“I know I should have told you, but…”
How many times have you or your mate said those words? Maybe it ended with, “…but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” or “…but I knew how you would react,” or “…but I wanted to fix it myself and not get you involved.” Regardless of how the sentence ended, the end result was probably the same. Someone’s feelings were hurt. Someone was angry. Someone felt minimized, criticized, or disrespected.
There are any number of reasons a person might not tell his or her spouse something. Fear. Shame. To control a situation. To control one’s mate. Because you legitimately forget. Because you really do not believe that it is important. In an attempt to protect your spouse. Whether born of pure motives or not, silence can have devastating effects on your mate.
Why is silence deafeningly problematic? Silence often leaves a blank space that your mate’s brain tries to fill in. We want to know what is being hidden from us. We want a complete picture. So, if we don't feel like we have all the information, our minds will fill in the missing pieces with assumptions that we hold on to until we have more accurate information to replace the assumptions. And regrettably, in our human nature, it is too easy to go to worst-case scenarios—and more so if there is already tension in the relationship.
“Why didn’t she tell me she would be two hours late. Has she been in a wreck?”
“He’s working late again. Is something going on between him and that new co-worker?”
“She didn’t tell me she friended him on Facebook. I wonder what else she’s trying to hide from me?”
“He should have known I would want to know about that. What’s game is he playing by not telling me?”
So, what do we do when there is a blank space in the relationship? First, dispel the opportunity for misunderstandings by being committed to sharing openly with your mate. Second, if you are leaving something out to try and protect your mate, trust that he/she is emotionally mature enough to handle whatever you need to say. Third, when information is missing, give your mate the benefit of the doubt and trust that he/she isn’t deliberately trying to deceive or manipulate you if you have no conclusive, concrete proof otherwise.
Secrets, whether real or perceived, kill relationships. With your spouse, work to eliminate the blank spaces by committing to an open and honest relationship. It is healthy to ask questions and seek clarification, but it is detrimental to accuse and make assumptions. The more mental real estate that we spend on filling in blank spaces, the less mental and emotional energy we have to work toward a Christ-centered, healthy, productive, covenant marriage relationship.