One of the most common areas of couples’ struggles is determining how open and transparent they want to be, and will be, in their relationship. There is often an expectation of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” regarding personal information, social media, passwords, texting, emails, etc. Off the get-go, this instills an expectation of you owe me and I’m indebted to you. Not the best dynamic to start off a relationship.
A very important truth to explore is this: Full disclosure: NOT the best idea.
We must recognize that our partner is not entitled to knowledge of our every thought, behavior, or move. They are entitled to mutual respect and trust. Sometimes, telling the whole story can actually harm a person more. It is the job of each individual to discern the information they share to their partner.
Of course, it would not be right for one person to do something outside of the relationship values and not come clean to the partner in some form or fashion. But if the other partner suspects, it isn’t exactly right for them to shift into the role of spy, pursuer, or parent either. It becomes a lose lose situation on both ends.
How does it benefit you or your partner for them to know every detail about your relationship history?
How does it benefit you or your partner to know every detail about where you are on your trip with the guys? The girls? The bachelorette/bachelor party?
How does it benefit you or your partner to know every single detail about your recovery? Your job?
It really all comes down to trust and control. We don’t completely trust, so we ask. We push, we force, we badger. We feel that we can’t trust, so we feel out of control. So we try to control. We demand, we push, we question. Having privacy and keeping secrets are not the same thing. I was so impressed by one of my clients that I worked with through some trust issues she experienced in her relationship. Toward the end of her treatment, she shared this statement about her thoughts on how important allowing her partner to have privacy was for her:
“Privacy respects the fact that he is separate from me; that he had a life before his relationship with me. I actively choose to trust that his past relationships have come to an end now that we are together. And if, by chance, they aren’t, well…that’s on him. I choose to trust, so I don’t become the annoying, badgering girlfriend who is always feeling insecure because I don’t know where he is.” Keeping secrets is not healthy for you OR your relationships. That’s a given (I hope). So hopefully that is not what you are taking from this.
What I DO hope you gain from this is recognizing that there should be space between you and your partner in all aspects of your life. Trusting one another to show up and be honest with you is one of the greatest risks we take in relationships. And it doesn’t always end pretty. But when you know that you came out on the other end allowing yourself to practice trust, honesty, patience, and honoring your separateness from your partner, then it is not all for nothing.
Liz Higgins is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate in Dallas, TX. She is the author of the digital e-book The Five Relationship Mistakes You Are Making and What To Do About Them.
She is also a blog contributor to the Huffington Post. Liz specializes in working with millennial couples and individuals in their 20’s and 30’s on relationship/marital issues, premarital preparation, and cultivating a more mindful and fulfilling life.