Helpmeet Academy: Transparency in Marriage
I’ve been married to my best friend for eight years. He’s just the most amazing man on the planet. He’s the calm to my crazy, the quiet to my loud, and the anchor to my sails. Being that we serve a perfect Savior, it’s no wonder we’re perfect for each other. It’s a match made in Heaven…literally!
But that doesn’t mean we have a perfect marriage. Not by a long shot.
The past eight years have been marked by many, MANY trails and what sometimes feels like insurmountable obstacles.
Those too are a blessing, trust me.
Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way, certainly not in the throes of conflict. And believe me, we’ve had (and continue to have) our share of those!
We’re sooooo different. Like, really, super, mega, massively different. In fact, when people meet one of us first, they are usually shocked to find out we belong to each other. That’s how different we are.
So how do two people who are vastly, vastly different make it work?
It’s kind of a hard question to answer because it’s just not that simple. But, if you forced me to choose just one answer, I’d say it boils down to transparency, which can be defined as the willingness to engage in open communication for the sake of mutual understanding, relational growth, and increased intimacy.
You see, as much as we’d love to think it’s possible, there is no real life Edward Cullen. That is, no one in existence can claim to benefit from relational telepathy. Hard as we try, much as we’d like to, there’s just no possible way to read each others’ minds.
Wouldn’t that be super helpful, though? No, actually it wouldn’t, and here’s why: having to talk about things, having to work hard to understand one another, to be honest when we’d rather avoid conflict, to listen when we’d rather speak…all of this does two things in marriage: it encourages selflessness and builds trust.
TRANSPARENCY: AN ACT OF SELFLESSNESS
Although transparency absolutely has the capacity to be riddled with selfish motivations and consequences, when applied for the sake of clarity, unity, and understanding, it is, in fact, an act of selflessness.
How much easier would it be to keep our mouths shut when we are displeased, clam up when we feel cornered, or avoid topics altogether because they make us uncomfortable?
Super easy, but not at all helpful.
Your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives are unique to you. Without expression, they have no capacity to be understood by anyone else. How you perceive a situation will go utterly unchecked if you choose not to explain that perception to someone else.
It goes without saying that keeping yourself to yourself in marriage is a recipe for disaster. Often used as a punishment, giving your spouse the silent treatment is just another way of raging against the need to be transparent with them. You’d rather punish them for not understanding you than help them understand you.
Perhaps you’ve grown weary of explaining yourself. Perhaps you feel you’ve said everything you think you should or could say on the subject. If the issue keeps coming up, though, that’s a pretty good indication of the fact that your spouse isn’t benefiting from a clear understanding of your perspective. Either that or your spouse is just plain mean, which happens too.
But for now let’s assume they don’t understand you as well as they should. It’s then that transparency, both the expression and reception of it, becomes vitally important.
Even if you’re afraid you’ll look stupid, or cry, or sound petty, or show just how selfish your little heart really is, it’s YOUR job to make sure your spouse knows who you are.
In that way, transparency is an act of selflessness because it is invitation to accountability. Your spouse is the person who spends the most time with you, sees you at your best and worst, knows things about you that no one else does, and has promised to spend the rest of his or her life with you – even though you don’t deserve it. If you can’t be honest with your spouse, who can you be honest with?
The proper response to transparency should be a willingness to engage the content and a commitment to (lovingly) challenge anything residing in the teller’s heart that doesn’t honor God.
As mentioned above, transparency involves both the sharing and receiving of unique information. To share it when you would rather keep it to yourself, and to engage it when you would rather ignore it are both acts of selflessness in marriage.
There should be nothing you don’t share with your spouse. Nothing it all. Your spouse is your first line of defense against the kinds of self-centered delusion that excuse sin and encourage quiet and/or obstinate rebellion against God.
TRANSPARENCY: THE FOUNDATION OF TRUST
Transparency plays a second key role in the marriage relationship: building trust.
To trust someone is to feel you understand the way they view themselevs, others, and the world, and to build a strong sense of predictability in your relationship with them.
That might sound utterly unromantic to you, but it’s a very important aspect of marriage. I’m sure we all know people who constantly shock us. We think they will respond one way and they respond in a totally unexpected way. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with their changing moods, fickle decisions, and self-centered defenses of childish behavior.
I don’t know about you, but being married to someone like that would kill me. In marriage, we need to be able to define and rely on our spouse’s character so that we can build a life around it. And the most effective marriages are those built on Christ-like characters. That’s why it’s so important to ever strive for Christ-likeness. The more like Christ we become, the more our spouses can trust us with the myriad decisions, challenges, victories, trails, and blessings of marriage. And transparency goes a long way in ensuring spouses can trust one another with these things.
To willingly engage in and be receptive to transparency is to offer yourself to your spouse in a way no one else can. Each time you share your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives with your spouse, you lay one more brick down in the foundation of your lives together. The more bricks you lay, the stronger the foundation. The stronger the foundation, the better able you are to withstand disaster.
An important side note about trust: there should never be anyone you seek to build more trust with than your spouse. I’m sorry if this statement seems out of place, but it needs to be said. Building a foundation of trust with anyone other than your spouse is the first step adulterers take. They either don’t like the person they’ve married and so begin confiding in someone else, or they have decided it’s just too hard to build up trust with their spouse so they start building a foundation of trust with someone who makes it easier for them to do so.
It can’t be said too many times: transparency in marriage is grueling work. Sometimes it’s exhausting, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s at the heart of conflict, sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it, but, oh my friends, it sooooo is!
Transparency – open, honest communication and gracious listening – is the foundation of any successful marriage, especially when you’ve married someone who is enormously different from you.
From joys, to fears, to sex, to parenting, to money, to conflict, to Scripture, to prayer, to fun…there should be nothing you don’t talk to your spouse about, NOTHING.
Of course, timing and tact are key components to successfully transparent interactions, but if you are hiding behind them and using them as an excuse not to engage your spouse, you’re not helping the situation. In fact, you’re doing quite the opposite.
What will you choose, transparency or selfishness? It’s you’re marriage so it’s your choice. But if you ask me, selflessness and trust in marriage seems like a pretty fair trade if all I have to do is practice the art of honesty.
Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Until Next Time My Friends,
The Taylor of All Trades