In Marriage: Secrets = Lies; In Cohabitation: Secrets = Well, Ahh….
Here’s the facts of life, directly from the marriage therapist dude: If you are single you can do whatever you want. You probably shouldn’t, but you can do whatever you want. Your mom might care, but it’s your life and if you want to drink yourself silly or stay out all hours of the night or play video games til your fingers are sore or spend all your money and the money from next year and the decade after that on purses or 4-wheelers, or buy lotto tickets or sleep all hours of the day or live in a trash heap, nobody gives a crap.
If you are married a secret equals a lie. What? That’s right. There is no room for a secret in marriage. Period. Why’s that? When you get married (you know, a wedding where you publically declare your fidelity to each other til death us do part and you tell that to God, to the Church, to the State, to your relatives, to your friends, to the dog (a dog snuck in the church when Mary Sue and I got married 36 years ago and slept under a pew), to each other and to your very self and later when you literally become one sexually, at that moment God unites you into a new family, a new social organism with a skin around the both of you called a boundary and this boundary is primarily a boundary of protection and He instills in you the Mother Bear Instinct, whereby you protect each other because you are both:
That’s right. You might not agree on everything, but you let each other know what’s going on, where you are, what you are spending or thinking of spending, how work went, how you are feeling about your life, your future, your dreams, worries, and concerns.
YOU LET EACH OTHER KNOW.
BECAUSE YOU ARE BOTH IN.
AND WHAT YOU DO AFFECTS WHAT YOUR PARTNER DOES OR THINKS OR WORRIES ABOUT OR HOPES OR FEARS. AND LIKEWISE FOR YOUR SPOUSE, SO YOU
LET EACH OTHER KNOW.
It’s a little worrisome for some at first, because, you know, these newly married folk may have lived single-y for a decade or more and they are used to doing whatever whenever and not answering to anybody so marriage might seem a tad cumbersome. It might take a while to get used to. It can be irritating to hear one’s spouse say, “What’s the deal with that?” Over time, you learn how to say these things, how to bring them up, what to bring up, what to let slide, how to express it so your husband or wife can actually hear it. It would be good to figure that out. It takes about 15 years. Minimum. Some people need help figuring that out, so they come see me and we talk about how to actually be a husband and a wife. A lot of people have no idea.
The average divorce is at 7.2 years, so most people never even ever discover the major reason they got married, which was to help them both grow up. It takes a little humility to be married.
Humility would be good. You don’t know everything. Some of your habits are bad, even destructive, and if you keep doing them you are literally going to die, get fired, get arrested or eventually live under a bridge (“The rats were particularly friendly today.”).
Your husband or wife has an opinion about you systematically destroying yourself so more than likely your spouse might say something about it here and there and if you are wife or a husband, over time, the seeds your spouse planted will bear fruit and you will slowly overcome these little “foxes” (as the Song of Song calls them) and become a better person and couple.
If you have enough humility to realize you don’t know everything. If you have the finesse to convey your insights to your spouse without a club.
Those are two big IFS.
Since nobody wants to be told what to do (when they are 13) and nobody has any people skills (when they are 13), most people who divorce do so at the emotional maturity of a 13-year old and since divorce is so traumatic they stay at this same emotional level the rest of their lives.
If you aren’t open to some input in your first marriage you more than likely won’t be open to input on your second (or third, etc.)
If you don’t know how to convey your opinion without a little suger in your first marriage you more than likely won’t have clue in your second.
Divorce does NOT enhance either of these maturing, life-enhancing skills. If anything it makes a person more self-absorbed and self-protective and angry and offputting and defensive and guarded and suspicious because who wants to be hurt again?
My prayer for you, if you divorced or your spouse divorced you, is that you will bow before the Father and pray He will take away your bitterness of heart and that he would instill in you a forgiving and humble spirit, so that someday you may actually be able to put aside childish things.
That would be a good thing.
If you think about it, people who divorce at 7.2 years (the average marriage length at divorce) are newlyweds, if you consider you are supposed to be married to that one person the rest of your life.
