Does your spouse have a right to know all of your passwords—social media, phone, email accounts, PIN numbers—and to have full, unrestricted access to every resource or entertainment venue you use? In the Marriage and the Christian Home class that I taught at Lipscomb University this past spring, I asked students (none of whom were yet married) how much privacy they believed they were entitled to after marriage. Many of the students bristled at the thought of giving someone else—even someone they claimed to love enough to marry—free access to all of their currently-secret information. “A dude has the right to his privacy,” said one young man. “I don’t think I should have to give him everything. He should trust me,” declared a young lady.
Withholding information from your spouse is essentially a power play. It is one spouse telling the other that he/she is not worthy to know something you know. No matter what stage a couple is at, premarital to post-golden-anniversary, I tell couples to insist on full disclosure of all passwords, PINs, and account accesses.* Is it really that important? I think it is, and here’s why:
- Refusal to share denies the core of Christian marriage— Even if it seem like not sharing some piece of information should be “no big deal,” you are called to become one flesh—when you marry, you are giving up your “rights” for the good of the relationship. You have entered a covenant relationship that says everything that is yours is your spouse’s too.
- Secrecy opens the door to temptation—When you section off a part of your world that your spouse is not allowed to enter, you are setting yourself up for problems. Email accounts that your spouse can’t access, restricted or secret financial resources, and blocked social media is a breeding ground for infidelity when there is no accountability.
- Trust comes from mutual disclosure and mutual vulnerability, not through isolation and demanded behavior from your spouse. To share is not to deny trust. In fact, it is the opposite. It says, “I trust you to fully know me—both the good and the bad.” Unless you are willing to open up every corner of your world, you and your spouse cannot help each other become what God is calling you to be, as individuals or as a couple.
- It is capitulation to a culture of fierce independence rather than embracing a God-centered oneness. When the societal value of self-sufficiency is prized above the biblical concept of “the two shall become one,” then you have effectively thrown up your hands in defeat and centered your marriage on something other than Christ.
Privacy is important. Whether it is to recharge and renew, to process thoughts and emotions, to reignite creativity, or for other reasons—just about everyone needs “alone time” now and again. Even Jesus regularly went off alone to refocus and to reconnect with God. But if you’re not careful privacy can become an excuse to put barriers between you and your spouse. The goal of privacy should be to use your time alone with God to become a better husband or wife. But periods of physical and emotional privacy are very different from a controlling privacy that shuts your spouse out. Do you have a "right" to privacy? If it is for physical and emotional renewal, sure. But you definitely don't have a right to keep secrets, withhold information, or seek to control your spouse under the pretense of "privacy."
*There are a very, very few exceptions in which I would not advocate full disclosure, but such cases do exist (i.e.—if one spouse or the other is working through drug or gambling addictions or other special circumstances in which unrestricted access could prove detrimental to the marriage relationship.)