We received an e-mail this morning from a young woman who’s been married for just under a year. Here’s an excerpt (edited slightly for brevity):
Not too long ago I walked into our bedroom and found my husband reading my journal. Now, I’d never told him not to read it. I’d never told him it was off limits to all eyes but mine. I’d never told him how I felt about my journal — because in the home that I grew up in, journals were sacred. It was a spoken rule in my parents home that a journal is totally, completely, entirely private.
And I’ve enjoyed that privacy between the pages of my journal for the last decade. During the ugliness of the aftermath of my parents divorce (i.e., court battles, custody arguments), my journal was my best friend. During the awkward time of my adolescence, my journal was a place of refuge. My journal has been a place I go to write when I am angry or frustrated or disappointed; when I am grateful or feeling distant from God.
For me, writing is therapeutic. And in my married relationship, it has been a “friend” for me to turn to when I am frustrated in order to sort out my feelings of anger before I react, so I can calmly approach my husband with kind words in times of conflict (and avoid situations where gossip or bias might arise if I were to verbally voice my frustrations to another person). In short, my journal has been my good friend for all these years.
After I found him reading my “sacred” musings, I was hurt. I felt violated. We talked about the situation — or at least tried to. But because of his background and because he feels that it would be fine for me to read his journal (if he had one), he doesn’t understand why I am so upset about the whole ordeal.
I’ve told my wife that nothing is private with me any more. She’s free to rummage through my computer and read old e-mails, free to dig through boxes of stuff I’ve collected during my single years, free to open my mail, free to tell her friends whatever she wants about me, and so on. If she discovers anything that she has questions about, I see it as an opportunity to be more transparent with each other, for her to get insights into who I am and who I’ve been.
That said, I do understand this woman’s desire to keep some of her thoughts private. She admits that she uses her journal to work through things before “going public” with them. And I think that’s a legitimate use of a private journal.
So, though ideally (in my opinion) there’d be nothing entirely private between a husband and a wife, I think it’s fair for this woman to ask her husband to not look at her private journal. And her husband should respect such a request. Perhaps in time she’ll be open to opening its pages to him; in the meantime, he should trust that her request is being made out of good motives, and not out of a disrespectful desire to keep something from him.
That said, I’d love to hear what you think. Is it OK for some things to remain secret even within marriage? Should you allow your spouse to keep some things private, and not take offense that they’re “keeping” certain things from you?