one of your friends is married yet, that assumption kind of sucks. Like, I think once you're married, you might understand it. But I could see if I was single & told a married friend a juicy piece of info, I'd maybe be annoyed that they told their spouse (since I myself hadn't yet been through the marriage experience [which, for the record, is not all rainbows & sunshine and in fact takes a bit of work - work that is not aided in secrets or "lies of necessity"]).

And also, some things are inconsequential to anything. And I recognize that. Like, I don't tell Jonathan every. single. minute. detail of my life. So if I forget to tell him something, or don't tell him something because it doesn't matter, that's that. I think though, I'm referencing more conscious decisions: "I'm not going to tell my husband X because...." "I'm going to intentionally leave out X detail because...." "So & so told me not to tell my husband, so I'm not going to..."

So what do you guys think? What are your assumptions about information you give a married friend, if any? Do you ever withhold information because you don't want the spouse to know?


Amanda said...

I assume that anything I tell a married friend could be but is not necessarily shared with their spouse and I am okay with that. If I don't want someone's spouse to know something, I just won't tell the friend. I would never ask someone not to tell their spouse because I hate being put in that position (and most of the time I end up telling Stephen regardless). Is that bad?

Jonathan said...

All the non-married people are scared to respond to this post.