Does privacy exist in a marriage? – Khaleej Times Article

When two become one, it’s easy to assume what’s yours is theirs and vice versa. But the very nature of technology is forcing couples to redefine the rules

Privacy in marriage – is there such a thing when two become one? That was the hot talking point of a recent editorial meeting. The debate is probably as old as the institution of marriage itself. However, the advent of technology – and all the possibilities that it brings – has certainly lent the dialogue a renewed energy, not to mention, fresh perspective. Speaking to an array of folks, we found that opinions on the matter are as sharply divided as they are asserted. For while some believe that there can be no exceptions to the ‘openness cultivates trust’ rule, others are far keener to maintain a sense of their own individuality in their unions, rejecting what they see as an unreasonable demand for spousal control. Still others feel it may just be possible to have the best of both worlds. […]

Ironically, the point of contention for most has to do with extremely subjective views of what ‘trust’ means. While one camp believes an unwillingness to share passwords is a red flag indicating lack of trust, the other maintains the offence lies in asking for them in the first place. Dr Kennon Rider, a marriage and family therapist at the German Neuroscience Center, believes it’s both – and neither. “It depends on the spoken and unspoken ‘rules’ that individuals bring with them into the marriage,” he says.

Some people grow up in families where transparency and open sharing of information is the norm, he explains. These people are more likely to reach marriage and expect the same from themselves and their partners. “However, these same people, after leaving their families of origin, could have had experiences with broken trust that now shape their ‘rules’ about privacy and disclosure. In short, if a couple agrees on the ‘rules’ – whether to openly share passwords and information, or to respect the other’s privacy – either policy will work. The trouble comes when there is a disagreement about those rules.” […]

As a general rule, Dr Rider notes that honesty and openness is the best policy in marriage. However, he cautions, there could also be such a thing as over-sharing with your spouses. “Some of the professional literature would call such over-sharing ‘enmeshment’ – and that term is not complimentary. While it may, at first glance, look romantic for there to be no secrets whatsoever between a couple (every thought, feeling, behaviour is shared), it also removes the mystery, the excitement of not knowing but of discovering over time.”

How to find middle ground with your partner on the subject of privacy – Courtesy: Dr Kennon Rider

• Have a calm conversation about the roots of your beliefs on transparency and privacy.

• Discuss personal experiences from your pasts that have shaped your current thinking about these issues.

• Try to empathise, and not be defensive, once both of you have a good understanding of where the other is coming from.

• Seek professional help to get unstuck if you find that arguments on the subject are consistently the norm.

Original full article published in Khaleej Times on May 4, 2018