Virtual Voices

Tell your wife everything?

Culture

Should wives and husbands tell each other everything? I am inclined to say no. Here's why: Suppose John and Sam have an accountability relationship with each other. John decides, based on the principle of "truth with his wife no matter what," breaches confidence and tells his wife about Sam's struggles without Sam's knowledge. John feels justified in telling his wife about Sam's sins and struggles because their marriage is built on honesty.

One day Sam noticed that John's wife began acting weird around him but he didn't know why. At first, he simply chalked it up to the fact that she might not like him. A few months later, however, it all made sense when John finally told Sam, "Hey, I told my wife all that stuff you told me a few months ago."

I wish this were a hypothetical situation, but it recently happened to someone I know. For many guys this kind of story puts men in a position where they may always need to ask accountability friends a series of questions: "Are you going to tell your wife what I just you, and if so, what are you going to tell her?" Some guys, it seems, have no filter even with their wives.

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I learned that some wives actually badger their husbands until the guy folds saying, "Well, I am not supposed to tell anyone, but. . . ." It seems that there can be a healthy level of withholding information between husbands and wives that does not violate vows of honesty. Does she need to know everything? Does she have a right to know everything about your friends? Should she even ask to know everything? The answers to all these questions are "no," right?

Sam and hopefully his other friends know that John is the type of guy who cannot be trusted. If you confess something to him, expect him to go home and tell his wife. With John, then, be prepared for the possibility that she too will say to someone else, "I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but. . . ." This situation helps me understand better why most guys do not have friends with whom they can be completely honest, vulnerable, and accountable. This may also explain why some guys are willing to pay a professional friend $120 per hour to listen to them because they do not know any men whom they can trust.

In the end, your friend telling his wife things you confess to him may be part of the risk of being vulnerable, because your friend may have no information boundaries, or his wife will badger him until what you thought was confidential is on a PowerPoint presentation. Perhaps it is good at least for men to ask each other about boundaries with wives before deciding if trust can be assumed. Otherwise you may be setting yourselves up for pain and conflict down the road.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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