Let’s see: 7.2 divided by 62 years (how long my mom and dad are currently married and still counting) equals: 11.6 percent.
I am totally convinced that the vast majority (all?) of folk who divorce do so without ever discovering the art of being a husband or wife and are basically divorcing their roommate. They divorce still not knowing how to be a husband or a wife so then they do the roommate thing all over again in the next marriage or they tire of marriage altogether (so they think), see it as a burden and a snare, and live serially with a number of other would be partners, roommates with benefits, if you know what I mean.
NOT friends with benefits. There’s no way you can be friends with someone you are sexual with if they are not your husband or wife. This so-called “partner” (what should this person be called?) will slowly become a stench and you will eventually end up hating him, and the hatred with which you hate him will be stronger than the love with which you loved him, to quote a verse in the Bible that tells a similar story from 3000 years ago, I kid you not. I’m not making this stuff up.
Which brings us to secrets in cohabiting. If there are no secrets if you are single and therefore no lies, because you have no one to lie to and if in marriage if your secrets equal a lie, because you both depend upon each other for your present, your future and your well being, than in cohabiting secrets equal? What?
I’ll tell you how a secret feels in cohabiting: It feels like a lie. But the problem is this other person is not your husband or wife and you have no claim upon her and she has no claim upon you. Technically you are both single. Even though you are living with each other, bought a house together, even had a kid or two together, if you are not married, you are at most business partners.
Which is the same relationship divorced people have. Their relationship is strictly business. In cohabiting your relationship is strictly business. You both pay half of the rent, right? That’s a business relationship. Roommates.
I had a roommate from college. I never told him where I was going, who I was with, what I was thinking, fearing, worried or concerned about. Neither did he. He could care less. Roommates. And with roommates, that’s fine.
But with cohabitation how can you ever be more than roommates or a business relationship? Sex just makes you in bondage to each other. It’s, ahhh, immoral, for one thing. But you tell each other it’s fine and wipe your mouths and tell yourselves you’ve done nothing wrong. You can tell yourself whatever you want. It means nothing. You aren’t married. No one made a public pronouncement you are both in. You are both using each other. Love does not seek it’s own and that’s all both of you do: seek your own. Sex outside of marriage is not only immoral, it’s an act of selfishness and self-promotion and soon the whole business will grow wearisome and after a while you will grow tired of each other, kids or no kids, and you will break up and go your separate ways because he was so this or that or she was so this or that and everyone will understand and you will do it again because you are lonely and the next person will have an opinion one day and you will scoff at him, too, because you ain’t gonna take no crap. You ain’t gonna settle. You don’t want no one telling you what to do. That’s why you never married in the first place, right?
Cohabiting people don’t make very good husbands and wives because it takes a little humility and honesty and integrity to be a wife or a husband and these two cohabiting people are just getting what both of them want from each other right now for nothing and screw integrity (no pun intended), I can do what I want, propriety be damned. And now all of a sudden you marry and now all of a sudden you are going to be humble enough to tell the truth and be honest and make right decisions going forward? How is your new spouse that you just sucked the life out of while you were living together without marriage supposed to ever trust you in that?
And now your cohabiting person (what do you call this person? Roommate? Potential wife or husband? Likely engagee? Girlfriend or boyfriend would be insulting. You just had a kid with this person. The father of my child? The body on the other side of the bed?) tells you a lie and you freak and he says to you, “You are not my wife. I can do what I want. It’s none of your business,” and other insulting things and you realize you have NO SAY. She’s not your wife, buddy. Your opinion ain’t worth squat.
So in cohabiting: secrets =????
No wonder cohabiting folk break up in spades. Romantic feelings of love, so strong in the beginning, quickly wane without the structure of marriage to protect it and nurture it.
One time I asked a young couple who lived together what prevented them from getting married. They both laughed and slapped their knees while both of them said in near unison:
“Oh, we’re not mature enough to do that.”
Ain’t that the truth.
To see Dr. Bing’s series on cohabitation click here.
To see other blogs from Dr. Bing on trust click here.
To see his blogs about integrity click here.
Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.