It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below! Today we’re talking about honesty in marriage: is honesty always the best policy?
I received an email recently from a woman who is occasionally tempted by porn. She’ll go months or even years without looking at it, but then she’ll be tempted for about a week to look at it a lot.
She wants to stop; she confesses it to God; and she’s feeling really guilty.
So here’s the question: should she confess it to her husband?
I received another question recently from a reader who had developed an attraction to a man at work. She has now gone out of her way to avoid him, has made sure she never texts him, and is looking at leaving for a different job so that they aren’t thrown together in any way. But she still occasionally finds that she dreams about him. She tries not to think about him, but doesn’t always succeed. But she does love her husband.
Should she tell him?
Honesty in marriage is a crucial building block. We can’t have intimacy if we aren’t transparent. And yet I’m not always sure that honesty is always the best policy. Sometimes I think that may be transferring our pain onto our spouse. So let’s wrestle through this difficult question: what is honesty in marriage? How far should it go? I’m going to give my opinion with the humble assertion that I truly may not be right. I don’t really know. But here’s what my gut tells me:
1. Secrecy when we try to hide things from ourselves and from God is always wrong.
If you are doing something you know is wrong, and you are running from it and aren’t trying to stop and aren’t confessing it to God, you’re in dangerous ground. You need to be honest with yourself and honest with God.
2. Accountability Needs Another Person
At the same time, as important as it is to be honest yourself, to keep us on the straight and narrow we usually need another person. We’re supposed to “confess our faults one to another”, as James 5:16 says. We are supposed to tell others about what we are struggling with so that they can pray with us and so that we can’t hide behind a false veneer of righteousness.
So I’d say that it’s really important to find ONE female that you can talk to (or male, if you’re a guy and you’re reading this). Find someone you can trust, whom you can also help keep accountable so it’s a two-way street. Find someone who will hold you to what God says, and won’t justify or pooh-pooh or rationalize your behaviour. And find someone who will pray with you. If you’re struggling, you need someone else to help you through.
3. Deciding Whether to Tell Your Spouse–Some Considerations
But IF you’ve confessed to God, and IF you’ve put things in place so that you’re minimizing the temptation and preventing the sin, then I’m not certain telling your husband is always the best policy. You have to ask, “why am I telling him? Is this something that he NEEDS to know, or am I telling him simply for the sake of complete transparency?” And if it’s something that will hurt him (like having a crush on a co-worker whom you are now going out of your way to avoid), I’m not sure it’s really helpful to tell him. I think it’s far more helpful to throw yourself in to making your marriage as fun as you can and in wooing your husband again so that you feel attracted to him.
If you tell him that you’re attracted to someone else, someone that you aren’t pursuing and aren’t planning on pursuing and are now avoiding, you’re just hurting your husband when no real sin has taken place. Does your husband deserve that?
I’ve had emails from several women over the last few months who say a variation of this:
My husband has just told me that he’s in love with another woman. They aren’t having an affair, and he’s going to cut off contact with her. But he realizes now he never really loved me that way. He’s going to stay because of the kids and because of the vow, but he’s struggling, and he thought I should know. He wanted to be honest with me. But now I have no idea what to do. I’m so alone.
Was it right for him to share this? Here’s a man who is going through inner turmoil and has realized that his feelings for his wife are not what they should be. At the same time, he’s made the decision to stay and work on the marriage. And yet how has he done that? By destroying his wife’s self-esteem, and any confidence she had in the marriage. He was going through pain, and so now he made sure that she did, too. If he decided to work on the relationship, then he should have worked on the relationship, and that means finding ways to fall in love with his wife again, not telling her that he isn’t in love with her.
A better route, in my opinion, would be to have found a male accountability partner who would help pray with him and help talk through how he could show love to his wife, so that the feelings could return.
So let’s take a look at some general guidelines for honesty in marriage: what should you confess, and should you confess?
Is this something that I will have to work at hiding form my spouse?
If you have overspent and put your family into debt, you can’t try to hide that, even if you do the finances in your house. If a co-worker has had a crush on you (even if you don’t reciprocate), and has been acting weird or sending you messages, confess. It is never, ever healthy to have to hide something from your spouse, whether it’s texts or bills or phone calls. Even in the case of a co-worker who is stalking you, where you didn’t do anything to start it, it is still better to let your spouse in on what is going on so you can address it together.
Is this an area where I have seriously sinned or broken covenant with my spouse?
If you have had an affair, you will eventually have to confess if you have any hope of rebuilding intimacy. Yes, we don’t want to hurt our spouses, but you cannot have true intimacy with something like that between you. Before you confess it may be good to have a third party, like a counselor, on hand or standing by so that you will have someone to talk this through with. If you don’t confess, then for the rest of your life you will be hiding something, and that will mean that you are hurting your marriage.
Is this an area where I can’t grow, or we can’t grow together, without telling my spouse?
Let’s say you’ve been faking enjoying sex for years and years, and now you want to restart your sex life. You want to enjoy it, you want to try again, you want to actually feel great and intimate. I don’t know if you can really move forward in something like that unless you at least give your husband a bit of information about what’s really been going on.
Do I need my spouse’s help with avoiding temptation?
If you feel pulled towards pornography, it’s good to confess that so that they can pray for you and help you set up accountability systems. And then you can also make porn less accessible in your home. Get your spouse on your side! Your spouse can be a great warrior in helping you fight some of these battles, if you’re honest about your struggles and let them in.
Is this something that will shatter my spouse’s confidence?
At the same time, there are things which don’t fall into these categories that may be more harmful if shared, like if you are attracted to someone else, if you doubt that you really love your spouse, or even if you feel like your spouse is no longer attractive. Sharing these things serves no purpose except to transfer your own hurt and anxiety onto your spouse, and that’s not real love.
It is possible to rebuild an intimate marriage after being attracted to someone else. Get some accountability with a same sex friend, and then throw yourself into loving your spouse again. If you feel that your spouse is too big, or they’ve lost that “something” that used to drive you wild, there is no reason on earth that you need to tell them that, because that is so destructive. It’s better to work on your friendship and to try to find that spark again by building a great life together.
So rather than transferring your angst, why not throw yourself into fixing the problem? Pick up my book 31 Days to Great Sex and learn how to rebuild intimacy at all levels–physical, spiritual, and emotional. Work at becoming his best friend by finding things to do together. Throw yourself into making your marriage great, not into making your spouse feel lousy with you.
I think it all boils down to this: We should always share actions. I’m not sure we should always share feelings. Ask yourself, will sharing this increase intimacy, or take away from it? Wrestle through that question before we give a blanket answer that “honesty is always the best policy in marriage”.
Those would be my guidelines. What do you think? Does everything need to be revealed in order to be passionate and intimate? Is honesty always the best policy? Let’s talk in the comments!
Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own marriage post and then link up the URL to that post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can see all the awesome marriage posts!